When the New York Giants drafted Daniel Jones sixth overall, it was ridiculed.
When the Giants didn't pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, that seemed to cement him as a bust.
By the end of his third season, the only hope was that new head coach Brian Daboll could completely turn him around. It's not like the Giants gave him a lot of talent to throw to.
Former general manager Dave Gettleman did a lot wrong, but maybe he got it right with Jones. Sunday's 31-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings in a wild-card playoff game was mostly about Jones being awesome. The Giants put everything on his shoulders and he carved up the Vikings, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns, to receivers who might not start for many other playoff teams, and also rushing for 78 yards.
The Giants are moving onto the divisional round and will play at the Philadelphia Eagles next week. It's the Giants' first playoff win since Eli Manning led a victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. It's a huge disappointment for the host Vikings, who went 13-4 in the regular season but couldn't advance in the playoffs, mostly due to a defense that couldn't get enough stops.
The Giants had to hang on at the end. A bad roughing the passer penalty gave the Vikings life in the final minutes. But on fourth-and-8 inside of the two-minute warning, Giants safety Xavier McKinney stopped tight end T.J. Hockenson well short of the first down — it was a bad call and decision to throw it that short of the sticks — and the Giants held on.
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2023
Jones carrying the Giants to a playoff win seemed like an impossibility a year ago. It also seemed hard to believe Jones was going to get a mega-extension at the end of this season. But the playoff domination happened. The contract might be next.
Offenses were hot early
It didn't take long to figure out that defense wouldn't be a big part of the Vikings-Giants game.
The Vikings had an easy 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game. Then the Giants answered with an easy 75-yard touchdown drive.
Neither defense was doing much. Jones picked apart the Vikings' secondary, throwing to receivers most fans have probably never heard of. Kirk Cousins rarely threw an incompletion. Five of the seven combined possessions in the first half, not counting when the Giants killed the clock to go into halftime, ended in a score. The Giants led 17-14 at halftime.
Saquon Barkley had five carries in the first half, one of which resulted in a 28-yard touchdown, mostly because the Giants knew the Vikings couldn't stop their pass game. Minnesota was moving it on the ground with Dalvin Cook and with Cousins spreading it around because the Giants had no answers for anything.
It wasn't a great game for throwback football fans, but it was entertaining.
Points keep coming in the 2nd half
The game kept going back and forth. The Vikings were going to go for it on fourth-and-1 but a false start moved them back 5 yards and they settled for a field goal. The game was tied 24-24. The Giants marched downfield after that, converted a fourth-and-1 and Barkley's second touchdown gave them a 31-24 lead.
Finally, the Giants got a stop. They tackled well on two completions and then Cousins threw incomplete under pressure on third down. With the way the Vikings' defense had been playing, the Giants forcing a punt with a little more than six minutes left was a huge turning point.
The Giants had a huge decision to make with a little more than three minutes left. They were in their own territory facing a fourth-and-1. Daboll went for it. Jones sneaked forward and converted. With 3:18 left, the Giants had a first down and the Vikings were forced to start using timeouts. But Darius Slayton had a bad drop on third down and the Giants punted.
There was a terrible roughing the passer penalty on Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence after that. Lawrence spun Cousins around, but it was hard to find a penalty in the play. Instead of facing a third down, the Vikings got 15 yards and a gift first down.
The Giants held after that though. The defense wasn't great but it got a few key stops. Mostly the win was about Jones being dominant. That's a storyline that seemed very unlikely when this season started.