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Daniel Jones’ persistence pays off, Giants defense smothers Panthers for 2-0 start

Two close wins doesn’t mean the Giants are finishers yet. Not to center Jon Feliciano, who lamented the offense’s “many mental errors” in Sunday’s 19-16 win over the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium.

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” Feliciano said. “I think we got lucky today offensively. I think our defense and special teams played lights out.”

He’s right. Safety Julian Love’s third-down sack of Baker Mayfield with 2:38 to play — which forced Carolina to punt the ball and never get it back — epitomized this victory.

So did Graham Gano’s four field goals, capped by his 56-yard go-ahead kick with 3:34 remaining that required some body English to turn left inside the upright.

So did the first quarter fumbles forced by linebacker Carter Coughlin on a kickoff and Darnay Holmes on defense, recovered by safety Dane Belton and corner Adoree Jackson, respectively.

And yet, Daniel Jones and the offense were the ones who literally finished the game.

Jones was the one who put the Panthers down by improvising on a 3rd and 6 naked bootleg to the right with 1:50 to play on the Giants’ 40.

Jones was the one who stopped, cut back past Panthers defensive end Henry Anderson, and sprinted into a slide across the NFL logo at midfield to ice this game.

Jones was the one kneeling in victory formation to seal the Giants’ first 2-0 start since 2016, the last time this franchise went to the playoffs.

“Mental toughness, grit and resilience” were the qualities Jones described as necessary to win an ugly game like Sunday’s. And here’s the thing about Jones, who is under pressure to prove he’s a franchise QB once and for all this season:

He has all three.

“It was another game that wasn’t perfect, especially on offense,” Jones said. “There’s a lot to clean up. Slow start in the first half, picked it up in the second half, a lot we can do better. But at the end of the day, we made plays to win the game.”

They did. Jones did. For a second straight week.

Most importantly, for a second straight week, Jones did not let a horrible decision with the football compromise his ability to perform later.

He persisted. He performed. He answered when he needed to.

Sunday’s decision was an ill-advised throw into zone coverage toward the right sideline, into the hands of Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu.

Luvu should have had an interception at the Giants’ 43-yard line, in a tie game with a chance for Carolina to get points before the half.

He dropped it, but the fans booed the Giants as they trotted off the field afterward anyway.

They had just watched Jones’ offense squander starting field position at Carolina’s 22 and 40 yard lines on their first two drives of the game, settling for field goals on both.

Jones had made the same kind of frightening throw into traffic that he’d made on his Week 1 red zone interception in Tennessee. That pick had brought the wrath of head coach Brian Daboll upon the Giants’ quarterback.

So Sunday’s throw injected an unsettling feeling into an already nervous building.

But Jones didn’t let playing on the razor’s edge in another nail biter get to him.

“I think that’s part of playing the position is being able to refocus and get going,” he said. “It’s part of it. Gotta be able to move on and play the next play.”

Jones’ offense went three and out to open the second half. Then the Panthers took their first lead, 13-6, on a 3-play, 67-yard touchdown drive.

Baker Mayfield attacked rookie Giants corner Cor’Dale Flott for two completions to receiver D.J. Moore for 45 yards and a 16-yard TD on the drive.

The game was turning.

But Jones answered. He captained an 8-play, 75-yard TD drive to tie it up, completing 4-of-5 passes for 58 yards on the drive, including a 16-yard TD to rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger.

Jones’ 15-yard, thread-the-needle strike to receiver Richie James on 3rd and 9 from the Giants’ 26 jump-started the possession and changed the game  Barkley made a solid block to buy the QB time.

Jones’ ability to shake off a sluggish start and deliver that dart, though, is a key quality he has honed through a rocky first three seasons.

“I think you learn that,” Jones said. “These are long games. They’re tough games. Most of these are like today, a 3-point game that comes down to the last possession and one score. You can’t afford to worry about the last play or let that affect any decision you’re gonna make. I’ve learned that over my career and it’s something I’m always trying to do better and to focus on. I think it’s important for playing the position.”

Martindale’s replacement of Flott with veteran Fabian Moreau on defense made a difference late. Mayfield and receiver Shi Smith failed to take advantage of one big Moreau breakdown.

A run-game led Giants field goal drive gave the home team their final lead in the fourth quarter, highlighted by Gary Brightwell’s 14-yard scamper on 3rd and 1. And as Feliciano noted, the offense didn’t cough up the ball all day.

“We did a good job of not turning the ball over on offense,” the center said. “We kinda got our run game going late.”

Jones then used his head and his legs to put the Panthers on ice when his team needed a big play to end it.

“A situation like that, you get outside the pocket,” Jones said. “You want to throw a completion, stay inbounds or run the ball to keep the clock moving. I thought they matched Saquon in the flat, so I saw a lane to step up and run and obviously wanted to protect the ball.”

What does this all mean? The Giants (2-0), believe it or not, could host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football in Week 3 in first place in the NFC East, depending on what the Philadelphia Eagles do in Minnesota on Monday night.

In the meantime, the offense will get back to work.

“Shoutout to Wink and the defense for playing such a great game,” Feliciano said with a smirk. “They could be really good. And we thank them for that.”


Source: Berkshire mont

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