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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Melissa Jacobs

Mild to wild: Daniel Jones suddenly looks like a very dangerous quarterback

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones enjoyed the most significant victory of his career on Sunday
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones enjoyed the most significant victory of his career on Sunday. Photograph: Matt Krohn/USA Today Sports

The NFL boasts quarterbacks with signature styles. There’s Patrick Mahomes and his bag of tricks. Joe Burrow oozing with confidence on the field while donning fur and smoking stogies off it. Lamar Jackson, the ultimate offensive threat. Then there’s Daniel Jones who doesn’t look like anything remarkable, has almost no swagger, and prior to this season was best known as the guy who tripped over himself on an 80-yard run during the 2020 season.

That was then. This is now. Jones showed glimpses of his talent before Brian Daboll arrived as head coach of the New York Giants. With limited offensive help, Jones put up 400 yards and shepherded a comeback win over the Saints in 2021, he’s dominated Washington, and that run in which he stumbled over himself … it had a top speed of 21.23mph, one of the fastest for any quarterback in history. But Jones also made a number of mistakes and collected too many losses in his first few years in New York. The Giants declined Jones’s fifth-year option, and his future had been talkshow fodder in the Big Apple.

Everything has changed over the course of this season. Jones has thrived under Daboll, who came in with a much more sophisticated gameplan, one suited to Jones’s strengths. Jones has cut down on mistakes – throwing only five interceptions on the season – and collected wins despite having one of the weaker receiving corps in football.

And on Sunday Jones silenced any remaining haters with a sensational performance to lead the Giants to a 31-24 upset of the Minnesota Vikings. In doing so, he became the first player in postseason history to pass for over 300 yards, pass for more than two touchdowns, and rush for over 70 yards.

But more importantly, there was the command Jones displayed. He was unfazed by the magnitude of a road playoff game. The Vikings’ gjallarhorns had no impact. Meanwhile, Minnesota were completely unprepared for Jones’s array of skills, especially his ability to morph into a beast on the ground. Daboll took risks, but it’s easy to be aggressive on 4th and short plays when you have a tough-as-nails quarterback unafraid to throw his body around. As unassuming as Jones may be off the field, he’s unafraid to go for the kill on it. The throw he placed perfectly into the arms of Isaiah Hodgins on 2nd and 10 for 19 yards was breathtaking, and a perfect display of Jones’s incredible arm strength.

After the game, Daboll was asked what he thought of Jones’s performance. “He played good. Played good,” said the coach with admirable restraint. Daboll isn’t a rah-rah guy. He’s a winner who has drastically changed the Giants’ culture in one season and extracted the best of almost every player of the roster, especially Jones. Much like Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville, Daboll has set the blueprint for the importance of pairing a young quarterback with a competent, gutsy head coach.

Now the Giants head to Philadelphia, the No 1 seed in the NFC and a team that has topped New York in both meetings this season. But if Jones just “plays good” again, another postseason upset is very much on the table.

So is a new contract for Jones. The man who looks mild yet is anything but is the Giants quarterback of the present and future. You can officially exhale, New York. (And New Jersey).

MVP of the week

Sam Hubbard (left) with the game ball alongside Joe Burrow after the Bengals’ win on Sunday night
Sam Hubbard (left) with the game ball alongside Joe Burrow after the Bengals’ win on Sunday night. Photograph: John Sommers II/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

Sam Hubbard, defensive end, Cincinnati Bengals. Like the Buffalo Bills, the Bengals came close to losing at home to a backup quarterback. The Baltimore Ravens were largely the better team on Sunday night, pressuring Joe Burrow and his depleted offensive line throughout and bringing more offensive firepower than anticipated. Tyler Huntley was particularly impressive leading a 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.

But just when the Ravens were poised to take the lead with the score at 17-17 in the fourth quarter, Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard saved the day for his team, taking a fumble recovery 98 yards to the house after a poorly executed quarterback sneak. The Bengals went on to win 24-17.

The record-setting touchdown was an especially sweet moment for Hubbard who was born in Cincinnati and played at Ohio State. Several minutes after the game ended Hubbard walked back on to the field in full uniform and received cheers befitting a home town hero.

Video of the week

There were several moments that derailed the Dolphins’ hopes of an improbable upset in Buffalo. There were the inexcusable time management issues, including a plethora of delay of games some called, some not, some that forced Miami to use a timeout. There was the most egregious of all, a delay of game against Miami on 4th and 1 with the season on the line (Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel later said he had been told his team had been awarded a first-down and he didn’t have a fourth-down call ready).

But the real turning point was an even more glaring coaching gaffe. With Miami up 24-20 in the middle of the third quarter, with Josh Allen on the ropes and the Buffalo crowd as quiet as a Buffalo playoff crowd gets, McDaniel decided to let rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson chuck it up on 3rd and 19 from Miami’s own eight-yard line. The result was an easy interception for Buffalo and a major momentum shift. Five plays later Allen found Cole Beasley for a touchdown and never lost the lead again in the Bills’ 34-31 victory.

It was not Allen’s finest day. After looking like a wizard against Miami’s zero blitz in the first quarter, Allen started misfiring. He added two picks to his league-leading interception total (16) and was strip sacked for a Miami touchdown. Allen must stop the free handouts if the Bills are to beat the likes of teams helmed by Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow.

Quote of the week

You know you’ve done something special when the best NBA player of his generation gives you a shout out. LeBron was spitting the truth about Brock Purdy. After a shaky first half in which Mr Irrelevant appeared overwhelmed by the moment and couldn’t complete a third down to save his life, Purdy morphed into Joe Montana in the second half of the San Francisco 49ers’ 41-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks. San Francisco retook the lead after a methodical 15 play, 75-yard drive to start the half and never looked back. Purdy’s ability to shake off the first-half yips and find a killer instinct in the second was a comfort to Niners fans worried the rookie might derail their playoff run. Instead, the legend of Purdy keeps growing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when Kyle Shanahan calls your plays and you have weapons like Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

But Purdy still deserves credit for his four touchdowns. Look at his face light up when he’s told about the LeBron love:

Stats of the week Verb – The continual and predictable act of crushing hopes and dreams.

The plane ride home from Jacksonville to Los Angeles must have felt like a funeral for Justin Herbert and Co. It’s hard to know how to divvy up the blame for the Chargers’ epic collapse after being up 27-0 against the Jaguars. Brandon Staley was utterly outcoached in the second half by Doug Pederson. Where Pederson showed moxie in taking risks like this magical 4th and 1 playcall, and attempting (and converting) a two-pointer to put his team down two down instead of playing for a tie, Staley was ultra conservative. For all the narrative about Staley’s fourth-down wizardry, he attempted zero fourth-down plays and chose to go for a (missed) field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 3 late in the game.

The loss wasn’t all on Staley though. Joey Bosa’s second personal foul, slamming his helmet into the ground after the Jags scored, resulted in Jacksonville attempting the two-point conversion from the one-yard line on a beautiful Trevor Lawrence reach. The whole thing was a sheer implosion by Los Angeles and, I say this with some hesitancy because there’s much competition, this display of chargering was the most devastating in franchise history.

Elsewhere around the league

Sean McVay’s special brand of intensity looks like it will be back next season
Sean McVay’s special brand of intensity looks like it will be back next season. Photograph: Chuck Cook/USA Today Sports

-- It appears Sean McVay will return as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. Fox’s Jay Glazer reports that McVay told him: “I wanted to take some time to really know I could restore and renew the passion … and after taking time to reflect it became clear to me that I don’t want to run away from adversity, I want to run through it.” Not sure six days qualifies as “taking time” but at least one of the Los Angeles head coach spots is set.

-- Damar Hamlin’s miraculous recovery continues to unite and inspire the NFL. Hamlin visited the Bills facility on the eve of the Dolphins game but watched it from home – he’s still on oxygen and being closely monitored by doctors.

-- Geno Smith is set to become an unrestricted free agent. After Seattle’s loss, Smith expressed appreciation for the Seahawks and voiced his desire to stay with the team. “I was a guy who probably could’ve been out of the league, and I want to repay them for that,” Smith said. The Seahawks would be nuts to let him walk given his performance and growth as a leader this season.

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