November 28, 2022

Giants stun Packers in London with supporting cast stepping up behind Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley was sidelined shortly on Sunday’s game with an injury and returned to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter. (Kin Cheung/AP)

LONDON — The Giants are for real and now the whole world knows it – England, too.

But Sunday’s 27-22 statement win over the Green Bay Packers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium wasn’t just about Daniel Jones strengthening his case as a franchise quarterback with 17 unanswered second-half points.

“I’m confident in myself,” Jones said. “I have confidence in my ability to play and help this team win games. How people respond to that or see that is up to them.”

It wasn’t just about Saquon Barkley resiliently returning from a shoulder injury to finger-roll the football over the goal line for the game-winning score.

And it wasn’t just about silencing a Packers-heavy crowd so the Giants fans’ chants could echo at the buzzer — though that was sweet.

See the huge high-five and embrace that GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll on the field as Exhibit A.

“There were a lot of Packers fans,” a fired-up Daboll said after improving to 4-1. “It felt like an away game. But at the end of the game, it felt like a home game.”

Sunday’s win was about everybody contributing. Everybody. That is why Daboll’s team is for real.

Because backups like Gary Brightwell, Darius Slayton, Justin Layne, Matt Breida, Oshane Ximines, Marcus Johnson, Nick McCloud and Tomon Fox all made important plays, many times on short notice in place of injured starters.

“I just feel like the hunger level here is a little bit different than other places,” said Layne, the sixth outside corner on the Giants’ defensive depth chart, who played his first 22 defensive snaps of the season in the fourth quarter against Aaron Rodgers.

Layne made two tackles and had a pass breakup to help Wink Martindale’s defense hold Rodgers’ offense scoreless in the second half. He and McCloud (three tackles, one pass defended) finished the game at corner because Adoree Jackson (neck/ankle) and Fabian Moreau (cramping) had gone down.

“Everybody is ready to prove themselves here,” Layne said. “Everybody that’s here pretty much has been overlooked. So everybody’s hungry.”

Brightwell, the Giants’ third-string running back, burrowed in for the game-tying two-yard TD when Barkley was in the locker room. And he made the lead block on Barkley’s game-winning TD out of the Wildcat, sealing off Packers corner Eric Stokes.

“I’m very laid back,” Brightwell said. “I really don’t let the big moments wow me. You know how they say guys get nervous and all big-eyed? I’ve never been that type of person. I’m calm, and I’m always ready for the moment.”

Then Ximines, the beleaguered edge rusher given a second chance by Daboll, sacked Rodgers to stifle the final play Hail Mary and seal the win.

“That’s one of the greatest [quarterbacks ever],” Ximines said with a smile. “I ain’t gonna lie: it meant a lot. And I hope I got a picture. That’s all.”

Slayton led the Giants with six catches for 79 yards after being inactive in Week 1, entering the game with one catch for 11 yards and not even starting Sunday’s game.

Fox, an undrafted rookie who was inactive in Week 3, made a fourth quarter stop on Packers back AJ Dillon. Johnson made three important catches for 35 yards despite in just his second game active with the team, elevated from the practice squad. He had played one offensive snap prior to Sunday.

Daboll gave “credit to the players” first, but he also provided a window into why these players are ready: “because they have to prepare like they’re starting” in practice.

“Everybody talks about it,” Daboll said. “But we do things during the week, [like] we put guys in 7-on-7 with some of our practice squad players along with our regular squad players. The coaches do a great job of getting them ready to go.

“Joe [Schoen] and I talk about it all the time: you can be called on any time,” the head coach added. “Let’s make sure you’re in the playbook, that you understand your responsibilities as a professional. Be a pro. Every player here is on our roster for a reason. So we expect everybody to be ready.”

Big names stepped up, too. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Schoen’s top draft pick, batted down Rodgers’ third down pass on Green Bay’s final red-zone possession.

“That’s a Giant play. Literally,” Thibodeaux beamed.

Xavier McKinney batted down Rodgers’ fourth and goal throw. Safety Julian Love was terrific. Starting rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger scored a two-yard rushing TD on offensive coordinator Mike Kafka’s Philly Special play call, taking Barkley’s pitch and bowling in.

And Daboll complimented Jones before he was even asked about him.

“The quarterback had an excellent game,” Daboll said. “He’s had a few of those. I’m glad he’s our quarterback.”

But this win was about the supporting cast, like Breida’s lead block on Packers safety Darnell Savage on Barkley’s 40-yard run out of the Wildcat — something the speedy runner doesn’t do often.

“When he does great like that and I make a play to help spring him, it feels like I’m running that play and making that long run,” Breida said. “We put the work and time in. You’ve gotta put the time in if you want to be one of the better teams in this league.”

That’s exactly what the Giants are: one of the better teams in the league. And that’s why.