Sometimes the sequel is better than the original.
The Giants went back to Minnesota for a rematch against the Vikings on Super Wild Card Weekend, just three weeks after their initial meeting. The Giants had an offensive explosion, scoring 31 points on their way to a 31-24 victory over the Vikings. Minnesota was handed their first one-possession loss of the season after going 11-0 in one-possession games in the regular season.
The win sets the Giants up with an opportunity to avenge another loss from the regular season as they will now face off against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round.
"It was much like last game – came down to a few plays," coach Brian Daboll said after the gamea. "We made a few more than they did. We get to move on here. So, good game. We'll make the trip back and then get ready to play Philly here....
"We were here the last time. We knew what it was going to be. The crowd's great here. The atmosphere's excellent. It was cranking today. I think that the most important things are the things you need to do when you're playing in those type of environments. The other things, you're going to hear it. But get the calls in quickly, making sure we're in the right kind of formation huddle-wise, communicating the personnel, all those things – that's what makes the difference. So, the coaches, players did a good job."
Here are five things we learned in the Wild Card victory.
1. Giants advance with win in Minnesota
In their first postseason contest in six years, the Giants put together one of their best offensive performances of the season. The offense put up 31 points, the second time they've topped the 30-point mark in the last three weeks, and 431 total yards. The unit came up clutch when the team needed it most, converting seven of 13 third-down attempts and both fourth-down tries. They also did not register a turnover, a common theme for the offense this season. It was an impressive postseason head coaching debut for Brian Daboll.
"I'm happy," said the head coach. "I'm happy for the players first and foremost. They're the ones out there doing it in between the lines. I'm happy for the coaches, the scouts, ownership. That's why you do this – to play these types of games. There's not really a lot of time to reflect on these games. I don't know when we're playing. My guess would be Saturday – not that anybody's told me that. But we got to get home and start grinding away this time of year."
"I think we have had some of our better games recently and found some stuff that works for us, so we'll keep doing it," Daniel Jones added. "I thought the coaching staff did a great job having us prepared and having a lot of stuff in the plan that we were able to execute well. So credit to them and we'll continue to see where we can improve but yeah, I think we played well."
The Giants will now head to Philadelphia next weekend for their third meeting of the season against the Eagles. After they faced the Vikings twice in a span of four games, they will now face the Eagles a second time in the last three games. The two teams faced off in the regular-season finale, a game that saw the Giants lose by just six points despite almost all of their offensive and defensive starters not playing.
"We got a lot of work to do," Daboll said about next weekend's matchup in Philadelphia. "It's 'go back, look at this tape and correct the things we need to correct.' We've got a lot of work to do, but it's enjoyable work to be able to be working at this time of year."
View photos from the Giants' 31-24 Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
2. Playoff DJ
Daniel Jones had one of the best games of his career on New Year's Day when he helped the Giants clinch a spot in the postseason with their win over the Colts. Well, it appears as if the fourth-year quarterback saved his best for the playoffs, as Jones put together an overall dominant performance on Sunday.
Jones completed 68.6 percent of his passes (24 of 35) for 301 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also added 78 yards on a career-high 17 rush attempts (4.6 avg.). The 25-year-old made big play after big play in his postseason debut, coming up with numerous big runs and completions. He became the first quarterback in NFL postseason history to throw for 300+ yards, 2+ touchdowns and add 70+ yards on the ground, according to NFL Research.
"It's a big win for us," Jones said. "Obviously a big playoff game. I thought we played well in all three phases and did enough to win the game. We'll enjoy it tonight, but we have a lot of work to do moving forward."
"Look Daniel, I've said it all year, he's been good for us," Daboll added about the team captain. "He continues to be good for us. And he played a good game. There's a lot of other people that played a good game, too, to help him play a good game. He'll be the first to admit it. But as the leader of our football team, I'm proud of him."
Jones was held in check in his only appearance against Philadelphia this season. Back in Week 14, Jones completed 66.7 percent of his passes (18 of 27) for 169 yards and a touchdown, with another 26 yards and a score on the ground. Davis Webb put together a similar stat line against the Eagles in Week 18, throwing for 168 yards and a touchdown with an additional 41 yards and score rushing.
3. Saquon's productive outing
It wasn't the highest volume day for Saquon Barkley, but when the Pro Bowl running back did touch the ball, he made it count. Barkley finished the game with just nine rush attempts but for 53 yards, good for an impressive average of 5.9 yards per carry, and found the end zone twice, including the team's first points of the game on a strong 28-yard run. The 25-year-old running back also played his typical large role in the passing game as he finished second on the team with five receptions for 56 yards.
"We have confidence because we know the type of man and woman we have in our facility, our locker room, we believe in each other," Barkley told the media. "We are a confident group and we showed that throughout the whole season. If you look at this whole week of playoffs, that's a type of team you've got to beat because every game is going to be close. You've got to lean on each other and trust each other and make plays in critical situation."
Barkley will now look to keep the good times rolling against a tough Eagles defense next week. In the first meeting between the two teams, Barkley was held to just 28 yards on nine carries, along with two receptions for 20 yards. However, in the regular-season finale, Gary Brightwell and Matt Breida combined for 88 yards on 15 rush attempts (5.9 avg.).
"Of course, it's Philly, so it's going to be another hostile environment," Barkley said about the upcoming matchup. "They got us the first two times but I'm really not getting too much into Philly to be honest. Go back on this plane, hydrate, watch film -- just keep it like that."
4. Defense comes through
The Giants defense stepped up in key situations on Sunday, keeping the Vikings to just four conversions on their 10 third-down attempts. Additionally, the unit was able to pick up the biggest stop of the game when Xavier McKinney tackled Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson short of the line to gain to seal the victory for the Giants.
The defense saw several players step up. All-Pro defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence led the team with four quarterback hits and eight pressures, according to Next Gen Stats. Darnay Holmes picked up two big tackles for loss, while Leonard Williams added two quarterback hits.
"We played good team defense," Daboll said. "That's what's required when you play a really good player. I thought Wink (Martindale) and his staff did a good job. They hit some plays. They're going to hit some plays. They've got some good players. But one of the keys was not to let 18 beat us. And I thought the plan and then most importantly the execution by the players – that's what's the most important."
In his first game in over two months, Adoree' Jackson was able to take the Vikings top weapon almost completely out of the game. Talented Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson had just seven receptions for 47 yards.
"He's a good player," Daboll added about Jackson. "He's a pro. He's done it a long time. I'm glad he's on our team, but that's what the players' jobs are to do – when they're ready to play, play. Play good. When they're a good player, play good. No more. No less."
On the second-to-last play on defense, rookie cornerback Cor'Dale Flott stepped onto the field and came up with a huge play. Flott broke up third and eight pass attempt to K.J. Osborn, which set up McKinney's game-winning tackle on the next play.
"It's all about our team," Daboll told the media. "It's not an individual sport, but individuals have to play well. And when they get their opportunity, they've got to make the most of it. So, whether it's five plays, 70 plays, coach, player, trainer, we all have jobs to do. And I expect those guys – from their work ethic, their commitment to the team – to go out there and give it their all."
As a unit, the Giants held Minnesota to just 61 yards on 16 rush attempts (3.6 avg.).
5. Hodgins continues to shine
Isaiah Hodgins' contributions since the bye week have been pretty remarkable. He finished his regular season with touchdown catches in four of his last five games. On Sunday, he picked up right where he left off. Hodgins was the Giants' leading receiver in the Wild Card matchup as he finished the game with eight receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. It was the best performance of Hodgins' young NFL career.
"It's a team effort," the young receiver said about his strong play recently. "I know that is a cliché answer, but it really is. On offense, we need all the wide receivers to do their job, and make the correct routes, and reads. The quarterback and offensive line have got to do their job as well. It's a credit to the whole team. It's easy to point at me, but it is truly the whole team."
As mentioned above, Barkley played a key role in the passing game, catching five passes for 56 yards. Darius Slayton registered four receptions for 88 yards, including the Giants' longest play of the game with his catch-and-run that went for 47 yards. Richie James pulled in four receptions for 31 yards, while Daniel Bellinger caught Jones' second touchdown pass and finished with two receptions for 17 yards and the score.
"We work hard," the head coach said. "We're a scrappy bunch. We work hard. There's certainly a lot of things we can always get better at. But I think there's a good amount of humility in that room of just 'play the next play. No one's bigger than the team. Execute your assignments.' And I've talked about this before: preparation and practice – things that we've done. I know we rested those guys last week. Something like that we thought was best for the team. I thought those guys were fresh, ready to go. But next week's a new week. We got to enjoy this one less than 24 hours – these types of games."