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Brian Daboll finds winning formula for Giants


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Graham Gano has played more NFL seasons (13) and in more games (179, including the postseason) than any current Giants player.

Gano has been on teams that won as few as four games (including the 2021 Giants) and on four playoff teams, most notably the 2015 Carolina Panthers, who were 15-1 and advanced to Super Bowl 50.

After so many years, games, teammates and coaches, Gano has an idea why some teams prosper and others plummet.

He sees numerous impressive qualities in the current Giants, who are 4-1 after their comeback 27-22 victory against the Green Bay Packers yesterday in London.

"I think it starts from the top," Gano said. "We have great leadership from the top down, and the group of players that they've brought in are just full of great character guys and guys that come to work every day and work hard. Whether things are going good or bad, nobody's pointing fingers at anyone. Everybody's just coming to work and is focused on getting better at their craft, and in doing so making the team better. I feel like that's the biggest thing: Everybody's got each other's back, excited to be playing football together."

The players are clearly enjoying themselves, not only because of their early success, but with the camaraderie developed by coach Brian Daboll and his staff.

"I think that's the big thing about coach," Gano said. "He lets us be ourselves and everybody is unique. Everybody plays the game for different reasons and has the things that they like to do. And he lets us have fun. And as long as we're doing our job and playing and working to get better, he's going to let us play."

Two of the 2022 Giants' notable traits were on display in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The first is that they continue to thrive on the "next man up" philosophy. Among the notable absences were the team's top four receivers and two cornerbacks (after Adoree' Jackson missed the second half with knee and neck injuries).

But Darius Slayton, who was a healthy scratch in the season opener and had one catch entering the game, led the Giants with six receptions for 79 yards. Marcus Johnson – playing his second game with the Giants – Richie James and David Sills combined for seven catches for 63 yards.

Saquon Barkley missed time in the second half, but Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell combined for six carries, and Brightwell scored his first career touchdown when Barkley left the game. Barkley returned to score the game-winner on a two-yard run out of a wildcat formation with 6:08 remaining.

Defensively, Fabian Moreau started for Aaron Robinson at right corner. After Jackson was forced from the game – and Moreau left briefly in the fourth quarter – Nick McCloud and Justin Layne came on to make plays. None of those three players - Moreau, McCloud and Layne – were with the team prior to August 31.

"It's my fourth year now with the Giants and in years past, when guys go down, that's when we really struggle," safety Julian Love said. "But this team is different. The guys who step up and fill in those positions, you see Adoree' going down, you see some guys stepping up and making some big plays. You see Nick McCloud, Fabian Moreau, Justin Layne make some big plays at the end. Because guys are ready, guys are resilient, and guys know what it takes to win. And that's what good teams do. The best teams in the league aren't staying the least injured, they are not staying healthy the most, but they have guys that step up and make plays when their time is called. So, that's what we have on this team."

The Giants also have composure and confidence when they slip into a hole. In the season opener at Tennessee, they trailed at halftime, 13-0. But they scored the first 13 points of the third quarter and won, 21-20.

On Sept. 18 against Carolina, they fell behind in the third quarter, 13-6. But the Giants tied the game three minutes later and won, 19-16, when Gano kicked 51 and 56-yard field goals in the fourth quarter.

Yesterday, the Packers jumped out to leads of 17-3 in the second quarter and 20-10 at halftime. But the Giants made some halftime adjustments and dominated the second half, 17-2 – and Green Bay scored the two only because the Giants deliberately gave them a safety.

"I think we've got a tough group," said quarterback Daniel Jones, who led the Giants on a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives. "A group that's going to compete for four quarters and 60 minutes. We got down in the first half. Found a way to fight back at the end. I think we've known that, and I think we've known we have a tough, competitive group, and I thought we showed that today."

"There was no panic," Gano said. "I've been on a bunch of teams and on a lot of them, you can kind of sense guys just getting down. And there's not a single person on this team that gets any feeling like that. We always feel like if there's time on the clock, there's a chance. I think there's a bunch of selfless guys on the team that just want to make everybody better. And that's what it takes."

The Giants return to MetLife Stadium Sunday to face the 3-2 Baltimore Ravens, who earned a last-second 19-17 victory last night against Cincinnati. Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale held the same position in Baltimore the previous four seasons.

How the entire Giants team approaches the week and the game are more important. To the football public, they have advanced from a team of low expectations to becoming perhaps the NFL's foremost surprise.

But for Daboll, nothing changes.

"I just think we stay consistent with how we approach things throughout the week, again regardless of the result, whether you lose," he said. "Whether you have a losing record, whether you have a winning record, I don't think you can focus on your record. You have to focus on what you need to do to improve throughout the week and for the team that you're playing against and be as consistent as you can with that. And we've tried to do that as a coaching staff. I know the players have tried to do that. And that's how we'll approach it every week regardless of the outcome. What do we need to do to fix the things we want to fix and improve on? Build off the things that we've been doing well and be as prepared as we can going into the next game."

It's worked so far, so why change a winning formula?

*Daboll did not have updates on any of the Giants' injured players.

*The Giants re-signed signed wide receiver Robert Foster to their practice squad. Foster was with the team from March 14 to August 25. He had not been with another team since the Giants released him.

Foster, 6-2 and 196 pounds, last played in the NFL in 2020 for Washington. He played in five games, including one in the playoffs, with two starts.

The 28-year-old Foster spent the 2018-19 seasons in Buffalo, where Brian Daboll was the offensive coordinator and Joe Schoen the assistant general manager. With the Bills, Foster played in 26 regular-season games with five starts.

His career totals include 32 receptions for 642 yards and three touchdowns, including a 75-yarder.