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5 things we learned (1/18): 'What a great time to be a Giant'

ISAIAH-HODGINS-5THINGS

The Giants did not get to bask in the glory of Sunday's win for long.

Soon after their Wild Card victory in Minnesota, it was announced the Giants would be back on the road on a short week Saturday night to face the Eagles in the Divisional Round.

"You work really hard to get to this point. But I think you have to focus on keeping the main thing the main thing," coach Brian Daboll told the media Tuesday. "It was good to move on, but you've got to put that in the past really quick and get to the preparation on this week's opponent. Number one seed. They won the (NFC) East. They beat us twice. They got eight Pro Bowlers, six All-Pros. I think they can get your attention real quick, so we got a lot of work to do."

Due to the short week, Wednesday was a normal Thursday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, meaning offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey met with the media to discuss Sunday's win and their upcoming rematch against the Eagles.

Here are five things we learned Wednesday:

1. "What a great time to be a Giant"

For the first time in over a decade, the New York Giants won a playoff game with their Wild Card victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The game was the first experience in the postseason for many players on the team, as only Sterling Shepard and Landon Collins were a part of the last Giants' club to make the playoffs (2016). The attention quickly flipped toward the Eagles, but the coordinators couldn't help but take time to appreciate the triumph.

"What a great time to be a Giant, to be a fan of the Giants," Wink Martindale said to open his press conference. "I'm so happy and proud of the defense and the way we played in Minnesota. The two fourth-quarter stops at the end of the game, it was just great to see. And I tell you guys all the time about how much I care about these guys and how close they are and selfless they are. And you saw that Sunday in that game with all those players; whatever they had to do to win the game, and that's what they did."

"It was awesome," Thomas McGaughey added about Sunday's win. "Anytime you can win a playoff game is awesome. So, it was a fun experience for me, it was more for the guys. Seeing guys like (Saquon Barkley) Say and (Daniel Jones) DJ and (Dexter Lawrence) Dex go through the things that they went through as young players coming up, (Xavier McKinney) X. Then to be able to experience a playoff victory is really fun to watch them celebrate and enjoy."

View photos from practice as the Giants get ready for the Divisional Round matchup.

2. Steady DJ doing it all

Daniel Jones put together a historic performance against the Vikings on Sunday. While having to deal with a hostile crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium, Jones threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 114.1. He also added 78 yards on a career-high 17 rush attempts to become the first quarterback in NFL postseason history with 300+ pass yards, 2+ pass touchdowns and 70+ rush yards in a game. It also marked the 11th time in 17 games this season that Jones did not have a turnover. Mike Kafka tipped his cap to the fourth-year quarterback for his ball security and steadiness while leading the offense.

"Daniel did a nice job," said the offensive coordinator. "Obviously, had some really good production with his legs, good production with his arm. He made good decisions from the quarterback position and eliminating those turnovers, which is big in really any game. In the playoffs, those type of things get elevated. I thought he did a nice job, he directed the offense and he did all the things that we ask him to do from the quarterback position…

"You guys see it on the TV and even when you guys are on the field – he's pretty much the same guy every day. He doesn't really sweat it either way, up or down, he kind of stays in the game, keeps fighting, keeps playing and I think that's where you see a guy like him – he's put us in position to be in those type of games."

Jones will have to keep his head on a swivel Saturday night as the Giants face off against the league's best pass rush in Philadelphia. The Eagles registered a whopping 70 sacks on the season, the most any team has had in a season since 1989 (Vikings had 71) and just two shy of the 1984 Bears' all-time NFL record. The offensive coordinator praised Philadelphia's talent up front along with their depth throughout the defense.

"I think the first thing starts with they're really talented players," Kafka told reporters about the Eagles' defense. "They have a really talented group, their depth is super talented. It's not just like the front four, they got backups, guys that are perennial All-Pros and Pro Bowlers. They're well coached, right. They have a good scheme and they're sound with their scheme. They do a lot of good stuff on defense. We got to have a good week of prep."

3. MVP candidate Jalen Hurts

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts enjoyed a remarkable regular season. The third-year quarterback set new career-highs in numerous passing categories, including yards (3,701), touchdowns (22), completion percentage (66.5), interception percentage (1.3), and passer rating (101.5). Hurts also proved to be a weapon on the ground, rushing for 760 yards and an incredible 13 touchdowns. He earned his first selection to the Pro Bowl along with second-team All-Pro honors.

"Everybody's saying he's having an MVP season, and I agree because he can beat you with his legs. He can beat you with just being a dropback quarterback. He can beat you with a sore shoulder. He can beat you a lot of different ways, and that's a great challenge because there's just a few quarterbacks that can do it that way," Martindale said about Hurts. "And you can have him dead to rights back there in the pocket, and he's a magician. He'll get out of it.

"I'm not happy for the guy right now because I'm preparing for him. But you can see the work that he put in the past offseason. And where he's at today is, to me, two completely different quarterbacks. Out of respect of the game, you respect that. You can see the hard work that he put in. It's going to be a tremendous challenge."

Hurts missed Weeks 16-17 due to a shoulder sprain. He returned for the regular-season finale, it seemed clear he wasn't in full health. Hurts completed just 57.1 percent of his passes that day for 229 yards while only gaining 13 yards on nine carries (1.4 avg.). This production was well below what he did against the Giants in Week 14 when he threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns with another 77 yards and a score on the ground. Following two weeks of rest, the MVP candidate is no longer listed on the Eagles' injury report. Martindale is expecting the 24-year-old quarterback to look like his normal self Saturday night.

"He's off the injury report, so I'm expecting Jalen Hurts the MVP candidate," the defensive coordinator told the media. "I think if you expect anything less, you're kidding yourself because the guy's definitely a competitor. "

4. Hodgins & Bellinger keep growing

Daniel Bellinger was on the receiving end of one of Jones' two touchdown passes on Sunday. The rookie was targeted just two times in the Wild Card matchup, but caught both passes for 17 yards and the score. Bellinger has caught 32 of 37 targets (including the postseason), finding the end zone four times and playing a big role with his run blocking. Kafka was very complimentary of the rookie tight end on Wednesday.

"Belly keeps growing every single week, you see improvement in the little things that we talk about with him. In the run game, he's showing up. He's showing up in the pass game. He's one of those guys that's just really good, he's a great teammate. Just the little things with Bellinger, you're seeing him really improve on."

The other Jones touchdown pass was caught by Isaiah Hodgins, who has proven to be the team's most impactful mid-season addition. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound receiver has a touchdown catch in five of his last six games and has totaled 20 receptions for 236 yards and three touchdowns over the past three.

"Not having much experience with him before that, he's been nothing but impressive coming in, studying the playbook, working his butt off - he's a great teammate," Kafka said about the second-year wideout. "He does all the right things. He's a pro. He's one of those guys that jumped into that room and was able to add some value."

"I would definitely say it's a surreal moment," Hodgins said about playing in the postseason. "I never look past it. I knew that I could do this, but just to be there sitting back looking at a couple months ago, I was getting cut from one team. And now, I'm playing in the second round of the playoffs. Sometimes I get that overwhelming feeling of just like, 'Man, I'm so blessed to be here and I'm so thankful.' I just try to remind myself of that every day."

5. Adoree's presence "builds confidence" in the defense

Just two weeks after Xavier McKinney got back on the field, the Giants' secondary received another significant boost with the return of Adoree' Jackson. The veteran cornerback played against the Vikings for the first time since injuring his knee returning a punt in the team's Week 11 loss to the Detroit Lions. His impact was felt immensely, as Jackson helped contain Vikings three-time All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson to just seven receptions for 47 yards. According to Next Gen Stats, Jackson covered Jefferson on 85 percent of his routes on Sunday, with the wideout totaling six receptions for 37 yards on those plays. Martindale did not shy away from discussing what Jackson's presence on the field does for the defense.

"You know, he shadowed him the whole game," the coordinator said about Jackson covering Jefferson on Sunday. "That's the beginning of the team effort, aside from the rush and the other guys holding up and everything else. I am happy for the player, the same reason what I told you all before, and maybe you weren't here. I'm happy for the person because he's worked his tail off. It's fun seeing him smile out on the field again. And he's the number one corner. It was huge for him to come back. It was a big reason. It builds confidence in your entire defense and your coordinator when you have him out on the field. I was really happy for him."

Things won't get any easier for Jackson this week with a matchup against Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown. The fourth-year receiver set new career-highs with his 88 receptions and 1,496 yards, while his 11 receiving touchdowns matched his previous career-best. Brown was selected to his second Pro Bowl while being named second-team All-Pro for the first time. Jackson and Brown are plenty familiar with each other after spending two seasons together with the Tennessee Titans. However, Saturday night's game will represent the first time they take the field on opposite sides.

"He is just a dog," Jackson said of Brown. "I don't know any other way to explain it. A guy that gets after, attacks the ball, can run every route in the playbook; catch you with a screen go 80, a slant go 80 or hit you with a deep ball and go 80. A complete receiver, can block, can do all the things that you would want. That's truly a great player."

View rare photos of the Giants' Divisional Round playoff games through the years.

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