EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jason Pierre-Paul is a confident player and big-play performer who is prone to the occasional outlandish statement. On Sunday, he put forth his complete repertoire for the Giants and all but clinched a victory over the Green Bay Packers.
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The Giants won their fourth straight with a 27-13 win over the Packers
Giants vs. Packers Gameday Photos Eddie Lacy's four-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter concluded an 83-yard drive and lifted the Packers to within a touchdown at 20-13. The Giants then went three-and-out, giving Green Bay the ball at its own 30-yard line. Another long drive and touchdown would have tied the game.
But Pierre-Paul, the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, literally took matters, and the game, into his own hands. He reached up to intercept Scott Tolzien's pass for Andrew Quarless and returned it 24 yards untouched for a touchdown, the clinching score in the Giants' 27-13 victory, their fourth in a row.
The most amazing part of the play wasn't the pick itself. It was JPP's prediction that he would do just what he did.
"Honestly, I called it before it even happened, in the huddle, and sure enough that was the play," Pierre-Paul said.
His teammates were just as impressed with Pierre-Paul's clairvoyance as they were with his athletic play.
"We really needed a big play then and he stepped up and did something I've never seen before in my life," fellow defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He actually called it in the huddle before they even came out of their huddle and told me he was going to pick this off. I've never seen anything like that before in my life.
"If you know JPP, you know he says some off-the-wall things from time to time, so we're kind of used to that. We were just in the huddle talking about how we needed a big play and we needed some turnovers and he just said, 'I'm going to pick this.' I was kind of like, 'Okay.' And then when he picked it and all of the cameras were on him, but if there was a camera out there that had anything to do with me in the picture, you're going to see me, I don't even run out to him to celebrate; I'm literally in awe. … He literally called it and executed. I don't know if he's voodoo, psychic, I don't know, but that's something I've never seen before."
"He called that out," safety Antrel Rolle said. "He said that he was going to pick the ball. I guess that's what you call speaking into existence. I hope he speaks more to existence."
The pick-six was the second of Pierre-Paul's career. On Oct. 28, 2012 at Dallas, he intercepted a Tony Romo pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. That score gave the Giants a 23-0 lead in a game they won, 29-24. This one gave the Giants some breathing room against a Packers team that played impressively despite the absence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is sidelined with a fractured collarbone. Tolzien made his first NFL start.
"That was a huge play," coach Tom Coughlin said of JPP's latest sure-handed demonstration. "And it was exciting. And then when he ran in the end zone and the points clicked up on the board, you knew, in a game like this, that would be huge."
Coughlin was impressed by the athleticism Pierre-Paul displayed on the game-changing play.
"You have to be able to catch a ball coming at you, I don't know how fast, but coming very fast at you," Coughlin said. "And you need to be in the right spot. He got both hands up, with a shoulder injury, he got both hands up and caught it. He had kind of got himself in rhythm because they had been throwing a lot of three-step stuff and he saw his opportunity and took full advantage of it.
"I thought he did his patented tight-end maneuver for the score. You had to look up quick to see it, but it was a nice thing to see."
Pierre-Paul said his pre-snap intuition was critical.
"I read the formation, the tight end, how he was set, and I caught the ball," Pierre-Paul said. "As soon as I caught it, I knew it was a touchdown. I'm not a receiver or anything, but I knew it was a touchdown.
"Both (pick-sixes) were game-changers for the whole game. It was exciting to me, and I did it and that's a good job."
As Coughlin said, JPP made the big play despite a shoulder injury he suffered last week that kept him out of practice until Friday. And Pierre-Paul said then he wasn't certain if he would play.
"It was a game time decision and I felt like I was able to play," Pierre-Paul said. "I practiced Friday. I got one practice under my belt and it felt good and I felt like I could defend myself well."
His teammates are certainly glad he was able to suit up and become a force when the team needed him most.
"There was a point in the game where we needed a big play and he stepped up," Mathias Kiwanuka said. "More than anything, I'm just happy for him as an individual to see him out there smiling and having fun and making plays. It's been a long time around here since we've all been excited and happy and joking around on the sidelines. To see guys getting plays that they are making in practice, that they deserve to make, it feels good."