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Cover 4

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Cover 4: Anatomy of a playoff-caliber team


Following the clinching win over the Colts, the crew discusses when it became evident the 2022 Giants were a playoff-caliber team:

John Schmeelk: Not being an easy person to convince to get onboard bandwagons means being a skeptic and contrarian by nature. Sports, and especially football, are weird. Strange things happen and there is often a very thin line between winning and losing. Trends can reverse quickly and a team can lose four of five as quickly as they win four of five. That's why even after the Giants beat Aaron Rodgers in Week 5 and returned from London at 4-1, it was hard to be completely convinced. Even though the Packers were 3-1 heading into that game, they didn't seem like the old Packers - with the offense struggling to score with a young and unfamiliar group of wide receivers.

So when the Giants came home to take on the Baltimore Ravens, it was important to see the Giants do it again. The Ravens were just 3-2 but were coming off a big win against the Bengals, and were just two weeks off of losing to the Bills by just three points. Lamar Jackson was at quarterback and playing at a high level. The Ravens have been one of the best and most consistent teams in the AFC for years.

When the Giants went down, 20-10, in the 4th quarter of that game it appeard any skepticism was warranted … then stuff started happening. The Giants put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown. Then after an illegal formation penalty took away a quarterback sneak opportunity from Baltimore, Julian Love baited Lamar Jackson into an interception following a bad snap.

After a Barkley touchdown gave the Giants the lead, the defense needed one more stop and got it courtesy of a Kayvon Thibodeaux strip-sack that he also recovered. After that set of plays, there was a feeling this team had the right approach to never give up on a game, possessed the ability to make a clutch play when it was needed most, and owned the right intangibles to make the playoffs.

And here we are.

Dan Salomone: Playoff teams possess a combination of tangibles and intangibles. Having one or the other won't get you through the gauntlet of a season. So, when the you-know-what hit the fan in Week 4 against the Bears, the Giants showed they had something special brewing. First, Daniel Jones suffered an ankle injury and was replaced by Tyrod Taylor, who then suffered a concussion.

"When I saw Tyrod go down, I kind of realized I'm up next, I'm the quarterback," Barkley said at the time. "First of all, you have to give credit to D.J. coming back in the game. I can't curse, he's a tough you-know-what."

After Taylor left and Jones returned to the field with a limp, Barkley took four direct snaps and carried the ball on 10 of the Giants' final 11 plays.

"You don't want to be in that situation but the way that the coaches reacted, brought us all in and started drawing it up," Barkley said. "It felt like you're back again as a little kid in the backyard playing football. But like I said, we had some of those packages already. We worked at it and we have some really talented (running) backs and a great offensive line and we were able to have a little bit of success on it."

Right then and there, Daboll proved he had the chops to lead the team tactically and emotionally.

View photos from the Giants' Week 17 game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Lance Medow: After the Giants won three of their first four games, the feeling was we'd learn an awful lot about where the team stood following three straight games against teams with stronger quarterback play and the potential to make the playoffs in Baltimore, Green Bay, Jacksonville. They wound up winning all three contests in tight affairs and posting a 6-1 record. When you reach six victories after seven games with 10 to go, the mathematics are heavily in your favor to record at least three more wins to secure a postseason spot.

The Jaguars game, in particular, was noticeable for several reasons. They pounded the ball on the ground very effectively against a solid run defense that ranked third in the NFL at that time. Jacksonville was only surrendering 89 rushing yards per game yet the Giants piled up 236, averaged over six yards per carry and Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones each surpassed the century mark. On top of that, they ran the ball on nine of their 10 plays during a lengthy go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth and the defense came through with a goal-line stand on the final play to prevent Christian Kirk (following a 16-yard reception) from getting in the end zone for a potential winning score. Complementary football was on full display with the game on the line and that combined with their record was an indication the playoffs were within reach.

Matt Citak: The Giants jumped out to the franchise's best start in a while when they won three of their first four games to open up the 2022 campaign. While the season-opening win against the Titans on the road was certainly impressive, it was the only victory against a playoff team in that first month. Additionally, they averaged just 19 points per game in those first four contests, despite winning three of them.

But when the Giants traveled to London and overcame a 14-point deficit to beat the Packers and reigning back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers, it became clear that this team had a legitimate chance at making the postseason. Green Bay entered the year having won 13 games in each of the previous three seasons. When they flew overseas for the matchup against the Giants, they had begun the year 3-1, scored 27 points twice and kept their opponents below 13 points twice. But when the two teams took the field at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, all of that changed.

The Giants scored 27 points against the Packers, their highest total prior to the 38-point output against the Colts on New Year's Day. Daniel Jones was very efficient, completing 77.8 percent of his passes and finishing with a passer rating of 100.2, while Saquon Barkley topped 100 yards from scrimmage on just 16 touches. The defense held the Packers to just 301 total yards of offense and came up with a clutch stop inside their own 10 in the final two minutes of the game. The strong outing on both sides of the ball highlighted the potential of this team, and the win showed early on that the Giants belonged in the playoff discussion, even if the media did not realize it at the time.


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