The Giants' final preseason game was a three-hour, 33-minute slog that included a 19-0 run by the home team in the first half, 21 unanswered points by the visitors in the second, and a fantastic finish authored by Kyle Lauletta, whose 40th and final throw was caught by Alonzo Russell for a 14-yard touchdown as time expired to give the Giants a 31-29 victory against the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium.
The triumph enabled the Giants to finish their August schedule 4-0, their first perfect preseason since they won all five of their games in 2014.
The most notable development for the Giants occurred long before Russell scored his second touchdown of the game. Rookie first round draft choice Daniel Jones made his first start and again played splendidly, though briefly. He completed all four of his passes for 47 yards, but the series ended when running back Paul Perkins was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one from the Patriots' 13-yard line.
Jones' four-game totals included 29 completions on 34 passes (a 85.3 completion percentage) for 416 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a sensational passer rating of 137.2.
"I think it's been good," Jones said. "I think my goal is to be able to see improvement, to be able to measure improvement from each preseason game to the next and from practice to practice. I think I've done that to some extent, and I'll continue to work on a lot of things. As far as improving goes, I think I've been able to do that."
When Jones will next get an opportunity to play is a mystery. He will be Eli Manning's backup when the regular season opens on Sept. 8 in Dallas. But Jones provided further proof Thursday that his time is coming.
"I think he just checked off another box in his development," coach Pat Shurmur said. "I thought he went out and executed pretty well."
Jones was a victim of his own success. Because the Giants gained 62 yards and picked up three first downs on the series he played, Shurmur saw no need to put him back on the field. "I would have left him in there if they hadn't moved the ball," Shurmur said.
But the coach said the young quarterback gained valuable experience this week simply because he started the game.
"I think it's important for him to go through the week and mentally go through that process of 'Okay, you're the starter, and you come into the game knowing that. This first 15 is for you,'" Shurmur said. "All of the things that you go through mentally as a quarterback to get yourself ready to start a game. I wanted him to go through that process. Beyond that, I wanted him to play a few plays. But going through that process was as important as playing, in my opinion."
"It went well," said Jones, who started all 36 games in which he played at Duke. "It is different knowing you're going out there and taking the first snap. But a lot of the preparation and just the attention to what you're doing and how you're thinking going into the game was pretty similar. I just tried to make sure I was in a position to move the ball and know what we were doing on offense."
Jones' first pass was a five-yarder to tight end C.J. Conrad. He then threw a short pass to the left that Golden Tate turned into a 14-yard gain. After two Perkins runs, Jones made his best pass of the night, a perfect throw up the left sideline to Tate that picked up 23 yards. He concluded his night with a five-yard pass to Perkins.
"I thought we did some good things," Jones said. "I thought we were able to move the ball. Golden made a few really nice routes. It was good to find him. We did a good job up front, and I thought we executed pretty well. It was unlucky that we stalled out there in the red zone. Yeah, I thought it was good, but I want to score points."
The Giants' results and Manning's performance will dictate when Jones plays when the games count in the standings. Shurmur has said repeatedly he is preparing Jones for that moment, whenever it is. Is the sixth overall selection in the draft ready now?
"He's getting there," Shurmur said. "We have another week until we play Dallas, but he's getting there. He's done everything we've asked to this point, in terms of how he prepares and how he gets himself ready. This was another opportunity to grow, and I think he did that."
Jones has had a heavy workload of practice reps throughout training camp and the preseason. But in the regular season, the starting quarterback customarily takes almost all of the snaps in the offensive portion of practice. Shurmur believes Jones' development will continue even if his routine changes.
"He's going to continue to improve, continue to grow and keep preparing," Shurmur said. "Once the season starts, he's going to prepare like he's going to be the starter and be prepared to go in there whenever we need him. I don't think of any of them on the side. If you're on the 53 (man roster), and certainly if you're on the 46 (gameday roster), and you're out there ready to roll, then you have to be ready to play."
Jones believes he will be.
"I think I've made progress and am certainly ways from where I was when I started, which helps me feel a little bit more comfortable," he said. "But I think there's still a lot to learn. I think I realize that. There's still a lot of work to be done, and I'm certainly aware of that also.
"I think each phase is kind of different with camp, and then you get into the preseason, and now we're getting into the regular season. It will be different. The week will be laid out differently and how we're preparing. It'll be another opportunity to kind of learn and prepare that way. I'm looking forward to it."