A wink and a smile.
There was one of the former and plenty of the latter on the way out of MetLife Stadium, the site of the New York Giants' latest comeback victory en route to a 5-1 start. Trailing by 10 points with 12:54 to play, the Giants fought back for a 24-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6. They did so with the help of two clutch takeaways down the stretch, putting a grin on the face of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale in his first game against his former team.
"He was on top of the world," safety Julian Love said. "You'd be kidding yourself if you don't want to beat your former team in any aspect. I know that he's done a great job of not putting that on us of not making this game bigger than it was, but for sure, it means a little more to him. He had an extra chip on his shoulder. He was all smiles after the game."
"I thought they played the best when it counted the most," said coach Brian Daboll, who had Martindale break down the team in the postgame locker room. "Obviously, we gave up some plays there to (Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark) Andrews and in the run game a little bit, tightened down up in the red zone, but when it counted the most, the players and Wink dialed up a couple of good schemes and the players executed well in the fourth quarter. That's what we thought it would be – a fourth quarter game."
But Sunday's win – and the season as a whole – can hardly be credited to one person alone.
"It's something we've preached since day one, since we've been here – coaches, people in the building," Daboll said. "This league is hard. It's not always going to be perfect. There will be a lot of people down on you. And you might be down on yourself, wish you could do better. But you keep on getting back up. You keep on swinging, keep on competing, regardless of the score or the situation of the game. And that's not easy to do, right? That's not easy to do when you're down.
"If you sit on the bench and start … complaining, that's easy to do. It's hard to stick with it and get ready to play the next series and not worry about if you just got beat on a pass or if you got sacked. You've got to flush it pretty quick. Dr. Lani [Lawrence] does a great job – our team psychologist – of talking to the team. And I think our guys, each week we get a little bit better. We know we're a long way away. [It's the] early part of the season. But we just try to compete and do the best job we can."
View photos from the Giants' Week 6 game against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
To the chagrin of his fantasy football fans, Saquon Barkley declined a walk-in touchdown and instead slid at the two-yard line to ensure Lamar Jackson did not get the ball again.
"The run before that, we have a call that alerts us," Barkley said. "Our coaches do a really good job not only in that situation but throughout the week. We practice all those situations. The run before that, I feel like if I really wanted to, I could have went this way and kind of scored but I was focused on protecting the ball. I ran up to Dabs and was making sure, "We're not scoring here. We're not scoring here, right?" And he told me, "Yeah." Did a spin move, had an opportunity and just got down. I knew once you get the first down, that secures the win."
Daniel Jones kneeled three times as the quarterback improved to 8-3 in his last 11 starts. He was asked after the game about the last time he had this much fun playing football. The Giants won four, six, and four games in his first three seasons. Now they have five through six weeks of his fourth year.
"I don't know," he responded with a laugh. "It's been a while, for sure. But [there's] a lot we've still got to do to improve and work on and that's what we're going to focus on doing. Certainly, more fun to win."
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Barkley's slide was set up by a pair of takeaways. First, Julian Love intercepted Jackson on a play that was thrown off schedule from the snap. The Giants were the final team without an interception heading into Week 6, even though they lead the league in fumble takeaways.
Barkley scored the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing possession, and it proved to be the game-winner after Kayvon Thibodeaux strip-sacked Jackson on the next drive. Leonard Williams, who returned from a three-game absence due to a knee injury, recovered the fumble deep in Baltimore territory.
While Thibodeaux, the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, did his part on defense, tight end Daniel Bellinger and wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson did theirs on offense. Bellinger found the end zone for a second consecutive week and the third time this season, while Robinson, on a pitch count after playing in his first game since Week 1, made two clutch plays on third downs. The latter resulted in his first career touchdown.
"I never really missed more than two weeks of football in a row, so being out that long was really, really hard," Robinson said. "But I was glad to come back and help us win."
FIRST RODGERS, THEN JACKSON
Jones became the first quarterback to beat the last two MVP quarterbacks in back-to-back games since Sam Bradford, then with the Vikings, beat Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton in 2016.
IT'S OK TO BE HAPPY, BUT…
Daboll told his team after the game that it's "OK to be happy," but it came with a caveat.
"You can be happy being 5-1. It's hard to win in this league; you can enjoy it," Barkley said of Daboll's message. "At the end of the day, you can't get too over-confident. You've got to keep taking it week by week, keep following the process and that's the mindset we are going to continue to have."
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE GIANTS
According to NFL Research, the Giants' three victories after trailing by 10+ points are tied for the most in a single season in franchise history. The other three seasons:
2016: Last playoff appearance
2011: Won Super Bowl XLVI
2007: Won Super Bowl XLII
Teams that started 5-1 have made the postseason 84.1 percent of the time since 1990. That number increases to 87.7 percent at 6-1, which is what the Giants will look to improve to next week in Jacksonville. The Giants, who won't play at MetLife Stadium again until Nov. 13, then travel to Seattle before their Week 9 bye.
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE RAVENS
The Ravens have alternated wins and losses every week, leading to a .500 start for the team. They are still topped with the defending AFC champion Bengals atop the AFC North. Baltimore hosts Cleveland in Week 7.