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Giants 'never gave up' on game or season

TOMMY-DEVITO-RANDY-BULLOCK

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants played the final four minutes of their game against the Green Bay Packers Monday night as if they'd been ordered by the NFL to keep the nationwide audience tuned in until the last play.

In dizzying succession, their star running back lost his third fumble on 1,413 career touches, an opposing wide receiver scored his first career touchdown on his only catch of the night, the defense made a critical stop on a 2-point conversion try, their rookie quarterback performed serenely and superbly on a final possession when they trailed by a point, and they won the game as time expired when their kicker – who has been with the team for five weeks and earlier missed a 48-yard attempt at the same end of the field – booted a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Giants a 24-22 victory.

How, exactly, does one explain all that?

"Pro football - things happen," coach Brian Daboll said. "We had to go and make it tough on ourselves, drive down in two-minute (drill) with a rookie quarterback who made good decisions and nail a field goal with a new kicker. Probably like to do it the other way."

As in easier. But the football gods had other ideas. They weren't powerful enough to derail the Giants, who won their third consecutive game and improved to 5-8, with a game Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints awaiting them.

The Giants had plenty of heroes Monday night. Rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito authored another chapter in one of the NFL's best 2023 stories by completing 17 of 21 passes for 158 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and rushed for 71 yards on 10 carries. Saquon Barkley rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Wan'Dale Robinson led the team with six receptions and 79 yards and ran twice for an additional 36 yards. The offensive line didn't allow a sack. The defense and special teams combined for three takeaways.

The team that appeared doomed when it fell to 2-8 a month ago is now 5-8 and just a game behind the team that currently holds the seventh and final NFC playoff spot – the Green Bay Packers.

"I think in every game we've played this year we've showed that we never gave up on any snap, no matter what the score was," said DeVito, who completed all four of his passes for 53 yards on the game-winning drive. "Never looked up at the scoreboard, just kept on fighting each and every play, each and every game, and it's starting to come to fruition with some of these games in the past now and just going to keep trying to go 1-0 each week."

View photos from the Giants' Week 14 matchup against the Green Bay Packers.

The Giants took a long, strange trip to go 1-0 in Week 14.

In the first half, Green Bay rookie wide receiver Jayden Reed (16 yards) and Barkley (5) each scored on a touchdown runs. Another rookie, Anders Carlson, kicked a 36-yard field goal to give the Packers a 10-7 halftime lead.

Barkley's one-yard touchdown run put the Giants back on top early in the third quarter, 14-10. Carlson's 32-yard field goal cut the lead to one. The Giants took the game's largest lead at eight points when DeVito and Isaiah Hodgins both ran to the right and the receiver caught a perfectly thrown pass in the back right corner of the end zone with cornerback Carrington Valentine practically riding him.

"We worked on it (the scramble drill) a lot, especially these last couple of weeks and we knew that it would be big in this game," Hodgins said. "That was just good work for me and Tommy being on the same page and him trusting me and just giving me a shot in the corner of the end zone."

"We did two periods against our defense this week where it was two five-play periods, three of them were just drop back, call the play, but I told DeVito under no circumstances throw it on time," Daboll said. "Make sure you scramble. We've got to do a good job of it; our defense has to do a good job against (Packers quarterback Jordan) Love when he does it. So, it's something we practiced, I'd say put a high emphasis on this week. It was two good plays that we made out of it. Guys did a good job of taking things from practice and taking it to the field."

Carlson's 48-yard field goal cut the Packers' deficit to 21-16. Then the game went completely off script. Barkley ran for 34 yards to the Green Bay 18-yard line, which should have tightened the Giants' grip on the game. But Barkley stumbled and fumbled the ball. Valentine alertly picked it up and returned it 50 yards to the Giants' 36-yard line with 3:34 remaining.

"I knew where the sideline was and was trying to make sure I didn't go out of bounds in that situation and tried to fall down," Barkley said. "The ball just popped out on me, which is inexcusable. Got to be better. I can't put my team in that situation.

"Was definitely hoping to get an opportunity (to get the ball again). Teammates had my back, Tommy DeVito, Dale (Robinson), everyone caught a pass on that drive. Kaf (offensive coordinator Mike Kafka) did a great job calling plays on that drive and that's the NFL. Got to win games like that and I wish I didn't put my team in that position but could be worse. We found a way to get a win. I've just got to be better."

The Giants did get another possession, but trailed when it began. The Packers took advantage of Barkley's miscue and scored on a 6-yard pass from Love to Malik Heath, a rookie free agent who entered the game with six catches. On his seventh, he somehow kept his feet inbounds while lifting the ball over the pylon for the touchdown. Jayden Reed was stopped short on the 2-point conversion try and the Giants were a point behind with 1:33 remaining.

Just like that, DeVito found himself leading the offense with a game on the line. What was he thinking?

"Just go win the football game," he said. "Go execute a drive that we practice every day before practice, which is a two-minute drive. We do it every day, different situations. With all the practice, we have that exact situation or something very similar to it, so just go out, execute the offense and go win the game."

Daboll did not want to present the situation as a momentous turning point for his young quarterback.

"It's his job," Daboll said. "Third game of over a hundred quarterback rating. He made good decisions, took care of the ball, used him in the run game. Just keep developing him. He's improving. Still got stuff to work on, but like I said two or three times last week, I think he's a young player that's doing the right things and making the most of his opportunity. He earned the right to play today, and he earned the right to play the next week. The kid's done a good job."

The drive began with a 5-yard pass to Robinson, followed by a 7-yarder to Barkley and a 9-yarder to Darius Slayton. DeVito's fourth consecutive completion with the game on the line was a short toss to the right side that Robinson turned into a 32-yard gain to the Green Bay 22. The Packers knew they were doomed. Three Barkley runs set up Bullock, who had the opportunity to win the game instead of tying it because the defense came up big on the 2-point try. He kicked the Giants' first deciding field goal as time expired since Josh Brown's 23-yarder beat New Orleans on Sept. 16, 2016. Brown's kick broke a tie. Bullock booted the team's first come-from-behind game-winner since Sept. 20, 2009, when Lawrence Tynes' 37-yard field goal beat Dallas, 33-31, in the first game at what is now AT&T Stadium.

"I was excited for the opportunity to redeem myself and more than anything, help these guys get a win," said Bullock, who was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 3 and, after kicking in three games, to the active roster three weeks later. "It's been a fun ride for me. It's been kind of crazy the last few weeks just getting here and kind of getting thrown into the fire, but I will say this organization, the coaches, the players in the locker room, everybody has really embraced me and helped me along the way to acclimate and I have felt a part of it since I got here."

DeVito and everyone else had done their job when it mattered most.

"I mean you, enjoy it when it's an outcome like this, right?" he said of facing a game-deciding drive in the closing seconds. "I enjoy being on the field any play, no matter what play it is, so just try to enjoy it."

On Monday night, that's exactly what all the Giants did.

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