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Game Preview: Giants turn to Tyrod Taylor vs. Rams

TYROD-TAYLOR-TICKETMASTER

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the first time since 1996, the Giants will play their final two regular-season games at home when they host the Los Angeles Rams Sunday and Philadelphia next week. (Note: In 2011, they closed with a pair of games in MetLife Stadium, but the first was a Jets home game.) The Giants lost those final two games of '96.

When the schedule was released in May, the Giants hoped to be – at worst - in postseason contention at this juncture. But they were officially excluded from the postseason party with their Christmas Day loss to the Eagles. At 5-10 and with two consecutive defeats, they can only hope for a successful ending.

For the players and coaches, that is motivation enough.

"This is the NFL," running back Saquon Barkley said. "Go out there and compete, try to win. That's the goal every week, go out try to find a way to win the football game, and it doesn't change. Obviously, in two weeks, we'll be going home, so the mindset is try to finish the season as strong as we can.

"I think everyone is kind of focused with the same attitude not only that I have; I think that's kind of just the message from the coaches, from Dabs (coach Brian Daboll), to go out there and win and compete. That's what the NFL is about. Obviously, it's unfortunate that we're not in a scenario where we can continue to compete and make the playoffs, but there's a lot of people that would love to be in our position. So, you've just got to keep that mindset, go out there, play at a high level, and try your best to come out with a win, like every other week."

Certainly 13-year quarterback Tyrod Taylor has plenty of incentive. He will start his fourth game of the season and first since Oct. 29. Taylor's record as a regular season starter is 27-27-1 (1-3 earlier this season) and in addition to his team goals, one would certainly think he would like to push his personal record above .500.

"It's not a 'me' thing," Taylor said. "It's a team sport, and I'm excited for our guys to go out for these last two weeks to put our best foot forward and to compete at a high level. Regardless of playoffs or not, there's always something to play for and that's the mindset that we've got to have."

Two weeks ago, coming off a victory against Green Bay, it seemed Tommy DeVito would start the season's final four games at quarterback. But with the offense sputtering, Daboll turned to Taylor to start the second half last week, then later announced he would start against the Rams.

"It means everything to me," Taylor said of his opportunity. "I mean, obviously, the work that you put in week in and week out. I've been playing this game for a long time and anytime I get a chance to lace up the cleats and go out and compete means the world to me. That's where I'm the happiest, and it's what I love to do, to be able to go out and not only show your peers but prove to yourself what you can do."

In his two quarters of action on Monday, Taylor completed seven of 16 passes for 133 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown to Darius Slayton that was the Giants' longest score in more than four years. His only interception of the season was on a throw into the end zone on the game's final play.

"I think Tyrod did a great job just stepping up," offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. "He made some big plays, he did some nice things with the football with his legs. I was not shocked. I think he's a guy that's going to prep and do it the right way and he did a nice job stepping in for us.

"He's been in the league for 13 years; I think it's a lot that he does. Not just on the field but as a leader, as a good teammate. I think Tyrod does a hell of a job in the huddle, getting guys organized so there's a lot of things that he does just outside of playing the quarterback position that makes him special."

Taylor will operate knowing defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, will frequently be lurking.

"One of the best to ever do it," Daboll said. "He's always a problem when you play him. As much as you try to gameplan for him, he always finds ways to make plays. He's one of the best defensive players, he's unbelievable."

The Rams arrive in New Jersey with victories in five of their last six games, an 8-7 record, and the postseason motivation the Giants lack. The Rams currently hold the sixth seed in the NFC and will clinch the playoffs with victories in each of their final two games (including at San Francisco in Week 18).

The Giants defense will be challenged by one of the NFL's most prolific offenses. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown 14 touchdown passes and one interception in his last five games.

"I think that Stafford is playing at a Hall of Fame-type level," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "They have gelled offensively. Matthew is making throws that you just sit there and go, 'Wow.' From all different kind of arm angles, no looks, all those things you've heard about, you're seeing him do it and they're playing at a very high level.

"The thing that (Rams coach) Sean (McVay) has done is that they've made a commitment to the run game and changing their offensive line this year. Now it's a two-headed monster that you have to deal with. So, they put you in a bind of what you want to try to do and how you're going to try to do it."

The Rams already have a 1,000-yard rusher in Kyren Williams (1,057 yards and nine touchdowns in just 11 games) and a 1,000-yard receiver (rookie Puca Nacua has 96 receptions for 1,327 yards and five scores). Cooper Kupp and Demarcus Robinson have four touchdown catches apiece.

"That's a talented group," cornerback Adoree' Jackson said. "I feel like Sean McVay, a lot of people give him hell, but he's as brilliant as the best of them at calling plays and designing them. You have a great quarterback who knows the game, understands the game, a Hall of Famer. Kyren does a great job. Offenses that have a good quarterback and some receivers and can run the ball are pretty dynamic. As you can see, that's why they put up a lot of points on the board."

View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams.

*A few leftover statistics from the Giants' Christmas Day game in Philadelphia:

*Barkley leads the Giants in both rushing and receiving touchdowns with four apiece. San Francisco's Christian McCaffrey and the Jets' Breece Hall are the only other players to lead their teams in both rushing and receiving touchdowns this season. The last Giants player to do it over a full season was Billy Taylor in 1979. Taylor had a team-high seven rushing touchdowns, and Taylor, Earnest Gray and Johnny Perkins tied for the team lead with four receiving touchdowns.

* Jackson became the third Giants defender this season to score a touchdown on an interception return. With his 76-yard score, Jackson joined Jason Pinnock (102 yards) and Isaiah Simmons (54 yards). This is the first season since 2018 in which the Giants have three interception return touchdowns. That year, linebacker Alec Ogletree had two and safety Curtis Riley one.

*The Giants last had three interception return touchdowns of 54 or more yards in 1997. The players were Sam Garnes (95 yards), Tito Wooten (61) and Jessie Armstead (57).

*Mason Crosby's first Giants field goal was a 52-yarder. That is the third-longest first field goal by a Giants kicker, behind Brad Daluiso's 54-yarder in 1993 and Steve Christie's 53-yarder in 2004.

*Crosby joined Graham Gano and Randy Bullock as Giants who have kicked field goals longer than 50 yards in 2023. This is the first season in Giants history in which three different kickers have field goals of 50+ yards.

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 17 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.

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