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Giants become more than feel-good story

XAVIER-MCKINNEY

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants no longer wish to be the feel-good story of the 2022 NFL season. They simply want to be recognized for what they clearly have become: a good football team.

That was evident after their 23-17 victory yesterday in Jacksonville. Safety and defensive captain Xavier McKinney captured the attitude when he was asked when will the team start getting some respect.

"I really don't even care for that question anymore," McKinney said. "I'm kind of tired of answering it because it's the same thing every week. Obviously, we know that. I really don't care. We don't care as a team. The only thing we can do is keep focusing on what we can do and keep getting better."

The Giants have won four consecutive games. They are 6-1 and join undefeated Philadelphia as the NFL's only six-win teams. (In fairness, the Eagles, plus 5-1 Buffalo and Minnesota all had byes this weekend.)

The overriding theme in the locker room wasn't celebrating the winning streak or the record – the Giants have already won two more games than they did all last season. The players believed the game was as close as it was because they did not play to their potential, particularly on the final drive, when three Giants penalties helped give the Jaguars a chance to win the game on the last snap.

The game was the fourth this season in which the Giants needed a fourth-quarter comeback to earn a victory.

"Even though we got the win – we can obviously be happy about it right now – we got to get out of the habit of creating those close situations at the end of the game," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "We can't keep killing ourselves and shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties and letting it come down to that. We're hoping that we can get to a comfortable lead at some point and have a comfortable win at the end of the game. I know we pride ourselves on taking teams to the deep end and coming together and winning in those tight situations, which I am proud of. But at the same time, I think we have to get out of the habit of getting that close."

View photos from the Giants' Week 7 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Quarterback Daniel Jones had a historic game, becoming the first player in Giants history to pass for at least 200 yards (202) and rush for at least 100 (107) in a game. He did not throw an interception for the fourth consecutive game, one shy of the career high he set in 2020.

Jones spoke about one of the team's primary attributes, but also mentioned what he perceives as one of its deficiencies.

"I think there's just a competitive spirit," Jones said when asked what makes this team special. "There's a mental toughness to our group, and regardless of what's happened earlier in the game or regardless of the situation, we've got confidence that we're going to execute and find ways to win."

But … "there's a lot of points in the game, a lot of plays that we would like to have back, to clean up, and hopefully make a couple more plays so we're not in that situation."

Saquon Barkley perhaps best personified the Giants yesterday. After a sluggish first half in which he ran for just 18 yards, Barkley revved it up in the final two quarters to finish with 110. He also gained another 25 yards on four receptions. But at his postgame news conference, Barkley used the term "failures in life" in describing his performance.

His sin? Barley could have virtually clinched the game had he stayed in bounds on a four-yard run. The clock would have kept moving with less than a minute remaining. But he inadvertently slid out of bounds, an action caught by the replay official, who overturned the call on the field. The time remaining was increased to 1:11, giving the Jaguars plenty of drive to mount a final drive after Graham Gano's third field goal of the game.

"I'm going to find a way to close my eyes, whether it's tonight, whether it's on the plane, play it back in my head, do it the right way in my head and move on," Barkley said. "Yeah, it's part of life. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to have your failures in life. But it's easier to learn from them when it's a win, but this could have easily gone the other way. But go back, watch it on film, find time when I'm able to shut my eyes, play it back, have positive reinforcement behind it and move on."

With 19 seconds remaining, Jacksonville was 60 yards from the goal line and faced a fourth-and-15 when Trevor Lawrence connected with Marvin Jones, Jr. for a 28-yard gain, The Jaguars picked up an additional 15 yards on Dexter Lawrence's second roughing the passer penalty.

Two incompletions led the Jaguars to a third-and-10 from the 17 with seven seconds left. Christian Kirk caught Lawrence's pass at the one, but Fabian Moreau, Julian Love and McKinney ganged up to keep him out of the end zone.

"We knew the situation," McKinney said. "That whole drive, our mentality, and kind of what I was preaching was just to just keep them inbounds. We knew they didn't have any timeouts left, so we were just trying to delay as much time as we could, and then the last play obviously, we were just trying to keep them out of the end zone. It was a great play call by (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale), and we've got to execute it, and we kept them out of the end zone in the end."

But after his team gained 426 yards and 27 first downs and owned the ball for 34:10, should the game have been that close?

"It is what it is," McKinney said. "Things happen in the game, and it ain't going to be perfect. But we've all got each other's back, and that's the greatest thing about this team. We play as a unit no matter what. For us defensively, we just knew we had to go out there and make another stop, which we wanted to do, and which we were able to do. I don't think we played, a lot of us don't think we played, very good defensively today. (It was) probably our worst defensive performance. But we know we've got a lot of work to do in order to get where we want to be. We've got a lot of things to improve on."

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