EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)Brian Daboll seemed like a boxer taking one body blow after another, refusing to surrender to the never-ending assault of questions about making the playoffs.
The New York Giants (8-6-1) are that close to the unexpected.
They have two games left in the regular season and need a win to secure their first postseason berth since 2016. The first opportunity will come Sunday with a home game against the struggling Indianapolis Colts.
Daboll repeatedly said the only thing that makes Sunday’s game important is that it’s the next game. The Giants coach’s approach won’t change with the stakes high. In coachspeak, he intends to correct the things that went wrong in a last-second 27-24 loss to the Vikings (12-3) last Saturday and try to find ways to put his players in position to win this week.
”I think the best thing you can do is just control what you can control, which is the things you need to control this week,” Daboll said Monday. ”All the other things, there’s no real sense. Everybody knows what the game is this week.”
Daboll was asked at least a half-dozen questions about the playoffs during his 15-minute discussion with reporters. Did he think it was possible to make the playoffs when he got the Giants job in January? What it would mean? Does this game against the Colts take on added importance with Philadelphia waiting in the season finale?
The rookie head coach sidestepped them all and simply took the punch.
”We’re not in it yet,” Daboll said. ”I’m not going to look too far down the road, and we’re going to try to beat the Colts. And that’s where I’m at with it.”
The reality is the Colts game is kind of a must-win game.
The season finale will be in Philadelphia against the Eagles, whose 13-2 record is the best in the NFL. There’s a chance Philadelphia may have nothing at stake in the game, but this is a team that used its backup quarterback and scored 34 points in a loss against Dallas Saturday.
So the Giants certainly don’t want to head down the New Jersey Turnpike in early January needing a win.
Daniel Jones. The 25-year-old, fourth-year quarterback is having his best season. He was 30 of 42 for 334 yards, a touchdown and an interception Saturday. Forget the interception – it was a good play by Patrick Peterson. The Giants finished with 445 yards in total offense and Jones led a late TD drive and threw a game-tying 2-point conversion to tight end Daniel Bellinger.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The mistakes. The Giants made too many to win. The were in the game until the final play despite a lost fumble by Bellinger, an interception by Jones, a blocked punt, seven penalties for 63 yards and a dropped interception by rookie cornerback Cor’Dale Flott.
Isaiah Hodgins. The wide receiver has stepped up since being acquired on waivers from Buffalo on Nov. 2. He had eight catches for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. In seven games with New York, he has 29 catches for 309 yards and three touchdowns, which ties for the team lead.
Bellinger. The rookie tight end seemed to be a little more reliable before sustaining an eye injury that required surgery in late October. He remains a good blocker, but his lost fumble at the Vikings 23 after a 16-yard catch Saturday hurt. It took away a guaranteed three points with Graham Gano kicking and resulted in a Vikings’ field goal.
Outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari sprained an ankle Saturday, but he is getting better, Daboll said. New York continues to hope cornerback Adoree Jackson (knee) and safety Xavier McKinney (broken hand) will return after long absences. Daboll sounded more optimistic about Jackson playing this week than McKinney.
1 – One win and they are in.
The Giants need to beat the Colts. Fix the problems and play clean. Beating Philly on the final weekend would be a monstrous task. Their first meeting a couple of weeks ago (48-22) was a mismatch. The only other way the Giants make the playoffs would be if the Lions, Commanders and Seahawks keep losing. That’s a possibility, too.
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