How this NY Giants veteran brought perspective and humility to what it means to be 5-1

Art Stapleton
 

NFL writer

EAST RUTHERFORD – Justin “Jelly” Ellis had heard enough.

Not that the Giants’ veteran defensive lineman was angry, because he wasn’t, but he felt something needed to be said.

And given what Ellis witnessed last season in his old locker room down in Baltimore, he gathered some of his teammates in the locker room this past week and offered up a dose of reality that struck the proper tone within a team enjoying much more success than anticipated, and way sooner than anyone could have imagined.

“I overheard some of the younger guys talking about our record, how good things were going and you know, just getting a little bit ahead of ourselves,” Ellis recalled for NorthJersey.com, part of the USA TODAY Network following Sunday’s 24-20 victory over the Ravens. “So I called them over and was like, ‘Hey listen, let me tell you a story about how quickly a season can go the other way.'”

Ellis played for the Ravens last season, and in one of the biggest collapses in recent NFL history, Baltimore went from the No. 1 seed in the AFC with an 8-2 record to out of the playoffs in a disappointing and staggering six weeks.

The Ravens had five losses by a combined eight points during a season-ending six-game losing streak, and Ellis promises he will never forget the stunning nature by which the campaign went from great to devastating.

So with the Giants enjoying some unexpected prosperity, he shared the experience.

And in doing so, Ellis brought perspective and humility that hit home, and the impact might just resonate longer than that.

“What Jelly talked about, it was almost like, ‘Damn, we hear you,'” Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson told NorthJersey.com at his locker Sunday, the celebration from his team’s latest triumph spilling out in different pockets in the room. “It’s not that anyone was getting overconfident or anything, but you win some games, and everybody’s feeling good. Then Jelly speaks up, and that’s what you need to hear. We’re not focused on the future, or what has happened in the past here. This has to be about the present, and what we do to stay focused on that.”

The Giants are defying odds not just with the games they are winning, but how they are getting there.

They trailed Green Bay by double digits in London last week and rallied for the triumph, and did so again against the Ravens after falling behind 20-10 early in the fourth quarter. The Giants and the Ravens went toe to toe, and just when it seemed as though Baltimore delivered a knockout, Big Blue found a way to respond.

Julian Love’s interception of Lamar Jackson led to Saquon Barkley’s go-ahead touchdown with 1:43 remaining. Kayvon Thibodeaux’s strip sack of Jackson resulted in a fumble that Leonard Williams recovered, essentially putting the game on ice. Barkley slid inside the 5 on his final run of the afternoon instead of scoring a touchdown, refusing to give the ball back to the Ravens regardless of the margin on the scoreboard.

“We’ve got closers,” Thibodeaux said.

Three Daniel Jones kneel downs later and the Giants were celebrating their third consecutive win. They have now topped their win total from the 2021 season with 11 games still to play in Brian Daboll’s first season as head coach. The combined record of the Giants’ next four opponents prior to the Thanksgiving rematch in Dallas, beginning next Sunday against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, is currently sitting at 7-14-1.

“Dabs said it, it’s OK to be happy. You can be happy being 5-1. It’s hard to win in this league, you can enjoy it,” Barkley said. “At the end of the day, you can’t get too overconfident. You got to keep taking it week by week, keep following the process and that’s the mindset we are going to continue to have.”

The Giants have trailed in the second half of four of their five wins. In three of those games, they have fought back from a double-digit deficit after halftime and emerged victorious.

Daboll has instilled a confidence in this team built on trust and execution, and his staff – head coach included – has given them a reason to believe based on schematic advantages provided on both sides of the ball. The Giants also have a little bit of something that can’t necessarily be quantified by numbers.

“I wouldn’t say magic, I would say it’s just the edge that we play with,” Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas said. “It’s a gritty bunch. A lot of people here have been thrown out, [earned] second chances. We work hard here. I think that shows up on Sunday.”

Eli Manning walked through the Giants’ locker room amid the post-game celebration with his son Charlie, who offered up a fist bump for Barkley at Dad’s urging. Thibodeaux celebrated his sack by doing the salsa for Victor Cruz.

Even though the Giants reached the playoffs in 2016, you have to go back to the 2011 season when Manning and Cruz helped lead Big Blue to Super Bowl XLVI to replicate the atmosphere and emotion that was present Sunday.

The chants of “Let’s Go Giants!” echoed in the basement walkway to the team’s locker room, fans spilling out of the stadium and into the Meadowlands parking lots with excitement. Jones has now led three fourth-quarter comebacks to wins, and he’s 8-3 in his last 11 starters.

While there continues to be debate over his future, these Giants are going out of their way to keep the focus on the here and now – for Jones and everyone else.

Following the game, Daboll stopped a reporter’s question about his quarterback’s play by quipping, “Fourth quarter? Again, right?”

Jones went 5-for-5 for 58 yards on the fourth-quarter drive that ended with rookie Daniel Bellinger’s 8-yard touchdown catch, pulling the Giants within 20-17. He completed 19-of-27 passes for 173 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions.

“We’re 5-1 and I think that’s certainly something that helps us build confidence,” Jones said. “But when you look at the tape and when you’re playing these games, you realize how much more we can do.”

And if the Giants need a reminder of how fleeting this success can be, just have Jelly Ellis address the room again.

This content was originally published here.

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