EAST RUTHERFORD – New York Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was in coverage with his back turned to the line of scrimmage, so he was unaware Kayvon Thibodeaux sacked Lamar Jackson, jarring the football loose in the process.
Adoree’ Jackson didn’t need to see the play to know the Giants were going to win the game in that moment, however.
Everything he needed to know in the waning moments of Sunday’s thrilling 24-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, he heard.
“The roar of the crowd, baby,” Jackson told NorthJersey.com, part of the USA TODAY Network. “Heard ’em and I knew, turned to see the ball bouncing out there and I was like, ‘We got this. It’s over.'”
And when Leonard Williams jumped on the fumble with 90 seconds left, as Jackson believed, the Giants did.
They continued to defy the odds by rallying from 10 points down in the fourth quarter, as Saquon Barkley’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:46 remaining proved decisive, cashing in on Julian Love’s stunning interception of Lamar Jackson just over one minute earlier. Thibodeaux picked the ideal time for his first career sack, racing into the backfield and punching the ball free, leading to Williams’ recovery that brought the MetLife Stadium crowd of 78,019 to a fever pitch.
Two Barkley runs and three kneeldowns from Daniel Jones later, and the Giants (5-1) extended their best start in 13 years with a third consecutive win, again coming from behind against an MVP quarterback, a punishing defense and a deficit on the scoreboard that, truth be told, once again seemed insurmountable.
The question coming into the game – is it time to start believing in the Giants? – has now been replaced by another one that brings with it respect and a different level of expectation: why shouldn’t we?
“We don’t fold,” Giants outside linebacker Jihad Ward said. “There’s gonna be some heads down [when the Ravens took a 20-10 lead], but it’s our job to keep ’em up. This is the ‘don’t fold’ team. Just to let you know, those are our two words, we don’t fold.”
The Giants had reason to fold, make no mistake, and over the last five years, faced with similar circumstances, they certainly would have. Saquon Barkley was banged up, nursing the sore right shoulder he injured a week prior in London against the Packers. Andrew Thomas, their stalwart left tackle, was hobbled, as was center Jon Feliciano.
And the defense spent 57 minutes chasing Lamar Jackson all over the field, to no avail. He was beating them with his legs, keeping an entire unit off balance by finding Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, who seemed uncoverable, and helping spring reserve running back Kenyan Drake, who was punishing the Giants as they put all their focus on Jackson.
But with 6:01 to go, when Daniel Jones hit rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger from eight yards out for a touchdown, the Giants had some momentum having pulled within 20-17. The “don’t fold team” still had to find a way to stop the Ravens, which they had not done for much of the game.
Baltimore (4-2) rushed for 211 yards as a team, and Jackson had played a near-perfect game to that point in terms of making the right reads and all the smart decisions. Then, just like that, the Giants changed the game.
On a third-and-5 from his own 40, Jackson let the snap go through his hands. He regained possession and, facing pressure from the Giants, heaved a throw downfield where Love stepped in front of fullback Patrick Ricard for the pick, the first interception of the season for Big Blue.
Love weaved in and out of opposing players, bringing the ball back to the 13-yard line.
Four plays later, Barkley was leaping over Thomas and left guard Ben Bredeson and across the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown. Jones was intercepted on the previous play, but only because Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters interfered with Darius Slayton in the end zone. A penalty was called, the interception was taken off the board and Barkley was in the end zone one play after that.
“I didn’t feel it, but I saw something go [over the top], and all I thought was, ‘Please get in,'” Bredeson said. “Not surprising with [Barkley].”
Still, with 1:43 remaining, the Ravens still had plenty of reason to believe they could return the favor.
That optimism ended in 13 seconds of action as Thibodeaux capped the rousing rally.
“You know, you’ve just got to get him. Lamar is tricky, shifty, so the one thing we teach is getting that rip at the end, making sure you finish,” Thibodeaux said. “So that time I had emphasis on my finish, and [get] one for the good guys.”
Over his first four seasons as a pro, through the disappointment and all the losing, Barkley would often say he hoped for the day when the Giants would turn things around, and that he could be a part of it.
There Barkley was, after Thibodeaux broke out a salsa dance for former Giants Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, dancing near the 15-yard line, the MetLife Stadium crowd whipped into a frenzy. The chants of “Let’s Go Giants!” echoed in the hallway outside the Giants’ locker room soon after, fans streaming to the parking lot not in defeat, but in unbridled enthusiasm for a team that keeps finding a way to surprise us.
Thibodeaux was in tears on the field, overcome by emotion. Teammates chanted his name in the locker room after the game, the football from his strip sack tucked under his arm.
The Giants were winners again, and they earned another one.
“If you’re not believing now, I don’t know what to tell you,” Giants safety Xavier McKinney told NorthJersey.com. “But honestly, that doesn’t really matter to anyone on the inside. We’re not playing to convince anyone that we’re a good team. We’re doing whatever we can to compete, to fight and to win games. That’s what this team is all about, and we’re showing you that every week.”
By doing all of that, the Giants are giving us no choice but to believe in them and who they are right now.
This content was originally published here.