EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Whether they make the playoffs or not, the New York Giants learned something about Daniel Jones. The second-year quarterback came through for them when they needed it most, a staple of the beloved quarterback he replaced, Eli Manning.
This was important for Jones after a season in which he didn’t always make the tangible progress most expected following a promising rookie year. But he proved capable Sunday of handling the big stage in a 23-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in what amounted to an elimination game.
And now, the Giants (6-10) must wait. They will win the NFC East if Washington loses on Sunday night to the Philadelphia Eagles.
It has been a roller-coaster season for the Giants, from 0-5 to 1-7 to 5-7 to losing three straight heading into this regular-season finale. The Giants not only played meaningful December games this year (a strong desire of ownership heading into the season), but their fate will now be decided by the very last regular-season contest.
It has been that kind of up-and-down year for Jones as well. He came into Sunday's contest with just 10 total touchdowns compared to 14 turnovers in 11 starts.
But against the Cowboys, Jones completed 17 of 25 passes for 229 yards with two touchdown throws, an interception that wasn’t his fault and a fumble in which the same could be said. He made enough plays for the Giants to win the game and handled the pressure that comes with what was essentially a playoff game for his team.
Jones had talked this past week about how this NFC East showdown would be an "intense atmosphere," but shrugged off the enormity of the contest. His poise showed on the field. Jones had thrown multiple touchdowns on just three other occasions entering Sunday.
This was perhaps the biggest game of Jones’ career -- college or NFL. And he played one of his better games -- especially in the first half -- with the pressure on in this elimination contest. The Giants barely hung on in the final moments for the victory, needing a late interception by Logan Ryan in the end zone and a recovery of his own fumble by Wayne Gallman to clinch the victory.
Jones, the No. 6 overall pick last year, threw for 346 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions in Duke's win at Wake Forest in November 2017. He also ran for the deciding score. Coming into Sunday, that was probably the biggest game he had played in. The Blue Devils needed that win to be bowl eligible. They beat Northern Illinois in the Quick Lane Bowl behind Jones’ three touchdowns several weeks later.
Whether he gets another chance to follow up this win will be determined Sunday evening.
Troubling trend: Tight end Evan Engram's drops. This has been a problem the entire season. And it reared its ugly head again at the worst time, in the Giants' biggest game of the season.
With the Giants leading 20-9 early in the third quarter, Engram had a bullet from Jones clank off his hands. It popped into the air and was intercepted.
It changed the game. Dallas went 62 yards on 10 plays and scored a touchdown. All of a sudden they were back in the game.
Moments later, Engram had another pass go through his hands. It was his NFL-worst eighth drop of the season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Among those was a drop that cost the Giants a chance to ice their first matchup with Philadelphia.
The Giants have remained confident in Engram despite his struggles (and Pro Bowl selection). But there has to be concern about whether they can trust him in the postseason, and moving forward.