The job description for the franchise quarterback demands that in his franchise’s most desperate hour, he is the one his teammates all follow, he is the one they all lean on, he is the one who stands taller when others begin to shrink, he is the one who refuses to blink in the crucible of the biggest game of his life with a season on the line.
Daniel Jones wanted to play for the Giants, wasn’t afraid of following in Eli Manning’s giant footsteps, couldn’t wait to lead the franchise back to the playoffs.
After all the Giants (5-9) have been through, all the rebuilding and a rookie head coach navigating his way through a pandemic and the Week 2 loss of Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones returns from his hamstring and ankle injuries to engineer an offense that offers Giants fans a little realistic hope it can keep up with Lamar Jackson’s ravenous Ravens and avoid a crippling defeat that could end their Improbable Dream, should the Washington Football Team beat the Panthers later in the day.
There are other more appealing scenarios:
Win and live to fight another day.
Win and take destiny back in your own hands if the Panthers, without Christian McCaffrey, knock the Washington Football Team (6-8) — which may get Alex Smith back at quarterback — out of first place.
Lose and have a sliver of hope the regular-season finale against the Cowboys (5-9) means something — or everything.
The Ravens have scored 121 points over their past three games. The Giants have scored 122 points over their past seven.
The Ravens are a model for sustained success that Giants head coach Joe Judge aspires to, and they provide a measuring stick for where his program is right now.
On any given Sunday, the Jets can beat the Rams, the Bengals can beat the Steelers … and the Giants can beat the Ravens.
But only on Danny Given Sunday.
Just because this season was never supposed to be about this season, but about 2021 and beyond, doesn’t mean the Giants can’t author one of those New York sports fairy tales … or have you forgotten Manning-to David Tyree? Ya Gotta Believe, right?
It is imperative Jones comes out smoking. The Titans showed in last year’s playoffs that Jackson’s kryptonite is forcing him to play from behind. Jones’ legs will never be confused with Jackson’s, but they are an important part of his game, and he will need them again so he is no sitting duck against the Baltimore Bullies.
It goes without saying that there is no margin for (ball-security) error. Not against a defense that has forced a league-best 25 turnovers and is second with 12 fumble recoveries. Not against a quarterback who can demoralize your defense and wreck the game at any moment.
“You can’t stop Lamar, you can only hope to contain him,” Fox NFL analyst Michael Vick told The Post. “So they gotta be exceptionally sound. … Lamar’s so unpredictable, there’s no blueprint to stop him, you just gotta hope that he stops himself.”
Jackson has weathered COVID-19 and fourth-quarter cramps and the loss of his best offensive linemen and the trade of tight end Hayden Hurst.
“They’ve kinda taken the handcuffs off Lamar a little bit, they’ve gone back to allowing him to be a playmaker and a reactor,” ESPN college football and NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky told The Post.
Jackson presents a different set of problems for Big Blue than Kyler Murray did.
“I look at Lamar almost like myself, the only person I can compare him to,” Vick said. “Our running style was similar to a running back. It’s aggressive, it’s intense, and when I look at Kyler, Kyler’s more finesse, take what the defense gives him; he’s not gonna go after that extra yard. I think it’s one thing that Lamar has to do moving forward, probably limit the hits. When you’re running as fast as us, it makes it very difficult to slide. So sometimes, it could be a gift and a curse.”
It’s more of a gift, and good luck trying to spy him.
“My style was revolutionizing defenses, too, and the way they have to play a mobile quarterback like myself or like a Donovan McNabb at the time,” Vick said.
It will be much more fun for Vick watching Jackson than it will be for Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
“It’s like I can play the game right through him,” Vick said. “I never thought I would see that style of play from another quarterback for a long time.”
Jackson (21 TDs, eight INTs, 828 yards rushing with 7 TDs) has won 10 consecutive December games and is 11-1 in the month. He is 28-7 as a starter.
In only his seventh start as a rookie, in 2018, Jackson rushed for 90 yards and two TDs to beat the Browns on the last day of the regular season and end a three-year playoff drought for the Ravens.
This will be Jones’ 25th start. He is 7-17. He has thrown eight TD passes this season. His last one came Nov. 8. Judge talks all the time about playing complementary football. It is time for his offense to play some. Especially his quarterback.
Danny Given Sunday. Or the prospect of Monday Mourning.
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