Giants praise Jones after win

MINNEAPOLIS — Daniel Jones made history in his first career playoff game. It prompted his running back to refer to him as “elite.”

Jones became the first quarterback in NFL history to have 300 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and at least 70 rushing yards in a playoff game. He was undeniably dominant in his playoff debut, leading the New York Giants to a game-changing victory in the fourth quarter en route to a 31-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Running back Saquon Barkley had convinced Jones that he was already one of the best in the NFL.

“I know we have an elite quarterback,” Barkley said. “He has shown that several times.”

Jones was the Giants’ best player in the second half of the season. And now it’s carried over into the playoffs in a season when his future was at stake. Jones, who is a season-ending free agent, went 24 of 35 passes for 301 yards with two touchdowns against the Vikings. He added 78 yards with 17 carries as New York won their first playoff game since their Super Bowl run in the 2011 season.

By this point, the debate over whether Eli Manning was “elite” was almost settled. He was on his way to his second Super Bowl MVP.

The Giants only had questions about Jones earlier this season when they turned down the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. He would have to prove to the new government that he is capable of being a franchise pillar.

Jones, 25, did that. He pretty much ticked every box: staying healthy for an entire season, fixing a turnover problem, playing well at key points, and now adding a playoff win to his resume.

“It means a lot. Means a lot,” Jones said of the win, which again saw him fail to turn the ball over. “It’s a big win for us and we’re grateful to be a part of it.”

Jones has had a turnover in the last five games. He has nine touchdowns in that span.

The six-seeded Giants facing the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round seem to expect that kind of dominant play from their quarterback on an almost weekly basis.

“Played well,” said coach Brian Daboll nonchalantly after winning his first playoff game as head coach. “Well played.”

Simply good?

“Yes, win football,” added Daboll.

Talk about underplaying performance. Jones was more than good, and everyone else watching him seemed to notice. Even those on his own sidelines.

Based on his teammates’ reaction afterwards when they ambushed him in the dressing room, the brilliance Jones displayed for the whole nation was obvious.

Jones went 5-for-5 passing for 100 yards to go along with two rushes for 22 yards in the first quarter alone as the Giants scored touchdowns on both possessions.

“Amazing,” left tackle Andrew Thomas said of his quarterback’s play in Minnesota. “Did every game we asked him to do. Didn’t flip the ball.

Jones knew how big this game was for him and his teammates. He called Manning late last week for advice on what a playoff game would look like. Manning told him the intensity would be increased, but it fell to the Giants’ current starting quarterback to do things like he’d been doing all season.

Jones did just that, even if it wasn’t just another game.

“I think there was definitely some nerve involved,” admitted Jones. “We were excited. There was a lot of anticipation for it. Once we settled in and started playing, it felt the same. It was just execution and getting our work done game by game. I thought as a group did we did well.”

There was no telling whether Jones was nervous at first. He threw darts and blew past defenders. That didn’t change all afternoon. The Vikings were without answers.

Daboll said using Jones as a runner was part of the game plan. The Giants didn’t do that often at the previous meeting when Jones only had four carries. The 17 attempts were a career high. His previous high was 12 earlier this season.

Seven of Jones’ rushes resulted in first downs as he became the only quarterback to throw 300 yards alongside Steve Young and Lamar Jackson and rush for at least 75 yards in a playoff game.

“For this game we thought that was something we didn’t do at all in the last game which we thought would be a bit new,” said Daboll. “I mean, people have seen us make them, but we have a wide variety of them.”

Those wrinkles are a big part of what took Jones to a new level. And his teammates call him Elite.