Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants runs the...

Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants runs the ball in the second half against the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sep. 18, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The offensive line didn’t expect to see Daniel Jones there.

The Giants were clinging to a three-point lead with 1:35 left Sunday when Jones scrambled up the middle for 11 yards, picking up the first down to secure their 19-16 win. But that wasn’t what they drew up, offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Andrew Thomas confirmed after the game. The sight of their quarterback scampering past them was a little bit surprising, and they thought he was going to just throw it away.

But maybe that says exactly what you need to know about Jones’ continued maturation, playmaking ability and better judgment calls that have been an important part of the Giants’ 2-0 start.

Despite struggling to get much done against a stifling Panthers defense, Jones showed a level of grit that had coach Brian Daboll complimenting him in the postgame news conference.

“I thought he made great decisions with the football in his hands and took care of it,” Daboll said. “He made the right decision under pressure and in a critical situation .  .  . I think it’s important to show players you have faith in them. They work their [butts] off during the week, they work their [butts] off during camp. They’re the ones playing out there on Sunday and you have to put it in their hands when it counts the most.”

Despite being largely contained in the first half, Jones was able to adjust and come up with a number of pivotal drives in the second, starting with a 75-yard march that ended in a pass to Daniel Bellinger in the flat. The rookie tight end carried the ball 16 yards and dived past the pylon to tie the score at 13 with his first NFL catch and touchdown.

That drive also featured a key third-and-9 conversion — Jones’ short pass up the middle to Richie James for 15 yards, which began a streak of four straight first downs.

Jones was 22-for-34 for 176 yards and one touchdown and ran for 21 yards. The Giants were 6-for-18 on third downs.

“Obviously, we want to score a lot of points and execute better in certain situations, which we will certainly look to do,” Jones said. But “being able to win these tough, gritty games where everything doesn’t go perfect, when everything doesn’t go as well as you want it to or as well as you planned — I think it’s important for us to show some mental toughness, some grit, some resilience.”

It’s only two games, but the Giants have shown plenty of that. On Sunday, it started with Jones.

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