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Daniel Jones a triple threat in undermanned Giants' win over Panthers

Devontae Booker of the Giants celebrates his fourth-quarter

Devontae Booker of the Giants celebrates his fourth-quarter touchdown with Daniel Jones against the Panthers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Mike Stobe

The Giants couldn’t stop talking about Daniel Jones.

Talking trash about him, that is.

They dissed his effort, crushed his lanky awkwardness and even ragged on his basketball skills. There were almost no boundaries uncrossed while ripping him to shreds, all on the record, all in front of reporters and cameras.

All it took to open the door for these verbal assaults was a win.

With the majority of his first-string offensive weapons injured, Jones played an almost flawless game, lifted the group of playmakers he did have and showed himself to be a triple threat by adding receiving to his repertoire. That the 25-3 victory over the Panthers on Sunday happened mostly because of him seemed to embolden his teammates, who took delight in detracting from him.

There was such a palpable sense of relief that Jones even piled on himself.

"It was a pretty unathletic route getting out there," he said of the one-handed catch on a reverse wide receiver pass from Dante Pettis that gained 16 yards and became the signature moment of the day. "It was a good throw. I don’t think I was moving very fast. I’ve been on the other end of that and I get mad at guys, but I did the same thing there."

Who didn’t do the same thing? The Giants. They snapped a two-game losing streak that felt as if it had lasted for months rather than weeks, finally were able to rely on their defense — which was a doinked field goal in the first quarter away from a shutout — and looked like a completely different team from the one they had been presenting on the field this season.

Off the field, they were just as disparate. Almost giddy. It was a result that might not change the trajectory of the rest of the year, might not become a turning point in a push toward the postseason, but improved their record to 2-5 and shooed away the clouds of doom under which they had been operating for much of the season.

For one afternoon, anyway.

"It was an important win for us," Jones said. "We’ve had some tough games and some close games, but we believe in who we are as a team and what we’re doing as a team and where we’re going. We just have to keep trusting that."

It’s easier after a tangible result like a victory. It also was nice to send fans streaming to the exits early on the winning side of a game that turned into a fourth-quarter blowout. The last time the Giants won a game with fans at MetLife Stadium was Dec. 15, 2019 . . . a victory over the Dolphins in Eli Manning’s final start. For many current Giants players, this was their first experience getting cheered at the end of a game by the home crowd.

"It won’t be our last," safety Logan Ryan vowed.

To be clear, this wasn’t a three-hour lovefest. There were grumbles and grousing early on, especially when the Giants were unable to score late in the first quarter while running four plays from inside the Panthers’ 2. But that failure set up a long field for Carolina and allowed Leonard Williams to pressure Sam Darnold into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone that resulted in a safety and made the score 3-2 early in the second quarter.

It wasn’t until midway through the third quarter that the Giants finally started clicking and Jones took over. He finished 23-for-33 for 203 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 30 yards, never came close to turning the ball over and even ran an impressive college-style option.

But the play that stood out was his first career reception. Jones made a superb catch on the wobbly throw from Pettis, jumping to stab the ball and pinning it to his facemask before pulling it into his body while taking a hit. It was a sort of hybrid of the two most iconic catches in franchise history by Odell Beckham Jr. and David Tyree, one-handed with a little help from the helmet.

"I didn’t know he had that," Ryan said of Jones. "He was QB1, RB1 and WR1 today."

Six plays later, Jones and Pettis returned to their traditional roles and connected for a 5-yard touchdown pass that helped give the Giants a 12-3 lead.

Devontae Booker scored on a 19-yard run with 4:46 left to seal the win.

The Giants could get their dynamic offensive players back before they face Kansas City next Monday night. Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard might all be available by then.

Jones will be happy about that. But on Sunday, he showed why he might not require it.

He was so impressive that the friendly razzing and potshots everyone took at him just bounced off. Kicker Graham Gano even half-joked that he wanted to get a photograph of Jones’ one-handed catch and have him sign it.

Said Gano: "DJ is the man."

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