The Giants gave new meaning to the term “quarterback scramble” against the Bears on Sunday.
They had to use three of them with Daniel Jones pressed back into service after leaving the game with a left ankle injury late in the third quarter, backup Tyrod Taylor knocked from action with a concussion and running back Saquon Barkley needing to handle a few Wildcat snaps in between.
The result was one of the wackiest games in recent memory, a 20-12 victory that improved the Giants’ record to a surprising 3-1. It is their best start to a season since they won five straight to open 2009.
But it also had the team leaving MetLife Stadium wondering who will be available to play quarterback this week when they face the Packers in London.
“I’m going to do everything I can to play, for sure,” Jones said after limping heavily to a podium to speak with reporters.
That may be unlikely if his formal diagnosis after further tests Monday reveals a high ankle sprain, as most expect.
Depending on how quickly he can clear the league’s concussion protocols — which could change after increased scrutiny by the NFL and NFLPA in the coming days — Taylor might be out for Week 5, too.
That would leave practice-squadder Davis Webb as the only healthy option.
The Giants had better hope he has an active passport.
The position was so fluid during the game that center Jon Feliciano said he thought wide receiver David Sills might be next to play it; he was a highly touted quarterback coming out of high school.
After the game, Eli Manning walked past the locker room with his kids.
“They may need you, Eli,” a reporter told him.
“No,” he said with the kind of smile that only happy retirement can bring.
Oh, well. He presumably was speaking on behalf of Chad Powers as well.
The outside anxiety over the situation might have been greater than what the Giants felt during the game and shortly thereafter. Brian Daboll was asked about the resilience of his team in overcoming adversity.
“What adversity?” he said with genuine puzzlement.
It wasn’t as if the Giants needed much quarterbacking, anyway. They utilized a game plan that would have been familiar to anyone who saw the first meeting between these two franchises in 1925, rushing 44 times for 262 yards with just 16 pass attempts. Saquon Barkley had 146 of those yards on a career-high 31 carries and the defense did not allow a touchdown.
The Bears’ offense was nearly as anachronistic, rushing for 149 yards on 32 carries with only 22 pass attempts (which is actually seven more than they had averaged through the first three games).
“It’s what we thought it would be,” Daboll said. “I thought our guys played physical. There were a lot of bumps and bruises. I don’t know the answers to any of the questions relative to any of the [injured] players yet. We’ll figure that out as we get going. But a tough, competitive game. It was good to get another win.”
Jones had touchdown runs of 21 and 8 yards and had gained 68 yards on six carries before faking a handoff to Barkley and rolling to his right. It was a play that had been effective all game, but this time Bears defensive back Jaquan Brisker sniffed it out and was there to meet him. Jones was tackled awkwardly for an 11-yard sack and came up limping. He finished the drive, which resulted in a field goal and a 17-12 lead, but slowly walked to the sideline, where an army of medical staffers met him. They taped up his ankle and he tested it with some running, but the Giants kept him on the bench.
For the time being, anyway.
Jones was replaced by Taylor and the offense moved the ball well. On an 8-yard scramble for a first down, though, Taylor took an unflagged helmet-to-helmet hit from safety Kyler Gordon and had to leave the game to be evaluated for the concussion.
“When I saw Tyrod go down, I kind of realized, Oh! I’m up next. I’m the quarterback,” Barkley said. “I tried my best to read it.”
He added with a smile: “It’s really not that hard.”
Barkley took three snaps with Jones back on the field (because he was the only one with a radio in his helmet to call the plays in the huddle) and lining up wide. The Giants managed to creep forward and kick a 43-yard field goal that gave them a 20-12 lead with 5:31 remaining.
When the Giants got the ball back at their 3 after forcing a punt, Jones was back under center but certainly not the threat he had been earlier in the game.
“It hurt,” Jones said of his ankle at that point. “I didn’t feel I could move quite the same.”
He didn’t have to. He handed the ball off on each of the Giants’ final eight offensive plays to close out the game.
That wound up being all the Giants needed from him as the defense and special teams closed out the contest. Gary Brightwell recovered a muffed punt with 2:01 remaining and the defense survived a nine-lateral-or-fumble final play that was amusing but never got deep enough into Giants territory to be truly threatening before safety Dane Belton recovered the loose ball on the turf.
That zany final play lasted so long that the postgame fireworks were shot off prematurely from the roof of the stadium while the ball was still alive.
An absurd ending to an absurd day.