JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)The New York Giants’ latest nail-biter came down to the final play – and the final few inches before the goal line.
The Giants defended like wily veterans, no surprise given the way their season has gone. They’ve grown accustomed to playing – and winning – close games.
Safeties Julian Love and Xavier McKinney stopped Jacksonville receiver Christian Kirk at the 1-yard line with no time on the clock, preserving a 23-17 victory over the Jaguars in which Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones each ran for more than 100 yards. The Giants (6-1) matched their best start since 2008 and handed the Jaguars (2-5) a 19th consecutive loss in cross-division games.
”I’m never really happy,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. ”It’s always on to the next week. I’m glad we won. But like I say every week: There’s certain things to clean up. This week is no exception.”
New York became the first team in NFL history to start 6-1 or better and have each of its first seven games decided by one possession. The Giants’ six victories have been by a combined 27 points, with none of those won by more than eight.
The latest one was arguably their most improbable considering they lost two starting offensive linemen, including right tackle Evan Neal, and rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger to injuries in the first half.
Bellinger was taken to a hospital with a bloody eye injury. He appeared to take an inadvertent fist to the face, and maybe a finger to the eye, from Jaguars rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd in the second quarter. But Bellinger was back in the locker room for the postgame celebration.
”I would say his eye looks terrible right now,” Daboll said. ”He looks like he took a pretty good hook shot. It’s pretty swollen.”
Left guard Ben Bredeson (right knee) and Neal (left knee) had previously left the field on carts and were ruled out. Playing with backups did little to deter the Giants, who ran 17 times for 130 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter alone.
Jones finished with a career-high 107 yards on the ground. He had 35 yards rushing on a go-ahead drive and capped it with a 1-yard plunge with 5:31 remaining after consecutive penalties by Jacksonville moved the ball inches from the goal line.
Barkley finished with 110 yards on 24 carries, giving the Giants two 100-yard rushers for the first time since Brandon Jacobs (116) and Ahmad Bradshaw (103) accomplished the feat against Minnesota in 2010.
”I found a way to get on fire a little bit closer to ending of the game,” said Barkley, who had 18 yards at halftime. ”I’ve got to do a better job of starting off faster.”
Barkley had the most impressive run of New York’s go-ahead drive, making Jaguars safety Rayshawn Jenkins look silly with a jump cut that led to an 18-yard gain. Graham Gano’s third field goal made it 23-17, but the Jaguars had a final shot. Following a roughing-the-passer penalty, Trevor Lawrence found Kirk at the 1. Cornerback Fabian Moreau slowed Kirk up long enough for Love and McKinney to clean it up.
Jacksonville lost its fourth in a row – a troubling trend for a team that looked to be turning a corner last month. The young Jaguars continued to be their own worst enemy, committing 13 penalties for 81 yards.
”We’ve got to figure this (crap) out right now,” linebacker Josh Allen said. ”It’s going to take everybody in this locker room to figure this out. It’s going to take coaches included. It’s important for us. It’s important to this team. It’s still a long season. We’ve got to get hot.”
In addition to the penalties, running back Travis Etienne fumbled at the 2-yard line to turn a near-touchdown into a touchback. Linebacker Foye Oluokun was flagged for roughing the passer in the third quarter, a penalty that negated an interception. And coach Doug Pederson opted against challenging a questionable spot near the goal line, and the Jaguars were stuffed on the next two plays for a crucial turnover on downs.
Giants safety Adoree’ Jackson was evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter. … Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson missed one series in the first half with a right shoulder injury. Right guard Brandon Scherff left the field in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.
Giants play at Seattle next Sunday.
Jaguars play a ”home game” against Denver in London next Sunday.
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