The answer is: Thrice.
Three times in his 47 starts at quarterback for the Giants’ Daniel Jones. That is how infrequently he has stepped foot on the field and engaged in what can realistically be considered a shootout game — one in which both teams reach 30 points.
Jones was involved in such a game in his very first NFL start, moving in as a rookie for Eli Manning in Week 2 of the 2019 season. Jones was … magnificent. He brought the Giants back from a 28-10 halftime deficit in Tampa with two touchdown passes in the second half and sealed the deal with a sign-of-things-to-come 7-yard scoring run with 1:16 remaining for a 32-31 comeback victory.
Since then? Not so much in the shootout department. Later that season, in Week 15, Jones enjoyed his first (and only) five-touchdown passing performance in a 41-35 victory at Washington. In Week 5 in 2020, Jones did nothing especially noteworthy in a 37-34 loss at Dallas.
Jones’ hold on the starting job has corresponded with a lull in offensive production that began before he took over. With that, there has been mostly competent work on defense, leading to games that often are close and fairly low scoring. The massive difference this season is that Jones has a vise-grip security with the ball, Saquon Barkley is healthy and the NFL rushing leader, and the Giants are finding ways to win (seven times, already) far more often than they are taking the missteps inherent in losing (only twice).
That brings us to Sunday and the arrival of the Lions, an unbalanced team with a bad record (3-6), that will enter MetLife Stadium with one of the league’s most explosive offensive units and one of the league’s shoddiest defenses. Points are rarely at a premium when the Lions are around. If that is the case on what will be the first taste of winter (think cold and windy) at the New Jersey Meadowlands, can Jones get his guys to heat up and keep up?
“We’re always trying to score as many points as we can,’’ Jones said. “Every time we get the ball we’re trying to put it in the end zone. That doesn’t change week to week based on who we’re playing.’’
The Lions, with Jared Goff getting rid of the ball and spreading it around, are ninth in the league in scoring at 24.3 points a game and have surpassed 30 points four times this season. The Giants do not frequent that neighborhood. They have not reached 30 points in 37 consecutive games, the NFL’s longest active streak.
Jones is coming off a 24-16 victory over the Texans, in which he compiled a career-high passer rating and was turned loose for only 17 pass attempts, prompting the idea that the Giants were “conservative’’ — a characterization head coach Brian Daboll certainly did not embrace.
“Whatever we need to do, that’s what we’re charged with,’’ Daboll said. “Every game’s different. Every situation in games that come up are different.’’
Sunday will be a sort of pick-your-candy game for the Giants. The Lions allow an NFL-high 29.3 points a game and are almost equally as ineffective against the pass (27th in the league) as they are against the run (31st). Opposing offenses are converting 51.1 percent on third down, making the Lions the worst third-down defense in the league.
Jones said, “Yeah, I think so,’’ when asked if he enjoys playing in shootouts. Forgive him his indecisiveness — he hasn’t been involved in many of them.
“When it’s a competitive game like that, then it’s certainly fun to play in,’’ Jones said.
Perhaps the Giants can slow down the high-scoring Lions, who are more potent on their fast indoor track in Detroit: they were shut out by the Patriots in New England and managed only six points in a loss to the Cowboys in Dallas. Perhaps not, meaning Jones will have to shake the cobwebs and recall what it is like to be involved in a high-scoring affair.
“I like winning,’’ Daboll said. “So, whether it’s 3-2 or 45-48, our job is to try to find a way to win. However that is, that’s what I like.’’