TAMPA -- There was a moment in the second quarter when the mild-mannered, squeaky-clean rookie quarterback shocked his teammates with his mouth. He came roaring into the huddle, screaming at everyone, yelling, "Let's go f----ing score."
They loved it. And on that particular drive, they did.
But when the ultimate moment arrived, with the Giants down six and 75 yards and a little more than three minutes to go to victory, Daniel Jones took a different approach when he approached the huddle. He came out confident and calm, saying, "Let's go win this game, boys."
And they did -- 32-31, thanks to Jones' late-game heroics and his seven-yard touchdown run with 1:16 remaining. And just like that, "The new Eli" was born.
That's what receiver Russell Shepard called the Giants' new franchise quarterback, and it seemed to be a perfect fit after Jones engineered a very Eli-like comeback and game-winning miracle.
Thrown into a 28-10 hole, with Saquon Barkley standing on the sidelines on crutches, the 22-year-old didn't melt in his first NFL start. He came out firing -- a 75-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram on the first play of the second half -- and didn't stop until he ran for the game-winning, seven-yard touchdown with 1:16 remaining.
And there was no point where Pat Shurmur had to pull his rookie aside to calm him down, to shake him out of his first-game jitters.
"That's part of his charm," Shurmur said. "He's mature beyond all of our years."
That's what the Giants saw of him at Duke, and that's a big reason why they made him the sixth overall pick in the draft. Yes, he had the ability, the mobility and the arm. But he had the intangibles that just can't be taught. The Giants were spoiled by 15 years of Eli Manning cool, the way he never cracked under pressure on and off the field.
Jones, in Game 1 -- with his best player out, his defense crumbling, and his team needing a hero -- did exactly what the Giants expected him to do.
"There were mistakes within there. There were a couple times we took a couple of sacks. The fumbles. We can work on that. There's drills for that," Shurmur said. "But the stuff that he did in the game, there's not drills for that.
"We believed in him from the day we drafted him," the coach added. "First time out, he didn't disappoint."
No he did not, and just like that, Jones lit a spark in the Giants' locker room that had been missing this season, last season and, to be honest, probably for most of the last five years. Manning didn't exactly get a lot of support from his teammates during the tail end of his long tenure as a starter, but his biggest issue was the feeling that the offense was going nowhere with him. Everything felt stale. Too often, the Giants looked defeated.
That was not the case on Sunday afternoon at all. The Giants were energized by Jones' presence, even if his teammates -- out of deference to Manning, mostly. And the offense definitely got a boost for Jones' ability to run. Never mind the two rushing touchdowns he had. It was more than that. It was his ability to scramble and create things outside of the pocket -- a trait Manning never really had.
"I think it's value added to a quarterback," Shurmur said. "You see in a game there's a lot of plays that are less than perfect. As you move around and get outside the pocket things sometimes start to clear up for big plays."
That wasn't the part that left his teammates in awe, though. It was his demeanor -- that same demeanor that served Manning so well. Shurmur said the Giants were always confident in Jones, that, "He keeps passing the test in our mind." But he never had a test like this before.
"Maybe I'm seeing it wrong," Shurmur said, "but he didn't disappoint."
He didn't. And because of that, he won over a locker room -- not to mention an organization and its beleaguered fans. He showed he could handle the pressure, handle New York, handle everything in ways no one expected he'd be able to handle from the first moment he took the field.
The Giants swear they knew. And maybe they did. All that really matters is they obviously know now.
"There's certain things that I knew about this kid when we drafted him," Shurmur said. "He's tough. He's competitive. And in my opinion he's a winner."
"Young quarterback," Shepard added. "It's his time."