Giants’ Kayvon Thibodeaux after thrilling Titans win fueled by Brian Daboll’s bold 2-point decision: ‘Woo, I need a cigarette after that’

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Amid the craziness of the Giants’ postgame celebration, Kayvon Thibodeaux finally caught his breath.

The prized rookie passing thrower, struggling with an MCL sprained knee, did not play in Sunday’s thrilling 21-20 season-opening win over the Titans. But on the sidelines, he rejoiced, grimaced and panted every moment of the frantic final minutes of the game.

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And when Randy Bullock’s 47-yard field goal attempt sailed left as time expired, Thibodeaux navigated the chaotic scene and found Brian Daboll, now 1-0 as Giants coach.

“Woo, I need a cigarette after this,” Thibodeaux told Daboll, as Thibodeaux later recalled.

Yeah, the end of Daboll’s debut was this tense.

“It stressed me out,” Thibodeaux said. “I was sitting on the sidelines and couldn’t breathe.”

Here’s how it all went down: With 8:55 to go and the Giants trailing 20-13, Daniel Jones squandered a great chance to tie the game by throwing an interception in the end zone – a brutal error Daboll blamed reprimanded him on the sideline. But then the Giants defense came to a halt and Jones and Co. rushed 73 yards for a touchdown with 1:06 left.

And instead of going for an extra point and the tie, Daboll went for the win, with a two-point conversion. It worked. Jones found Saquon Barkley on a shovel pass, giving the Giants a 21-20 lead.

One problem: The Giants defense sagged, as the Titans went 41 yards down the field – before Bullock’s missed field goal gave Daboll the win.

A little daring, hopefully – plus plenty of legitimate plays from Barkley, who had 194 yards (164 of them rushing) and a touchdown. It’s the third-most rushing yards of his 45-game career, as he enters what he hopes will be an epic comeback season.

It was a lot to process for Thibodeaux and everyone else on the Giants sideline.

As the Giants approached the end zone on their final touchdown – but before scoring – Daboll gathered some of his team leaders, including defensive players, on the sidelines.

“I’m going,” Daboll told them, as Thibodeaux recalled. “I ride with you guys.”

He asked the players if they were okay.

“Yeah, let’s do it,” they all said.

As usual, edge defender Jihad Ward had a more colorful reaction.

“I told him to do this,” Ward said.

As Thibodeaux later said, “Those you don’t take are the ones you want to recover.

None of this came as a surprise to the Giants players, as Daboll told them during Saturday night’s team meeting, “I’m not going to coach scared.” He certainly didn’t.

“I like that shit, when a coach puts all that trust in you,” wide receiver Kenny Golladay said. “This is what you want.”

After things picked up a bit on Sunday night, co-owner John Mara — who hopes Daboll can finally bring his family’s franchise back to glory — walked out of the Giants locker room. He expired.

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He had seen so many of those close games go the other way over the past five seasons, in which the Giants had gone 22-59. And although Mara cordially declined a request for an interview after Sunday’s game, her face – so often wearing a stark expression after these games – showed a lot.

As he walked down a hallway, preparing to go home, he was smiling.

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Darryl Slater can be reached at [email protected].

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