Pierre-Paul en­joy­ing Gi­ants re­nais­sance

Con­tin­u­ing come­back from 2015 fire­works ac­ci­dent, Pierre-Paul a leader in re­ju­ve­nated Gi­ants’ de­fense

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Withers

The foot­ball popped into the air and Ja­son Pierre-Paul knew ex­actly what to do next. Use both hands. “I knew one of th­ese days I was go­ing to catch the ball,” he said. “I knew if I was ever catch­ing a ball, I’m go­ing to the end zone.”

Pierre-Paul re­turned a fum­ble 43 yards for a touch­down and recorded three sacks to lead the New York Gi­ants to their sixth straight win, 27-13 over the Cleve­land Browns.

Eli Man­ning threw three touch­down passes — two to Odell Beck­ham Jr . — as the Gi­ants ex­tended their long­est win­ning streak since 2008 and moved closer to se­cur­ing their first play­off berth in five years. The Browns (0-12) have lost 15 straight dat­ing to last sea­son.

With the Gi­ants (8-3) slog­ging through a game where they seemed to be play­ing down to Cleve­land’s level, Pierre-Paul helped New York open a two-touch­down lead and avert disas­ter with his third ca­reer touch­down — maybe one that meant a lit­tle bit more to the de­fen­sive end.

Un­der pres­sure, Browns quar­ter-

back Josh McCown was hit as he threw by New York’s Jonathan Hank­ins and the ball was cor­ralled by Pierre-Paul, who tucked it un­der his left arm and ram­bled un­touched for the TD to give the Gi­ants a 20-6 lead.

It was an­other stir­ring mo­ment in the come­back for the 27-year-old Pierre Paul, whose ca­reer was nearly ended by a hor­ri­fy­ing fire­works ac­ci­dent in 2015, when he lost his in­dex fin­ger and parts of two oth­ers on his right hand.

The fum­ble re­turn only reaf­firmed Pierre-Paul’s re­turn to form as an elite player, com­ing a week af­ter he had 2 1/2 sacks, forced a fum­ble and de­flected a pass in a win over Chicago.

“I’m not prov­ing any­thing,” he told re­porters Sun­day. “I told you all last year when I came in, I al­ready won.”

Pierre-Paul is the first player to have three sacks and a fum­ble re­turn for a touch­down of at least 40 yards since 1982, when the NFL first rec­og­nized in­di­vid­ual sacks as an of­fi­cial statis­tic.

His hu­mil­ity af­ter the per­for­mance was just as im­pres­sive. He has been an in­spi­ra­tion to his team­mates, who have mar­veled at his re­siliency.

“He’s ba­si­cally taken over th­ese last two games,” Gi­ants line­backer Jonathan Casil­las said. “I’ve been a fan of JPP since he came into the league, and know­ing what he’s been through, it’s so en­cour­ag­ing to watch him now.”

Pierre-Paul’s TD was orig­i­nally ruled an in­ter­cep­tion be­fore be­ing changed to a fum­ble.

“It was an in­ter­cep­tion,” he said with a laugh. “How else can you get seven points? The ball never touched the ground, so we’re go­ing to call it an in­ter­cep­tion.”

The Gi­ants recorded seven sacks on McCown, who said there are few play­ers as tough to block as Pierre-Paul, who was lim­ited in prac­tice this week be­cause of a knee in­jury.

“He is a big dude and a heck of an ath­lete, and he plays hard,” McCown said. “You have those types of things where he has a very rare skillset for that size and speed. That is what gives him an edge.”

Here are a few other take­aways from the Gi­ants’ win:

NEW ROLE?

Beck­ham had a 59-yard punt re­turn TD called back by a hold­ing call, but that didn’t stop him from cel­e­brat­ing in the end zone.

As he mim­icked the pow­der toss made fa­mous by Cava­liers star LeBron James, a close friend, Browns punter Britton Colquitt in­formed him the play was com­ing back.

“I told him, ‘I don’t care, I still ran it back on you,”’ Beck­ham said.

Gi­ants coach Ben McA­doo wouldn’t com­mit to Beck­ham tak­ing over re­turn du­ties.

DOWN BROWNS

Cleve­land is four losses from his­tory, and firstyear coach Hue Jack­son may have reached a break­ing point.

Jack­son’s eyes teared up when dis­cussing a night­mar­ish sea­son that is al­most over. The Browns are try­ing to avoid join­ing the 2008 Li­ons as the only 0-16 teams, and Jack­son is vow­ing his team won’t be bad in 2017.

“I am not feel­ing like this next year,” Jack­son said. “There is no way. Uhuh. No. I am a fighter, and I don’t lose many fights.”

WAR OF WORDS

Browns wide re­ceiver Ter­relle Pryor and Gi­ants cor­ner­back Janoris Jenk­ins won’t be ex­chang­ing Christ­mas cards.

De­spite Pryor catch­ing six passes for 131 yards, in­clud­ing a 54-yarder, Jenk­ins ripped him on Twit­ter fol­low­ing the game with a vul­gar post. Pryor an­swered back with praise, writ­ing “you are a great cor­ner. Solid de­fender! You played a solid game. Good luck rest of year.”

Ear­lier in the week, Jenk­ins said Pryor, a con­verted quar­ter­back, wouldn’t be a chal­lenge and called him “an­other re­ceiver, just big­ger.”

RON SCHWANE — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gi­ants de­fen­sive end Ja­son Pier­rePaul re­acts af­ter New York’s vic­tory over Browns on Sun­day.

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