Giants head coach Tom Coughlin had two things he wanted his team to accomplish in Thursday night’s preseason finale, and that was to exit Gillette Stadium healthy and see his starters gain some positive momentum in their short work.
Most critically, they did not manage to accomplish the former. Running back Andre Brown suffered a fractured leg, putting a serious dent in the depth at tailback. Brown had been expected to be the brawn in the 1-2 punch shared with David Wilson. Now, the team will have to decide who to use between a stable of unproven reserves, including Ryan Torain, Da’Rel Scott and rookie Michael Cox.
Big Blue did accomplish some offensive momentum in an inconsequential 28-20 defeat by the Patriots.
Eli Manning and his fellow offensive starters played slightly longer than Coughlin’s 12-15 play limit, due to their third series lasting 10 plays, but at least it culminated in a touchdown instead of the customary way most drives ended this preseason— stalled and ineffective.
Manning finished 6-of-9 for 74 yards and the score in his three-drive night, while running back David Wilson also looked good in carving out 37 yards on six carries.
The starting defense is still a work in progress, however, as they had their share of troubles in stopping the Patriots’ backup offense. Tom Brady’s understudy, quarterback Ryan Mallett, was an effective 10-of-16 for 117 yards, one touchdown and an interception, as he led two scoring drives against Big Blue’s No. 1 defense.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara looked like he could’ve saved the first-team defense when he apparently picked off Mallet in the back corner of the end zone. But the call was overruled when the replay official deemed Amukamara’s hand out of bounds on the diving catch. Amukamara nearly made amends for the way Patriots rookie wideouts Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were victimizing him on the drive as he boxed out Dobson for the apparent pick. It would’ve been Amukamara’s second interception of the preseason. The Giants then tried to stymie the Patriots’ reprieve, but cornerback Corey Webster was called for pass interference on the very next play, which set up a George Winn 1-yard plunge to tie the score.
Defensive end Justin Tuck said despite the comfortable look Mallett had in the pocket and the fact the Patriots’ backup offense put up some points in the first half, he still felt the starting defense accomplished most of its goals.
“With the last preseason game, you always want to come out healthy, and I think on defense we were able to do that,” Tuck said. “We came out and really just wanted to sharpen the tools. … There were a lot of positives to build on. We’ve got a week left to go to work, clean some things up and be ready to start the season in Dallas.”
What we learned …
1. Offense in motion
Manning seemingly got in a groove the more he played, especially when he connected with Louis Murphy for 36 yards down the left sideline amid double coverage. The catch extended the drive that ultimately ended on a three-yard Manning to Hakeem Nicks scoring strike. The Giants starters looked exceptionally good on that drive as they completed the 91-yard sojourn in 10 plays. Manning and Co. exited immediately after the score, but at least they looked more in sync, as they now have a week to prepare for real action on Sept. 8 in Dallas.
2. Not so safe
Tyler Sash suffered a concussion, which already depleted the Giants’ thinning safety unit. Pro Bowler Stevie Brown was lost for the season with a torn ACL last week, rookie Cooper Taylor finally made his maiden appearance against the Patriots after missing most of training camp and the preseason with hamstring issues, and Will Hill will now start serving his four-game suspension for a failed drug test. At least Antrel Rolle saw his first game action since the first preseason game after suffering a sprained ankle on Aug. 12 and he says he’ll be ready for the opener. But if Sash isn’t cleared by the time the Giants face the Cowboys, Big Blue will have to scramble once again to fill in some important gaps in their personnel.
3. Still pressure-free
It’s hard to tell if the Patriots’ neophyte crop of receivers are sneaky good or the Giants’ starting secondary is in dire straits, but the way Mallett marched up and down the field against the No. 1 unit was troubling. Mallett played the first half and connected with six different receivers. He was only sacked once (reserve defensive lineman Mike Patterson) as the Giants’ first-team pass-rushing woes continued to rear their head. The backups did sack Patriots third-string quarterback Tim Tebow four times. But, aside from the lack of pass rush by the first team, the Giants’ biggest woes came in coverage, particularly on the deep ball when Mallett connected with rookie wideout Josh Boyce for a 40-yard touchdown, as he burned cornerback Terrell Thomas, who stumbled on the play.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.