For all the bluster prior to last night’s game, neither the Giants nor the Jets lived up to the hype.
The way both sides were jawing, it seemed like it was more than your ordinary third preseason game. Alas, not much happened in the 17-3 Jets win.
Eli Manning ended the game 15-of-30 for 200 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions, while most of his throws were checkdowns. About the only wideout to have any success was Hakeem Nicks, who led all receivers with five catches for 71 yards. The running game was spotty at best.
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Brandon Jacobs had a 25-yard run to start the second half, but his night would end early, as he was ejected just a couple plays later after coming to blows with prized rookie defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson.
“That’s not good football,” said head coach Tom Coughlin when asked about Jacobs’s transgression. “You can’t lose your cool [because] when you do you’re going to pay the consequences.”
Big Blue’s defensive starters were sharp, however, as they held up their end. They began the game forcing consecutive three-and-outs. The only letdown was a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes on the first play following the two minute warning.
“I was happy with the way the defense played,” admitted Coughlin. “We controlled field position pretty much all of the first quarter and most of that first half
Sanchez finished the game 8-of-16 for 64 yards and that one touchdown. Bilal Powell added a rushing touchdown.
Former Giants receiver, and Super Bowl hero, Plaxico Burress was held without a catch. Reserve corner Aaron Ross, who’s now starting in place of the injured Terrell Thomas, did a solid job on the wideout.
As has been their misfortune this preseason, the Giants had their share of nicked-up players. Although none are deemed serious, linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka (groin), defensive end Justin Tuck (burner/stinger) and cornerback Michael Coe (bruised ribs) all left the game with injuries. As thin as the Giants are right now due to injuries, they could ill-afford to lose anymore bodies, especially since the reserves as a whole played so poorly.
“They didn’t play well at all,” said a miffed Coughlin. “And they’re getting as many reps as everybody else. There has to be some improvement, no doubt.”
The Jets didn’t look much better, offensively at least, as their first unit lacked any kind of synchronization. Defensively, though, the Jets gave the Giants’ first unit all it could handle, as Manning was harassed into two interceptions in the first half. The first came when middle linebacker David Harris forced Manning into an errant throw that was nabbed by safety Jim Leonard. This came after the Giants converted a 4th-and-one at the Jets 31 and Jacobs converted for four yards.
Gang Green was also sloppy with ball security early on when quarterback Mark Sanchez fumbled the snap at the Giants 39, negating a David Harris interception of Manning two plays earlier. Sanchez would make up for it later when he found Holmes on the touchdown, beating Antrel Rolle on the slant. Rolle, one of the better cover safeties in the league, has been working in the slot more due to the numerous maladies in the Giants' secondary. Despite still being new to the role, Rolle was still kicking himself afterwards.
“I tried to put my hands in there as much as I could and disrupt the route,” Rolle said. “It’s my first week at it and it’s going to take a little while to get comfortable at it … to get back in the groove and be on the same page as my team.”
Jets head coach Rex Ryan admitted while the offensive execution looked sluggish at times, his defense was stellar. They may have yielded their fare share of yards, but the bottom line was the Giants were kept out of the end zone and had significant trouble in the red zone.
“Obviously, it’s a pre-season game but it was great competition. I was proud of the way our guys challenged them in the red zone,” said Ryan, noting that the Giants were 0-for-3 in that situation. “We got two takeaways, which was the difference in the game. Obviously, it was a hard-fought game.”
The play of the Jets’ special teams was what arguably won the game, as they were aided by two big special teams plays -- a blocked field goal and a 68-yard kickoff return from Antonio Cromartie.
Ryan was happy with the team’s overall play but was especially giddy about Cromartie’s return. Ryan said they were saving the elusive Cromartie for at least one rep at kick return and it paid dividends at the right time.
“We were going to get one rep in the preseason with Cromartie back there,” Ryan said, adding the corner should be docked credit for making it hard on himself. “It would’ve been easier had he not dropped the ball initially.”
Up next for the Giants is a Thursday night matchup at the Patriots, while the Jets will also play Thursday night at home versus the Eagles. Both teams must make roster cuts today to get down to 75 players. But the big job will come a few days later when teams must reach the official roster of 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for in-depth Giants coverage all season long.