This was what it was all supposed to look like, even if it was just for one series.
Eli Manning had time to throw, his receivers were getting open and the Giants were marching down the field. There was the catchless Victor Cruz catching passes. There was Will Beatty containing Quinton Coples. There was Weston Richburg keeping Sheldon Richardson in check.
Finally, there was Manning finding Rueben Randle for a 15-yard touchdown with all day to throw in the pocket.
This is what the Giants offense was supposed to look like. Even if it was just a glimpse in the Giants’ 35-24 victory over the New York Jets, it was something to instill hope into a fan base desperate for anything positive.
“We finally got into a pretty good rhythm and everything just worked,” Manning said, “instead of always having something go wrong or a penalty or a sack or something to back us up and keep us from sustaining drives. We were able to stay out of harm’s way and make some plays.”
After going 1-of-9 in his last two games, Manning completed 12-of-21 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown versus the Jets. Cruz caught four passes for 61 yards and Rashad Jennings rushed for 67 yards on 13 carries.
But before Manning marched the Giants down the field on a near-perfect drive, the team looked every bit as awful as it had during its first three preseason games. Each of the Giants first five possessions ended in a punt. Manning was pressured, the blocking was invisible and there seemed to be no offensive cohesion.
“I think we started off a little rough,” Cruz said, “but once we got the thing rolling, we were able to put some first downs together and get things going a little bit.”
To begin the second half, Ryan Nassib replaced Manning at quarterback and built off his strong outing a week ago versus the Indianapolis Colts. The second-year pro completed 8-of-12 passes for 103 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 133.0.
“I thought we did pretty well as an offense in the second half,” Nassib said. “The o-line did a great job protecting up front which allowed me to get those shots deep down the field.”
Nassib connected with Henry Hynoski on a three-yard touchdown, hit Preston Parker for a 39-yard score and Corey Washington for a 31-yard strike. Not bad for a player who was relegated to the third team a week ago after struggling in the Giants first two preseason games.
“The game’s starting to slow down,” Nassib said. “That, and being in the system a little bit longer, but there’s still a lot to get better at, a lot to learn and a lot more stuff to correct.”
Defensively, defensive end Damontre Moore continued his strong preseason. Last year’s third-round pick recorded two sacks, four tackles and one fumble recovery. On his first possession of the second half, Moore chased down Jets quarterback Michael Vick for his first sack.
“He’s one of the pioneers of the whole scrambling quarterback thing,” Moore said. “To attack him, a guy I’ve watched and played with on Madden, it was a big honor.”
The Giants starting defense didn’t share in Moore’s same success. Versus the Jets starters, the Giants missed tackles, allowed Geno Smith to march the team up and down the field and committed four penalties that kept Jets’ drives alive.
Smith completed 9-of-14 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. Running backs Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson combined to rush for 92 yards on 15 carries, an average of 6.13 yards per carry.
“Their offensive line performed well,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “They rushed the ball, but in the second half, our group came out and hung in there, made some plays and got the ball down the field.”
Video highlights/lowlights of the game are available at NFL.com.