If ever there was a number to best symbolize the Giants' offense this preseason, it came Thursday night. Eli Manning played two no-huddle series against the Patriots' backups, attempted four passes, completed one and threw for a total of how many yards?
The big round digit pretty much sums up what the starters accomplished in five exhibition games. Not only did Manning show the ineffectiveness that has beleaguered him for the last month, but the first-team defense finished the preseason with no sacks and no takeaways.
Meanwhile, the bench players put the finishing touch on their own zero, providing the Giants with enough energy to complete a 5-0 preseason with a 16-13 win over the Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Josh Brown's 37-yard field goal with 38 seconds left won it. It is the first perfect preseason for the Giants since 2006.
"There were a lot of bright spots," Tom Coughlin said of the preseason, "and some things we definitely need to improve upon."
That record will be forgotten rather quickly, though, if Manning is unable to flick the switch when the regular season begins Sept. 8 in Detroit. Throughout the preseason he completed only 20 of 41 passes for 188 yards and a TD.
"Well, I thought we had a good week of practice,'' Manning said, providing the inevitable silver lining to every cloudy game performance. "We didn't get much going tonight, but we're getting ready for Detroit, that first game. We got the starters out healthy, so that's always the most important thing.''
Manning may have missed on that last part as well. Fullback Henry Hynoski left the game with a sprained shoulder.
*Last night's dud was just the latest example of Manning seeming out of sync with his starting receivers. His three incompletions were targeted to Rueben Randle twice (the first a drop, the second a miscommunication along the sideline that Coughlin called "the worst play of the night") and Victor Cruz once (a high overthrow coming across the middle of the field).
His one completion was to tight end Kellen Davis on third-and-2. Davis tried to stretch for the first down but was tackled before he could make any forward progress.
It wasn't all disappointment for the Giants. The running game continued to look strong as starter Rashad Jennings gained 20 yards on three carries and rookie Andre Williams converted a fourth-and-1 in the first quarter into a 38-yard gain. Peyton Hillis had 40 rushing yards, including a 1-yard TD dive.
Giants cornerback Zack Bowman made two acrobatic catches in the secondary, although only one counted as an interception because of an illegal-contact penalty. The starting defense seemed pleased with their play against rookie QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
"Our final tuneup was fairly decent,'' Antrel Rolle said.
Even though the offense didn't put up any significant numbers, they feel the same way. "We see areas where we can execute and make big plays in," Cruz said. "We're excited to put that on display come Monday night."
But for all those positives, the Giants head into the season having whiffed completely on the first order of business this preseason. They needed to know what Manning will be able to accomplish while in control of the new offense.
They're hoping they didn't find out.
Notes & quotes:WR Mario Manningham left in the second quarter with a calf injury, likely ending his attempt at a comeback with the Giants. Tom Coughlin had said the hero of Super Bowl XLVI needed to make plays in the game to make the 53-man roster.