It took 11 plays and 91 yards for the Giants to go from panic to panacea.
That was the drive Eli Manning engineered in the final 1:53 of the first half of Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, the first time this summer that he looked crisp and efficient with his new offense. He completed seven of 10 passes for 84 yards on the march for a touchdown that yanked the Giants and their fans from despair and at the very least provided both with a sense that things will be OK.
Because the success was not consistent and may have been overshadowed by a big loss on the offensive line. On the drive before Manning's only scoring possession of the game, guard Geoff Schwartz had to be carted off the field with a dislocated right toe. Schwartz was one of the key free-agent acquisitions on a rebuilt offensive line that was having difficulty protecting Manning for most of the first half. Rookie Weston Richburg replaced Schwartz at left guard.
The Giants trailed 10-0 and had managed just 93 yards on their first five possessions of the game -- four of them ending with third-down plays facing 14 yards or longer -- when Manning took the field at his own 9 with 1:53 remaining and three timeouts. Four snaps later it looked as if it would be another fruitless drive; Manning rolled right and tried to thread a sideline pass to Victor Cruz that was intercepted by Kyle Wilson. But the play was overturned because Wilson was out of bounds before the pick -- the second Manning interception in two games negated by an official's call -- and Manning was able to regroup. He hit Cruz for 18 yards on the first play after the review, hit Cruz again for 19 on a third-and-3 later in the drive and found Rueben Randle for a 15-yard touchdown with 5 seconds remaining. Manning floated to his left while Randle worked to get open in the end zone on the third-and-7 play that was preceded by a false start by guard Brandon Mosley.
"It is good to finish it off with a good two-minute drive," Manning said. "It was the best rhythm we've gotten, and we just had too many negative plays, whether it was penalties or sacks . . . We had a good finish."
Manning completed 12 of 21 passes for 129 yards and the touchdown in the half (he did not return for the second half) after completing just 1 of 9 passes for 6 yards in the previous two games. Rashad Jennings ran for 67 yards on 13 carries and proved invaluable as a pass protector on the final drive.
That touchdown may not have given the Giants the lead. But it gave them something more important in the preseason, something that has eluded them for the last month: Confidence. And a glimmer of optimism.
Notes & quotes:Fullback Henry Hynoski caught a 3-yard TD pass from Ryan Nassib early in the third quarter to give the Giants a 14-10 lead. Nassib hit Preston Parker for a 39-yard touchdown to go ahead 21-17 with 2:42 left in the third . . . DE Damontre Moore had two sacks in the third quarter and recovered a fumble that led to Hynoski's TD . . . RB Andre Williams, who was targeted by the Jets for his rather innocuous trash talk this week, seemed to be hit especially hard by Jets defenders at every opportunity . . . DE Jason Pierre-Paul had to be helped off the field in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury but he returned . . . WR Marcus Harris (arm) and CB Zack Bowman (arm) both left in the first half; DT Markus Kuhn (leg) left in the third quarter.