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Giants' starting offense finally scores a touchdown

New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings slips

New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings slips a tackle by New York Jets free safety Calvin Pryor in the first half on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

For 8 minutes, 9 seconds Saturday night, all was right in the Giants' world.

That was how long the starting offense controlled the ball while driving 85 yards in 14 plays to score its first touchdown of the preseason. The offense ran the ball with authority, handing it off nine times. Eli Manning threw the ball with accuracy, completing all five passes. There even was a one-handed catch by Odell Beckham Jr. that, although he could not put both feet in bounds (it occurred on a free play where the Jets jumped offside), brought the MetLife crowd to its loudest moment of the night.

The problem for the Giants was the other 22 or so minutes of the first half, when the first-team offense and defense were on the field and it all felt like the rest of the preseason has been: disappointing, disjointed and showing little cause for optimism as the regular season hovers two weeks hence.

The Jets won, 28-18.

The Giants had those 85 yards on 14 plays in their scoring drive. Their other four possessions (not including a kneel-down at the end of the half) amounted to 37 yards on 17 plays. Eli Manning's best passing game of the preseason -- he was 12-for-16 for 91 yards -- ended with an ugly pick-six intended for James Jones and returned 59 yards by Antonio Cromartie. That touchdown made it 21-7 at the half.

"Some good and some bad," Manning said of what is expected to be the final extended work of the preseason for the starters. "We probably had a couple opportunities to make some plays and extend some drives that we didn't. We had one great drive . . . and to finish that was good. We had the interception for the touchdown, and we can't have that."

The Giants defense, meanwhile, allowed 194 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, both coming against broken pass coverages.

It was Zac Stacy, not Beckham, who made the most acrobatic play of the game that counted when he leaped over safety Brandon Meriweather and flipped into the end zone to cap a 24-yard touchdown on a screen pass. Earlier, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Eric Decker on an 18-yard touchdown pass between safety Jeromy Miles and cornerback Jayron Hosley.

The Jets were able to run outside consistently against the Giants, who had trouble establishing an edge.

"We're playing better as a unit," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "We've had some good plays where guys make plays, but consistently we're not playing perfect football enough. We need to get on our assignments better, our techniques better so that everybody can play better more consistently."

Not even the special teams looked regular-season ready, although it was the second unit on the field when the Jets' Walter Powell returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown to make the score 28-10 midway through the third.

And when the Giants were threatening on a drive later in the third quarter, Jones had the ball stripped from his hands by cornerback Marcus Williams deep in Jets territory.

The one scoring drive for the Giants, despite its singularity, was impressive. It began with Manning stepping up against pressure and hitting Preston Parker for a 5-yard gain to convert a third-and-4. Then Beckham, who slipped to the turn while running his route, got back to his feet and caught a 7-yarder for another third-down conversion.

Beckham made the one-hander over Darrelle Revis on a deep pass down the right sideline, but the more fundamentally important play may have come on the next snap when he threw a block that took out two defenders and sprung Shane Vereen for a 19-yard gain on a screen. Two pass interference penalties by linebacker Demario Davis against Giants tight ends set up first-and-goal from the 1, from where Rashad Jennings scored.

"That 14-play drive is what this offense needed that we can look on tape, build off of this, see what we were doing right and mindfully clean up the chemistry of offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, receivers, everything," Jennings said.

But there was all the other stuff, too. And that wasn't good.

"We took a step forward," Jennings said, "but the self-inflicted wounds, that can't happen."


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