The exhibition season ended for the Giants with a 44-7 airing out of the Raiders today. You may now buckle your seatbelts for the real schedule that begins next Sunday in New Orleans.
But while you're anticipating what should be a pack of competitive games, be happy that the Giants are off to a 5-0 start. And be even happier that Eli Manning's injured right heel came out of his 83rd consecutive start none the worse for it. He played just two minutes and change short of a half, but what he did in those 27 minutes was major stuff, even if it did come against a Raiders squad that played like a small college team.
After some early tentativeness that had absolutely no effect on his productivity, Manning settled in and looked comfortable. He hit his steps and planted firmly on the heel. He took a couple of shots and rose immediately. And he said he could have played the whole game if necessary. Of course, it wasn't, and Coughlin smartly removed him before halftime with the Giants up 28-7. And now, it appears Manning could be in fine shape for the 4-0 Saints.
Was he relieved?
"I don’t know if it was a relief," Manning said. "I think I was excited that I don’t think I made it any worse or put any more strain on it. It might be a little more sore tomorrow just because it is the most activity I have done in a while, but it feels great right now, walking around, moving around, and I am excited about getting back out there at practice and hopefully kind of putting this behind us.
"I will continue to rehab it and strengthen anything and make sure it stays strong, but hopefully I can put this injury behind and focus on the rest of the season."
The numbers Manning put up were absolutely mind-blowing for even a healthy quarterback. He led touchdown drives his first four possessions, and four out of his five total possessions. He threw long with no problem, hitting his favorite target Steve Smith with a 43-yard bomb to set up the second touchdown.
Can't ask for much more than that. Everything else after that second touchdown was just gravy. But real, thick, tasty gravy at that. David Carr did a nice job in relief, the running game rocked, and the defense racked up six sacks on the hapless JaMarcus Russell. Just as planned.
Now comes the real season, where opponents will actually put up a fight. But so far, all is well.
Smith's 43-yard catch was a beautiful throw over close coverage by Chris Johnson, with Smith laying out to grab it at the Oakland 35. That allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to run it twice for 16 and 19 yards, the last going untouched up the middle for a touchdown.
Bradshaw's first huge contribution was a small run of one yard. But it came on fourth-and-goal from the 1 after Brandon Jacobs carried four straight times on the first touchdown drive. Bradshaw dove in to give the Giants their fifth first-possession score in five games.
Bradshaw was big again on third-and-24 near the end of the first, as he took a screen pass 55 yards and set up the Giants' third touchdown.
Terrell Thomas' second-quarter sack off a corner blitz resulted in the first of three strips and recoveries that created a touchdown and two field goals. They now have 12 turnovers on the season, 11 of which they've converted into 58 points (seven TDs, four FGs). Tom Coughlin was especially happy with the strip sacks. "Yeah," he said, "I didn’t have the ball coming out on those but we had a number that we were thinking maybe we could accomplish. After we study a week and look at the opponent then we challenge any number of things with our team. They responded real well."
Carr spun away from a potential sack in the third quarter and raced seven yards for a touchdown and a 38-7 lead.
Eli Manning: His 8-of-10, 173-yard total with two touchdowns and no interceptions gave him a perfect quarterback rating for the game. Not bad for a gametime decision.
Ahmad Bradshaw: Can't say enough about his 11-carry, 110-yard, one-touchdown day that featured four runs of 16 yards or better, plus the 55-yard screen play. He even got hurt in the second quarter, but was back in the third quarter.
Steve Smith: Only three catches for 70 yards today, but one of them set up a touchdown.
Darcy Johnson: He started for injured tight end Kevin Boss and did fine with a bunch of good blocks and three catches for 26 yards. A couple of those blocks sprang Bradshaw on his big runs.
Justin Tuck: The do-it-all defensive end was at it again with a team-high six tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery.
Hakeem Nicks: Ya know how Smith is Eli's favorite receiver? Well, Nicks is Carr's, probably because Carr threw to him all summer. He keeps showing he deserves opportunites, and he responded to both Carr and Manning with four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown off Manning's throw. Had he kept one more foot in bounds for Carr, he would have tacked on an addition 40 yards or so to his total.
Travis Beckum: Two catches today as the second tight end. He's developing quite nicely into a reliable pass catcher.
THE UGLY STUFF:
Not too much of that. Sinorice Moss accounted for all of it, actually, with a real bad sequence in which he let a bouncing punt skim off his head and get recovered at the 15, allowing the Raiders their only touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, he looked like he had no idea what he wanted to do with it and had to dive on it a split second before a Raider got there.
This one goes on the official who said Justin Fargas' forward progress was stopped just as C.C. Brown stripped the ball at the 5 and returned it 95 yards for an apparent touchdown. Because he blew the whistle, the play was not reviewable. But replay showed the ball was out. At the risk of piling on poor Al Davis' group, that should have been another seven on the Giants' total.
Ahmad Bradshaw came out in the second quarter with a strained lower back, but returned.
Brandon Jacobs had his ankle checked on the sidelines but returned.