The Jets' 50th annual preseason meeting with the Giants began with a bang — rookie QB Sam Darnold getting the start and directing two touchdown marches on his first four drives of the evening for leads of 7-0 and 13-7.
The rest of the game wasn't as thrilling for the hosts in green and white and their fans in the MetLife Stadium stands as the visitors in blue chipped away with five field goals to open a nine-point lead with 13:08 left in the game. The Jets could add only a field goal from there and suffered a 22-16 defeat.
The Jets, who committed 13 penalties for 108 yards on the night, fell to 1-2 on the preseason while the Giants improved to 2-1. Big Blue took a 5-3 lead in the MetLife Bowl series that began in 2011. And the Jets' lead in the all-time summer series was whittled down to 25-24-1.
Here are seven chronological observations on tonight's Jets-Giants game:
1. Sam's Club
Darnold started for the second game this preseason in style, leading the Jets 75 yards on 11 plays to Bilal Powell's slashing 10-yard TD run just 6:32 into the game. Sam showed his coolness under center, completing a 12-yard pass to WR Quincy Enunwa — Q's first catch since January 2017 due to last summer's neck injury — for one first down, a 13-yarder on third-and-8 to TE Neal Sterling, then an artful 14-yard scramble on third-and-13, and an 11-yard first-down completion to WR Robby Anderson.
It was the first opening-drive TD engineered by a Jets QB in the preseason since Josh McCown in last year's summer opener vs. Tennessee, the first by a Jets rookie QB since Mark Sanchez vs. Philadelphia in '09, and the first vs. the Giants since Chad Pennington in '07.
2. Specials Scuffle
The Giants struck back soon after when Hunter Sharp took a low Lachlan Edwards punt, split the coverage down the right side, and strode 55 yards for the tying touchdown. With new K Jason Myers getting the first kicks of the night in the opening frame, Taylor Bertolet, on his only placement of the game, was wide right on an extra point.
And after the Giants tied it at 13-13 with two Aldrick Rosas field goals, rookie Trenton Cannon coughed up a kickoff return on a hard hit with Jerell Adams recovering for Big Blue at the Jets 16. Even though the defense held, Rosas kicked his third FG, this one from 27 yards, to put the Giants on top 16-13, with 10 of their points coming off of Jets special teams errors.
3. Pryor Gets Rolling
The missed extra point came after WR Terrelle Pryor, in his first game activity of the summer, caught a short crossing ball from Darnold, turned on the jets and beat Giants defenders to the left pylon. It was Pryor's first catch as a Jet and his first TD since last Oct. 2 for the Redskins at Kansas City. With the XP miss, the Jets still had a 13-7 lead in the first minute of the second quarter.
4. D Gets Cooking
To set up the Pryor score, the Green & White defense, which got burned when Eli Manning found WR Cody Latimer past CB Mo Claiborne for a 54-yard completion to the Jets 6, the D returned the favor and then some on the very next play. LB Avery Williamson forced a fumble by RB Jonathan Stewart and "the Big Cat" pounced — Leonard Williams scooped the ball off the turf and roared 39 yards into Giants territory.
5. Two-Minute Fizzle
After Rosas' third FG, Darnold and the offense had a chance for a two-minute drive. It didn't work the way it was supposed to. Starting at their own 12, they moved only to their 13, gave up a 35-yard sideline punt return to former Jet Kalif Raymond to the Jets 30, and the D yielded a short drive to the Jets 3. Claiborne's end zone pass defense saved a touchdown and Rosas made it 4-for-4, all FGs coming in the second quarter, for a 19-13 Giants lead with 11 seconds left in the half.
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6. Short Second Half
Darnold had one more drive, in the third quarter. It was three straight running plays and a 3-and-out. When the Green & White got the ball again with 4:57 left in the third quarter, it was Teddy Bridgewater's turn. Darnold's passing line for the night: 8-of-16 for 86 yards, 1 TD, no turnovers, no sacks, 2 TD drives, 87.0 rating.
Bridgewater had 10 points' worth of drives in each of the first two games. He could produce only a drive to the Giants 2 before Myers came on for a 20-yard field goal to trim the Jets' deficit to 22-16 with 2:54 to play. But in reality the Jets' offense had trouble moving the ball after Darnold's first four drives produced those two TDs.
7. The Defense's Ledger
The Jets' defense, led by Williamson and Williams for the ones and Neville Hewitt for the backups, had some downs in the form of several long completions that helped the visitors to 344 yards of offense, but also had some ups. The Giants finished 2-of-12 on third-down conversions, were 0-of-3 in the red zone (two field goals, one lost fumble) and averaging 3.3 yards/carry. That will have to suffice since most of the first-teamers traditionally are rested for the final preseason game at Philadelphia on Thursday. And then, for better or worse, it's on to the regular season.