It was a tale of two halves in the annual City Classic tonight at the Meadowlands.
The Giants got the better of the early battle when both teams predominantly used their first-stringers, but the Jets rallied in the second half behind their reserves and captured a 20-12 victory.
The Jets — the road team in this year's game, the 39th straight time the teams have met in the preseason — looked like a runaway train in the opening minute with Leon Washington in cruise control. They got off the rails a little bit, but Danny Ware and Kellen Clemens would make sure there was a smooth ride home.
After the opening kickoff, Chad Pennington and the Jets went to an empty backfield with Washington flexed out wide right. The veteran passer pumped in Washington's direction and CB R.W. McQuarters bit hard, allowing Pennington to make an easy toss to his running back. Washington beat FS James Butler to the middle and raced to the end zone just seconds into the contest.
It would not be an easy night for the Jets' first offense. On their ensuing seven possessions, they were stymied and forced to punt six times. During that dryspell, they were credited with minus-5 yards. Pennington worked into the third quarter, finishing 5-of-11 for 89 yards and two sacks.
"No. 1, you've got to give them credit, they did a good job with line games and movement. They don't line up like statues," he said. "If anything, that was good for our guys to see, a 4-3 style defense that does a lot of line games and movement. That's good for us. That's why you have these games. They caused us some problems. We've got to go back and put a critical eye on the video to see where we can get better."
The rest of the half belonged to Big Blue as the Giants took a 12-6 lead into intermission. New York's NFC representative held decisive advantages in first-half yards (210 to 66) and time of possession (21:28 to 8:32).
"They were getting six, seven yards a pop on first down, giving them second and short and third and short, so it was making it easy for them to convert on third down," said MLB Jonathan Vilma. "That is always going to keep us on the field a little longer. The offense was struggling a little bit and they went three-and-out a couple of times after the first touchdown."
Midway through the second quarter, S Rashad Washington was called for a hold in the end zone on a punt. Washington got a hand on reserve wideout David Tyree and the flag resulted in an automatic safety.
Then QB Eli Manning, who competed 17 of 25 passes for 146 yards, led two consecutive scoring drives. Lawrence Tynes, who missed two early field goals, finally got it right on a 40-yard kick and Manning gave the Giants their first lead, connecting with Anthony Mix for a 5-yard score. Cornerback Manny Collins, an undrafted free agent from Rutgers, had decent coverage but Mix used his 6'5" frame to take advantage of the 5'10" defensive back.
With the Jets' first offensive line still in the game in the third, Ware got some room to operate and took care of the rest. Carrying the ball six times, the undrafted rookie from Georgia ran for 44 yards on a road march that included a 16-yard scoring run. Both G Brandon Moore and TE Joe Kowalewski got good push on the touchdown.
On the Jets' ensuing possession, Clemens used the airwaves to increase the lead. He threw back-to-back beauties to Justin McCareins and Brad Smith, resulting in 45 and 34 yard gains.
"With each game I have a chance to play and each rep I get in practice, I'm gaining in confidence, and the offense is as well," Clemens said.
That got the Jets to the 1 and Clemens, working in hurry-up mode, got a chance to call his own number from there. He completed 6 of 8 passes overall for 122 yards and was intercepted once.
"I was pleased with the way the team came out in the second half. They did a really nice job in all three phases, responding to what we talked about there at the halftime," said head coach Eric Mangini. "We made some big plays and defensively did a much better job with the third down conversions. On special teams, we were much more efficient there."
Two members of the Jets' 2007 draft class — CB Darrelle Revis (first round, Pittsburgh) and LG Jacob Bender (sixth round, Nicholls State) — started. Revis, who finished with five tackles, ended a long holdout last week. Bender got his chance up front after Adrien Clarke started the first two preseason games and a midweek trade sent disgruntled veteran Pete Kendall to Washington.
Next Thursday, the Jets wrap up their preseason schedule with a trip to Philadelphia and a date with the Eagles. The Jets and Giants will meet once more in 2006, a Week 5 return matchup at the Meadowlands, also the Giants' home game.
That No. 24 looked like a season veteran out there, didn't he? In the first half, Revis displayed his man coverage skills against Amani Toomer on a harmless incompletion and also made a nifty pass breakup on a Manning ball intended for Sinorice Moss. Revis showed his physical tools early in the third, holding 6'7", 255-pound Kevin Boss to a 6-yard gain when the big tight end needed 7 for a first down. And Revis returned one punt for 13 yards, which set up the decisive scoring drive.
"I play confident. I don't try to play scared," said Revis in the winning locker room. "I just go out and play football. That's what I do."
"I thought he did a good job. I'm sure it's a real dramatic change from being home watching TV to transitioning into the game," Mangini said of his rookie DB. "He played different spots. He worked inside, he worked outside. He had a chance to return a couple of punts and that was important to give him some reps at the different roles he'll be playing moving forward."
Maybe the Giants haven't seen enough video on Leon Washington, but word is going to quickly travel throughout the league about this home run threat. Not only did he lead the Jets in rushing last season, but he's been absolutely breathtaking this preseason. Filling in for Thomas Jones, who sat out his second summer contest with a leg injury, Washington lit up the scoreboard early on.
Read of the Night/Hit of the Night
We're giving both honors to LB David Harris, the Jets' second-round selection from Michigan. Harris forced Tynes' first field goal, snuffing out a third-down screen pass from Manning to RB Reuben Droughns. Four plays later, he dropped McQuarters dead in his tracks on a kickoff return.
Another Weird First Quarter
On their first play from scrimmage, the Jets got 79 yards. By the time the first quarter had ended, the Jets had 64 yards. Conversely the Giants moved the ball pretty well, but Tynes missed a pair of makeable field goals from 40 and 43 yards. The Green & White held a 6-0 lead, but the home team had won the battle up front.
Normally sure-handed Ben Graham, Mike Nugent's holder, couldn't get the ball down properly on the Jets' first PAT of the night. The result was a low kick that never had a chance.
Feel Good Moment
Andre Wadsworth, attempting to make a return to the NFL, sealed the game in the fourth with a strip of QB Tim Hasselbeck. Eric Mangini has lauded Wadsworth for his work ethic and he delivered late.