The Jets expressed their respect for the Giants before tonight's 44th annual preseason rematch, and with good reason. One team was the defending Super Bowl champions, while the other was sorting through issues on offense that included no touchdown drives and multiple wide receiver injuries.
So while anything's possible, especially in the preseason, it was perhaps not a surprise that the Jets' struggles continued in the 44th annual summer meeting of these New York area teams and fell to the Giants, 26-3.
The loss dropped the Jets to 0-2 — and without a touchdown in eight quarters and 24 offensive series — with Carolina ahead at home a week from Sunday night. Meanwhile, it raised the Giants to 1-1, and it evened the MetLife Bowl at one game apiece after the Jets took the inaugural bowl, 17-3, a year ago.
"Obviously, we've been down this road before, unfortunately, as every single team has," head coach Rex Ryan said afterwards. "But there's only one way to pull out of it and that's to work hard. It's not like there's no faith in this team just because we're 0-2 in the preseason. The fact of the matter is you have to get better, we will get better, and that's it."
Mark Sanchez soldiered on without three of his WRs, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens. Under the heavy (as expected) Giants pass rush, which victimized RT Wayne Hunter for three sacks, he completed nine of 11 passes but for only 59 yards, yielded an interception-return TD to rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley, and mounted only 81 yards of offense as the Jets fell behind at the half, 13-0.
"He's going against a good player in [Jason] Pierre-Paul," Ryan said of Hunter. "If you're isolated 1-on-1, he's not just going to beat Wayne Hunter, he's going to beat a bunch of tackles in this league. ... I want to watch the tape before I isolate on one guy. I have a tough time believing it was one guy."
But Hunter said he knows his starting job could be in jeopardy if he continues to struggle.
"It's always been on the line," he said, declining to blame his sore back for his difficulties in yielding two sacks to Pierre-Paul. "I have to perform or they'll find someone else who's better. My main focus is to watch the tape and see if I can get better."
Sanchez said the interception began to unfold when he threw the pass behind WR Patrick Turner.
"The DB made a pretty good play, but the ball has to be in front of him. More of a physical mistake than anything," the QB said. "The reads felt good tonight. I checked it down well when I needed to, when they played deep in the secondary. For the most part, other than that one pass, really, the ball was on the money. It just can't happen."
Tynes Sticks a Fork in the Jets
Lawrence Tynes' third field goal of the game, from 40 yards out on the opening drive of the second half, upped the Giants' lead to 16-0, their largest lead over the Jets in the preseason since a 17-0 edge in the 1990 game 22 years ago.
Then it was Tebow Time. With Tim Tebow directing the Jets' second offense against the Giants' second D, he moved the Green & White a 14-play, 68-yard, 8:26-long drive — their longest march of the game — to Josh Brown's 30-yard field goal (banked in high off the right upright) to cut the deficit to 16-3 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.
After a five-minutes-plus march, Tynes made it 4-for-4 from 45 yards with 13:07 left in the game. The champs, while not explosive, were slowly squeezing the life out of their stadium mates.
Tebow's second possession survived a replay challenge of a Joe McKnight reception fumble, turned into an incompletion by replacement referee Don King, but the Jets still went three-and-out. It was just not their night.
And it became less their night when T.J. Conley shanked his second straight punt, setting the Giants up at the Jets 35 and leading to third QB Ryan Perrilloux's swing pass and leap over the goal-line flag by RB Joe Martinek for a 14-yard score and the 26-3 lead.
The Jets' twos and threes could do nothing against the Giants' twos and threes as Tebow, after his first long drive, was held to five straight punts, four of them after three-and-outs. But the Jets' backup QB remained positive.
"I don't think you can get frustrated," he said after going 5-for-14 passing and getting sacked four times. "We haven't even played a real game. When the regular season gets here, that's when it's for real. We've got to continue to show improvement and get better every day. There's not reason to get frustrated. We just have to go and get better."
But time is running out for that. The Jets have to hope and plan that next Sunday's national prime time game and the return of some of their offensive weapons will help turn things around, because that's the last time the front-liners will get extended work before the season opener Sept. 9 vs. the Bills.
The Jets grounded and pounded to a first down on two Shonn Greene runs to open the game. That was the start of another one of the offense's small pluses, as Greene gained 36 yards and three first downs on 10 mostly tough carries.
"I think that's what kind of team we're going to be throughout the season," Greene said. "I'm pretty confident about that and it felt good tonight."
But that first drive stalled shortly after. Then the defense opened in a four-man front and almost pitched a three-and-out — except that Calvin Pace's neutral-zone infraction and Joe McKnight's roughing of punter Steve Weatherford moved the Giants 20 yards to their first down.
That started the visitors down the field toward the Jets' red zone. They barely got there on a third-down completion from Manning to TE Martellus Bennett that didn't move the chains, so Tynes came on to hit his eight field goal in all games vs. the Jets, from 35 yards out, to give the defending world champs the early 3-0 lead.
Josh Baker was called for a hold on the Jets' kickoff return, the hosts' fourth penalty of the first quarter. That put the offense in a hole it couldn't get out of — Wayne Hunter gave up the inside rush by DE Jason Pierre-Paul for a third-down sack of Sanchez — and so the Jets went 3-and-out. And back came the Giants.
With Manning completing his fifth pass to Cruz for 51 yards on seven targets, the Giants drove into the red zone. Bart Scott and Kenrick Ellis stoned Ware for no gain on third-and-1 at their 16, but the Giants went for it and Eli hit Domenik Hixon in front of Darrelle Revis for the first down.
The Jets finally stopped the Giants offense on a third-and-10 Manning throw, under blitz pressure from Scott, that was knocked out of Cruz's hands by Kyle Wilson in the end zone. Tynes came on for the 30-yarder and a 6-0 lead with 12:09 left in the first half.
The Green & White slowly climbed back into this one. It began with nice pressure out of their four-man line that forced Manning to throw a ball up that LaRon Landry picked off without competition and returned to the Giants 45.
The Jets were stopped on third-and-1 (Greene) and then fourth-and-1 (John Conner).
"Yeah, that was brutal — absolutely bad," Ryan said about his running game being smothered like that. "I might've been more disappointed in those things than I was in anything else."
But the defense came up with its first three-and-out, Aaron Maybin got a good piece of Weatherford's punt and the Jets were again in business at their 46.
But then they were quickly out of business as Sanchez, trying to hit Turner in stride, instead saw Hosley jump the route and fly down the left sideline for a 77-yard interception-return TD and a 13-0 Giants lead with 2:03 left in the half.
It was the first preseason INT-return TD by a Jets opponent since LB Jameel McClain (off of Kellen Clemens) and DT Haloti Ngata (off of Sanchez) each had one in Sanchez's second game as a pro at Baltimore in 2009.
The Jets run defense was outstanding, holding the Giants to 58 yards on 32 carries, a 1.8-yard average that was the Green & White's lowest average allowed in the preseason since the Eagles managed 1.1 yards per carry in 1996. ... LB Bart Scott was active with a team-high five tackles. ... DE Quinton Coples got his first pro start at DE on the Jets' four-man line and also got his team-leading second sack when he took down QB David Carr for a 3-yard loss on third down early in the final frame. ... The Jets were penalized eight times for 76 yards.
The Jets still lead the preseason series, 23-20-1, but the Giants lead in all games (regular and preseason) vs. the Jets, 28-27-1. ... The 23-point loss was the largest margin of defeat by the Jets in any game ever against the Giants (RS and PS). ... Tynes became the first opposing kicker to hit at least four FGs in a preseason game vs. the Jets since Jay Feely, then a pre-Jet, went 5-for-5 for the Giants in the 2005 game.