It was supposed to be a night to highlight the starters, but the second- and third-string offenses stole the show. Both teams traded touchdown after touchdown in the second half, but the New York Giants pulled out the 35-24 victory over the New York Jets Friday night in their annual preseason rivalry game at MetLife Stadium.
The third week of the NFL preseason is often considered teams’ “tune-ups” for the regular season, when starters are given the most playing time, and Geno Smith and the first-string offense looked as efficient as ever. Smith led the Jets on a nine-play, 72-yard scoring drive in the first quarter, culminating in a 31-yard Nick Folk field goal.
Smith connected with five different receivers in the first half for passes of 12 yards or more – Eric Decker (27 yards), Chris Ivory (23), Chris Johnson (16), Jace Amaro (15 and 12) and Stephen Hill (12). Amaro also caught a one-yarder in the corner of the end zone, the rookie tight end’s first touchdown in the NFL and Smith’s first TD pass this preseason.
Meanwhile, the starting defense finally looked more stellar. The only big play the Jets gave up in the first half was a 26-yard pass from Eli Manning to Reuben Randle. Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie safety Calvin Pryor were two of four Jets to co-lead the team with five tackles. Wilkerson also recorded a sack-fumble (recovered by the Giants), as did Jason Babin, his first sack in a Jets’ uniform. The journeyman pass rusher was signed last month to join a rotation of outside linebackers that also includes Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace.
Ivory and Johnson played well into the third quarter, splitting carries for the Jets. They broke off long runs of 18 and 17 yards, respectively. Ivory finished the night with 50 yards on six carries, and Johnson ran for 42 yards on nine attempts.
The Jets gave up a touchdown pass to Randle in the final seconds of the first half, making the halftime score 10-7. Geno Smith and Eli Manning did not return for the second half; Smith finished the night 9-for-14 with 137 yards and the Amaro TD, and Manning ended 12-for-21 with 139 yards and the Randle score.
Coming in for Smith in the second half, Michael Vick was sacked on his first snap and fumbled away his second, which set up the Giants for a quick touchdown pass (Ryan Nassib to Henry Hynoski) to take the lead. But Vick redeemed himself by leading Gang Green on an 11-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in Eric Decker’s first TD reception as a Jet. (He was replaced by Matt Simms after the drive.)
This began a series of back-and-forth touchdowns that underscored the Jets’ weak secondary depth. Nassib ended the night an impressive 8-for-12 with 103 yards and three TDs, two of which went for 39 and 31 yards. Matt Simms did what he could to lead the Jets’ third-string O; while it wasn’t enough to win the game, the amount of time we’ve seen Simms on the field this August seems to solidify him as the third quarterback on the depth chart.
Like much of the rest of the league, the Jets also dealt with more penalty problems this week. They drew 10 penalties for 79 yards, after getting called for nine penalties (59 yards) against Indianapolis and 12 penalties (133 yards) against Cincinnati.
The only injury of note for the Jets was defensive back Antonio Allen, who left the game in the second quarter with a head injury and did not return.
Neither New York team had lost a preseason game coming into the “Snoopy Bowl,” nicknamed as such for MetLife’s use of the Peanuts mascot. It’s hard to say how this game will stand out within the recent history of the rivalry, which includes Mark Sanchez’s controversial final snap as a Jet in the fourth quarter last year and some breakout performances by Giants WR Victor Cruz long before he was a household name.
The Jets conclude their preseason schedule this Thursday, August 28, at 7 p.m. visiting the Philadelphia Eagles (1-2 this summer). While many starters may not see any game action, the game will be notable for featuring former Jet quarterback Sanchez facing his former team in an Eagles’ uniform, opposite former Philly QB Vick.
Check back this weekend for a preview of the first roster cut deadline coming Tuesday, and follow iSportsWeb (@isportsweb) and Adam Zielonka (@Adam_Zielonka) on Twitter.
UPDATE (11:30 p.m. ET) — In his post-game press conference, Rex Ryan officially announced that Geno Smith will start at quarterback for the Jets in their regular season opener against the Oakland Raiders.