PLAY OF THE GAME
On the first play of the Giants’ second drive in the first quarter, running back Rashad Jennings took a handoff over the right guard and accelerated through the defense for a 73-yard touchdown. Coincidentally, the Giants’ long play in last week’s Hall of Fame Game against the Buffalo Bills was also 73 yards on Washington’s late touchdown catch from Ryan Nassib.
>> RASHAD JENNINGS GIVES GIANTS EARLY LEAD
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE OFFENSE
Since the Giants hired new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo back in January, the focus has been on Eli Manning and the passing game. But through the first two preseason games, it’s the rushing attack that has piqued people’s interest so far. That’s because of the one-two punch of Rashad Jennings, who broke free for a 73-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and rookie Andre Williams, who had seven attempts for 35 yards. Meanwhile, the offense didn’t complete a pass until the two-minute warning in the first half (granted they had attempted only three passes at that point) as Eli Manning (0-of-2 for 0 yards) played the first four drives, producing just eight yards and three punts aside from the one-play touchdown drive thanks to Jennings and his blocking. Backing up Manning, Nassib came in and spent time with the first-team offensive line before the backups rotated in, completing 12-of-21 passes for 81 yards and a fumble (backwards pass) that Steelers linebacker Howard Jones retuned 28 yards for a touchdown.
Like the offense, the defense started slowly on Saturday night, drawing a few penalties and giving up a big play (46-yard catch-and-run by Dri Archer), which is an area the Giants’ defense excelled in last season. But thanks to tight coverage by cornerback Walter Thurmond III on Steelers wide receiver Lance Moore three plays later, the defense held and forced Pittsburgh to settle for a short field goal. While Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played just one drive before being replaced by backup Bruce Gadkowski, the Giants found success in their defensive line rotation. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, and Damontre Moore all had quarterback hurries while defensive tackle Markus Kuhn notched a sack. Johnathan Hankins also started again at left defensive tackle in place of Mike Patterson.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE SPECIAL TEAMS
The special teams had another miscue for the second game in a row. Last Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game it was a blown block that resulted in a blocked punt. This time it was a muffed punt return by Charles James II, which the Steelers recovered deep in the Giants’ territory and turned into three points on a field goal. Otherwise, the special teams outfit was sharp for the Giants. The Giants booted touchback after touchback on kickoffs and allowed just eight yards on four punt returns, which included a great tackle by long snapper Zak DeOssie in coverage in the first quarter. Meanwhile, in a reverse of last week, Brandon McManus began by kicking the extra points -- which are placed at the 15-yard line in the first three weeks of the preseason as part of an NFL experiment -- while Josh Brown took the field goal attempts, making his only attempt from 45 yards and a late extra point. The kicking competition continued as McManus came on and made a 46-yarder right before halftime.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) did not play; RB Andre Williams rushed seven times for 35 yards (long of 10); LB Devon Kennard had two tackles; DE Jordan Stanton recorded a sack.