The Giants rested their starters in the preseason finale, but the backups put on a show in a 40-38 win:
FOXBOROUGH, M.A. – It was a fascinating night for the Giants' quarterbacks, despite – or probably because of – Eli Manning spending the entire game on the sideline.
Geno Smith and Josh Johnson, ostensibly competing for one backup job, and rookie Davis Webb all distinguished themselves in the Giants' thrilling 40-38 victory against the New England Patriots in their preseason finale in Gillette Stadium. Aldrick Rosas, who did all of the Giants' kicking, booted a 48-yard field goal as time expired – and just 44 seconds after the Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski capped a 17-point rally with a 55-yard field goal to give New England a one-point lead.
"We ended the preseason with a bang," coach Ben McAdoo said.
Several players made noise that the coaches will have to consider as they prepare to cut the roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday. Rosas kicked four field goals and four extra points. Tight end Matt LaCosse led the team with five receptions, scored two touchdowns, and had critical receptions on each of the two plays just prior to the deciding field goal. Shaun Draughn had team-high totals of 14 rushing attempts and 54 yards and scored a touchdown. Defensive end Kerry Wynn intercepted a pass and returned it 15 yards for another score. Linebacker Curtis Grant had eight tackles (five solo).
But on a night when both teams rested their starters, the Giants quarterbacks stood out.
Smith started and completed 10 of 11 for 111 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown to LaCosse. Johnson followed and hit 11 of 14 throws for 135 yards, and also threw a scoring pass to LaCosse, for two yards. Webb, the rookie third-round draft choice from Cal, entered the game late in the third quarter with the Giants leading, 34-21. He promptly led the Giants to a field goal for a 16-point advantage, only to watch the Patriots score 17 unanswered points in less than six minutes. Webb responded by completing four of six passes and coolly leading the Giants into range for Rosas to win the game.
McAdoo said it was the best the quarterbacks have played in the Giants' 2-2 preseason.
"They both rose to the occasion," he said of Smith and Johnson. "We challenged them. We gave them each some reps in practice this week. We let them go play and they both responded well.
"I think it is good to see the young quarterback go out and move the team down the field in a last eight situation, which we call it, and use our timeouts and get out of bounds when we can get out of bounds, and then put a kicker out there who is in the middle of a competition in a position to win the game in a great environment, it's good to see."
Smith completed his first seven passes, and led the Giants to a touchdown and a field goal in three possessions after Will Tye lost a fumble on the game's second play.
"I think I came out strong, did pretty good for the most part," Smith said. "It was pretty clean out there in the pocket. Maybe one or two sacks I could have maybe broken out of that tackle and thrown it away, but other than that, I think I played okay."
"Geno completed a lot of balls," McAdoo said. "He's been completing balls really all preseason. We just haven't finished any drives and he had a chance to finish some drives today. It was encouraging to see. He completes the ball at a high percentage, he knows where to go with the ball, we all know he can throw it. He didn't have any critical errors, which was encouraging."
The offense continued to play efficiently when Johnson entered the game in the second quarter. His first series was a 14-play, 74-yard march that consumed 7:12 and ended with Draughn's one-yard touchdown run.
"We were able to put it all together," Johnson said. "That's kind of what we expect as an offense, how we played tonight, and we were just excited to go out there and do it. A lot of guys made plays, a lot of guys had smiles on their faces, and a lot of guys enjoyed it and it was exciting to be out there with them.
"I feel like I really got to show what I can do out there tonight as a thrower, as a leader, as being able to use my feet when necessary. Just be able to go out there and really show this team in a game-like situation what I can do out there with extensive playing time."
Webb has been taking snaps in the two-minute drill in practice, but didn't know if he'd get an opportunity to do it in a game – especially when the Giants held a sizeable lead with less than seven minutes remaining. But when given a chance with the game on the line, Webb performed admirably. He completed passes of 19 yards to Ed Eagan and five yards to Wayne Gallman. On third-and-five with 17 seconds left, he found LaCosse for 10 yards, and then again for 11, giving McAdoo a chance to call timeout with four seconds left for Rosas.
"First of all, what a kick," Webb said. "It was a 50-yard kick. Their fans stayed, so it was a pretty good crowd and what a kick and what a great drive. Good protection. We had some new guys in there. They executed great. So, big catch by Matt, probably the player of the game in my opinion. He had two touchdowns and had some big catches on that two-minute drive. So, LaCosse played great and it was just fun to get out there. I had some two-minute opportunities throughout fall camp and to kind of execute it under the last preseason game against the Patriots, it's a lot of fun. It is something I am going to remember for a long time, but there are a lot of things to improve on tonight. We'll watch the film and get better from there."
When the Giants begin their regular season a week from Sunday in Dallas, Manning will be back in his customary position as the starter. But after what happened against the Patriots, the Giants are certainly confident in their backups.