EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Eli Manning enjoyed his own little slice of perfection Friday night.
The Giants’ starting quarterback played only the first series against the Chicago Bears, but he made the most of it. Manning completed all four of his passes, including an eight-yard touchdown to Bennie Fowler that gave the Giants a lead they never relinquished in a 32-13 preseason victory in MetLife Stadium.
It was the second week in a row a Giants quarterback played one flawless series. In a preseason-opening victory against the Jets, rookie Daniel Jones was five-for-five for 67 yards and a touchdown to Fowler for a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Manning’s rating Friday was a mere 150.0.
“He really played quarterback well in that drive,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He got us in the end zone. I think that’s what you evaluate quarterbacks on - move the team and get us in the end zone.”
On the first snap of the 10-play, 79-yard drive, Manning threw a short pass to the middle that Cody Latimer turned into a 20-yard gain. Two plays later, an incompletion was nullified by linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski’s pass interference penalty (Chicago did not play any of its normal starters). Later in the drive, Manning found tight end Rhett Ellison for nine yards, Golden Tate for five and, on the next play, threw the touchdown to Fowler, who shook off a tackle attempt by rookie cornerback Duke Shelly at the four-yard line.
“We started off on the first play with a good play action, and I hit Cody over the middle for a good gain,” Manning said. “Then we had several good runs. We ran the ball really well right there. We didn’t have many third downs until the very end. We were at the (eight-yard) line and they came with a little pressure. I was able to hit Bennie on a little inside route, he makes a guy miss and scores a touchdown. It was efficient. We mixed it up. We had some play action, we had some drop back, we had some bootlegs. A lot of guys were getting catches and running the football well.”
Manning’s four completions went to three different wideouts and a tight end. Will spreading the ball around like that be typical for the offense this season?
“Yeah, I think so,” Manning said. “We have a lot of guys who have been working hard, who were here last year and have played well for us. We’ll get Cody, Bennie, Golden and Rhett going. When we get Saquon (Barkley) in there, we’ll have him. We have a lot of guys that we have great confidence in that can get open. We’ll spread it around and just throw it to the open guy.”
*Two former New Jersey high school stars scored touchdowns for the Giants, and a former collegiate player from the state almost got one.
Running back Jon Hilliman, who played at St. Peter’s Prep and Rutgers, scored on a 10-yard run up the middle on the first play of the fourth quarter. The rookie free agent led the Giants with 56 yards on 16 carries.
Second-year tight end Garrett Dickerson, an alumnus of Bergen Catholic High School, later caught a 10-yard pass from Kyle Lauletta for the game’s final touchdown.
In the third quarter, the Giants had a first-and-goal at the Bears’ one-yard line when Alex Tanney rolled right and threw to Reggie White, Jr., who was at the goal line. But the ball was intercepted by rookie Clifton Duck, who returned it 62 yards to the Giants’ 37-yard. Duck would have scored had it not been for a tremendous play by Giants receiver Alonzo Russell, who sprinted like an Olympian and caught the young corner from behind.
“On that interception, I drew that one in the dirt,” Shurmur said. “It was late in the game when I didn’t want to waste some of our red zone plays down there, so I just drew up a naked. I was trying to get Reggie White a touchdown, another one of our local heroes, and they played it pretty well. The good news about that play was how hard (Russell) … Zo Russell did a good job of getting the guy down and keeping him from scoring.”
Russell didn’t catch a pass, but he made one of the game’s most impressive plays. He was in the back of the end zone when the ball was intercepted, so Duck had a 10 or 15-yard head start.
“I saw him make a great catch,” Russell, who spent the first 16 weeks of the 2018 season on the Giants’ practice squad before he played in the season finale. “I saw him get up and take two steps, and … I saw two offensive linemen and then I saw two blockers turn around and try to block for him, and I’m just like, ‘Oh no, we can’t let him take this all the way.’ That would have been 99 yards or something like that.”
When did Russell know he would catch the flying Duck?
“I ran track, so I wasn’t worried about that,” he said. “I have long (strides). As long as I get two or three steps, I can get going.”
Russell’s only regret was that despite a strong effort, he was unable to punch the ball out of Duck’s arm.
“That’s what I was angry about,” he said. “I was actually trying to get the ball out. I wanted to get the ball to get the two-for-one special, make the tackle and get the ball out. But I kind of timed it wrong. I was coached up by Jackrabbit (Janoris Jenkins) and (Alec) Ogletree. Next time, hopefully I’m not in the position, but I’ll know how to handle it better.”
*As he did in the opener, TJ Jones led all Giants receivers, this time with three catches for 32 yards. Last week, he had six receptions for 72 yards.
*Markus Golden and Olsen Pierre, who each played for the Arizona Cardinals last season, and rookie Oshane Ximines had sacks for the Giants.
*For the second week in a row, Shurmur elected to keep running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram off the field. Shurmur has not said if they will be healthy scratches for the entire preseason, but the two former first-round draft choices are halfway there.
*Nine players missed the game because of injury, including long snapper Zak DeOssie, whose toe injury forced him to miss the first preseason game of his 13-year career.
Also sidelined were running back Wayne Gallman (ankle), linebacker Alec Ogletree (calf), cornerbacks DeAndre Baker (knee) and Sam Beal (hamstring), wide receivers Sterling Shepard (thumb) and Darius Slayton (hamstring), and tackles Brian Mihalik (burner) and George Asafo-Adjei (concussion).
*The Giants are 8-10 in preseason games vs. the Bears.
*The Giants have won their first two preseason games for the first time since 2014. They will finish their preseason schedule with games at Cincinnati and New England.