One first-round draft choice stepped up, but another went down Friday night when the Giants lost to the Chicago Bears, 20-17, in a preseason game in MetLife Stadium.
David Wilson, the running back selected 32nd overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, rushed for 49 yards on five carries and caught two passes for 26 yards, including a 29-yarder. He started for the first time in place of Ahmad Bradshaw, who was inactive with a hand injury.
"That was a nice thing to see," coach Tom Coughlin said of Wilson's performance. "He has some play-making ability, which was shown tonight and that's something that we certainly can use."
Another player the Giants were counting on to make plays, cornerback Prince Amukamara, did not fare as well. Amukamara, the 2011 top draft choice who had become the starting right cornerback when Terrell Thomas re-injured his knee, suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter.
"Dr. (Russell) Warren (the Giants team physician) thought it was mild, so that's what was told to me," Coughlin said. "That term, high ankle, if it's a mild sprain, perhaps it's not going to take as much time to get back."
The Giants are 1-2 entering their preseason finale Wednesday at home vs. New England.
The game had two distinct chapters. Each team played its starters the entire first half, which ended with the Giants holding a 17-7 lead. Backups performed for each side in the second half when Chicago outscored the Giants, 13-0. Rookie receiver Joe Anderson scored the game-winning points on a 12-yard pass from Jason Campbell with 8:22 remaining in the game.
Wilson was one of several offensive players who played impressively for the Giants. Eli Manning had his best game of the preseason, completing 17 of 21 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. Ramses Barden and Andre Brown scored touchdowns and Lawrence Tynes improved to six-for-six this preseason with a 32-yard field goal. Victor Cruz caught five passes, and Barden and Martellus Bennett had three receptions apiece.
"I thought we did some good things with the first group and had a few mistakes that hurt us," Manning said. "Had a (false start) penalty that slowed down one drive that forced us to settle for a field goal. Had another third down conversion in the second quarter that we could of gotten that we let slip away, but overall I thought we had a good 10-play drive and went down there and scored the touchdown, so that was good. A couple guys stepped up and made some plays. I thought, overall, there was more good than bad."
The starting defense was stubborn, holding Jay Cutler to just seven completions in 17 attempts and Chicago's rushing attack to a 2.4-yard average.
"We came out tonight knowing that the Bears would do everything they could to not let us get to Cutler (who was not sacked)," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "A lot of quick passes, a lot of quick games. We were able to stop the run; that's always what you want to do.
"We did a nice job of building off what we did last week. We've still got some work to do, but this is where we want to be heading into the fourth week of the preseason and getting ready for the season-opener against Dallas."
Wilson showcased his talents midway through the first quarter on the drive that ended with Tynes' field goal. On the second play of the series, he took a pitch going to his left, cut back to the right on a planned misdirection, broke a tackle and gained 20 yards. On the next snap, he slipped through a pair of Bears to gain 15 yards. Wilson then caught a short Manning pass and turned it into a 29-yard gain. An unnecessary roughness penalty gave the Giants a first down at the 12.
"Obviously, you see the potential, you see the playmaking ability," Manning said. "A couple of the big runs, he ran hard, and got outside, got a good chunk. He had the short pass thrown to him, he got down the sideline for a big gain. So, those are the things you're looking for. He also had a catch on the second play of the game where he went the wrong way (and lost three yards). So, there's some good and bad, but you have to go with that. It's still a process of just continuing to learn the ins and outs of the offense. He's a young guy, we'll go slowly with him, put him in certain situations, and see if he can do some good things for us."
Wilson admitted he was more nervous than usual before making his first start. But he quickly settled down and demonstrated the playmaking ability the Giants drafted him for.
"I think I did well, but there's definitely room for improvement," Wilson said. "Just little stuff. No big errors were made. Those three plays I did well and I'm just glad and I'm happy with it and I just want to keep getting better. Throughout the whole time that I was playing tonight, it was a few small things that I feel like I could have done better.
"It was a lot different (playing with the starters). It was fun. I had a lot of fun out there tonight."
The Giants' good fortune did not continue on their next defensive series.
Amukamara, who was settling in as the right corner, was carted off the field with four minutes remaining in the first quarter when he stayed down after tackling Brandon Marshall. X-rays on Amukamara's lower right leg were negative, but the Giants later announced he had suffered a high ankle sprain.
"I've got to give him credit," Coughlin said. "Even when he was injured, he made that tackle over there on the sideline. We don't think anybody knew what the injury was and we couldn't get him off the field fast enough. He didn't go down, so he played one more play and they went right at him and he made the play. He's had some injuries, but he is a tough kid and I think he'll come back from this as fast as possible. How fast that is, I'm not sure."
Bruce Johnson and Michael Coe stepped in for Amukamara.
"I'm glad it's only an ankle sprain," Tuck said. "A guy getting carted off, you start thinking the worst. But he was doing well. I think he was making strides and I hope this doesn't set him back too much, because he's definitely going to be a big part of our success on defense. Being that second corner, being the corner opposite of Corey (Webster), we've got to get him back in a hurry. Hopefully, it isn't something that keeps him out for weeks, it's something that just keeps him out for a little bit and he'll be ready for opening week.
Strongside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka strained his groin on the final play of the first half.
"I don't think it's going to be serious," Kiwanuka said. "It shouldn't affect me for the beginning of the season. Unfortunately, I've been in this situation with the same injury before. I'll be back before the first week."
The first half ended with the Giants owning advantages on the scoreboard (17-7), in total yards (188-101) and in first downs (13-5). In addition to Wilson's work, the half featured the touchdowns by Barden and Brown and a blocked punt by Da'Rel Scott.
In the second half, Robbie Gould kicked field goals of 30 and 48 yards before Anderson scored the game-winner.
With David Carr quarterbacking a second-team offense staffed mostly with inexperienced players, the Giants punted on their first six second-half possession. Their last chance to win the game expired when Carr's pass for Dan DePalma was intercepted by Mark LeGree with 1:06 remaining.
"I didn't like the way we finished that game," Coughlin said. "There was no production on offense whatsoever."
Presumably that won't be an issue when Manning and Co. remain on the field for an entire game.