The Giants had 94 more total yards and six more first downs than their opponents. They had the game's leading rusher and leading receiver and their starting quarterback completed two more passes than the three Jets signal-callers combined.
Yet the Giants lost, 17-3, to the Jets in the inaugural MetLife Bowl in MetLife Stadium because they made too many mistakes and squandered too many opportunities, including two second-half drives inside the Jets' 20-yard line that yielded no points.
"We did a lot of good things tonight," quarterback Eli Manning said. "I thought me moved the ball well. I thought guys made some plays. There are just enough things that are keeping us from finishing drives and putting points on the board. It's just little things, but those things can add up. That's what we have to continue to work on and get better on. That's what preseason is for, to learn those. You have new guys in there, but we can work all of that out."
They have little time to do that this week. Because Hurricane Irene forced a 48-hour postponement of the Jets game, the Giants will have only two days before putting on their game uniforms again for the preseason-finale Thursday in New England.
Manning perhaps best personified the Giants' evening. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 200 yards, but didn't throw a touchdown pass and led just one scoring drive, which ended with Rhys Lloyd's second-quarter field goal. Brandon Jacobs started ahead of Ahmad Bradshaw and rushed for a game-high 51 yards, but he was thrown out of the game for throwing a punch at Muhammad Wilkerson. Had he been in the game, perhaps he would have scored on the Giants' ill-fated fourth down from the Jets' one-yard line in the second quarter. Instead, D.J. Ware was stopped short.
The special teams allowed a long kickoff return that set up the Jets' first touchdown. Rookie punt returner Jerrel Jernigan fumbled four times, though he didn't lose any of them.
"We did some decent things in the first half," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "The two interceptions and the long kickoff return (hurt), but our defense played solid football. The turnover thing hurt us and the kick returns hurt us. We mishandled some punts tonight, which we really haven't been doing and that's unfortunate. We got stopped on the goal line and obviously that was very, very unfortunate."
The game's storyline was written in the first two quarters, when the Giants dominated statistically with advantages of 224-73 in total yards and 13-4 in first downs – but went into locker their room at halftime trailing, 7-3.
The Giants' first possession ended when Manning, under a fierce rush, threw a pass to Victor Cruz that was intercepted by Jim Leonhard at the Jets' 18. In the second quarter, Manning's pass to Bradshaw was picked off by David Harris.
"The first one was a blitz and we didn't get a sight adjustment by either the tight end or the Z (wide receiver)," Coughlin said. "Unfortunately, there was no time for him to do anything about it and he threw the ball and it was picked off. The second one, I don't think he saw the linebacker at all."
Neither interception resulted in a Jets score. Four plays after the second one, Clint Sintim recovered Mark Sanchez's fumble at the Giants' 39-yard line. That led to the game's first score, Lloyd's 34-yard field goal with five minutes remaining in the quarter. Prior to the kick, the Giants drove 45 yards in eight plays, the longest Manning's short pass to Bradshaw that saw the running back sidestep Bart Scott's tackle attempt and run down the left sideline for a 29-yard gain to the Jets' 29.
After a five-yard penalty for an illegal shift, Manning fired a bullet down the middle to Hakeem Nicks for a 16-yard gain to the 18. Nicks led all receivers with five catches for 71 yards. The Giants got as far as the 13 before Bradshaw lost three yards and Manning's pass to Travis Beckum fell incomplete. Lloyd then came on to kick the field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Antonio Cromartie mishandled and then picked up the ball and raced through the Giants' coverage team for 68 yards before Lloyd managed to push him out of bounds at the 35-yard line. On the next five plays, the Jets gained, in order, six, three, zero, one and eight yards leading to the two-minute warning. When play resumed, Sanchez threw to the center of the end zone for Holmes, who got a step ahead of cornerback Corey Webster for the touchdown that gave the Jets a 7-3 halftime lead.
"They did get field position on their first score," middle linebacker Jonathan Goff said. "But our job is to stop them and get the ball back and not allow any points. Even though it is preseason you want to go out there and put your best foot forward. We had some good plays and some bad plays but you still want to go out there and be as constructive as possible."
"I was happy with the way the defense played, to be honest with you," Coughlin said. "Again, the field position was ours pretty much all of the first quarter. I'll bet we had field position far away in the first quarter; didn't have anything to show for it. We got down there, and then ran out of gas, made a play here or there, missed a throw, so that hurt."
No points were scored in the third quarter, which was good news for the defense and a frustrating turn of events for the offense. The Giants twice traveled deep into Jets territory, but were turned away without scoring each time.
Their first foray saw them move from their own 15 all the way to the Jets' one-yard line. But on fourth-and-goal from the one, D.J. Ware tried to dive over the right side of the line but was stonewalled by Brodney Poole and Josh Mauga.
"I don't know if I should have left my feet or not," Ware said. "I could have sworn I was going to get in there, but it closed up at the end. I tried to jump over people, but I didn't get up high enough. You'd rather stay on the ground and slice though, but it looked so clogged up and I thought I could get over the top."
On the drive, Jacobs ran for 25 yards and the Giants picked up 29 more when Manning threw a 14-yard pass to Nicks and Emanuel Cook was penalized 15 yards for grabbing the receiver's facemask.
Two plays later, Manning's pass to Mario Manningham gave the Giants a first-and-goal at the seven. Cruz's five-yard reception on third down put the ball on the one, but Ware was unable to punch the ball in on fourth down.
"It's frustrating to move the ball like that and not score," guard David Diehl said. "We had so many good things going on – first downs and running the ball well – to not put the ball in the end zone is disappointing."
The defense forced the Jets to go three-and-out and punt from the seven-yard line. The Giants took possession at their own 48 and with David Carr at quarterback. Carr quickly hit Cruz for nine yards and got another 15-yard boost from the Jets when Donald Strickland was penalized for unnecessary roughness – on Andre Brown's two-yard run.
The Giants had a second-and-eight at the 13. But Brown was stopped for no gain before Carr was sacked by quick-blitzing linebacker Nick Bellore for an 11-yard loss to the 24.
Lloyd attempted a field goal that could have pulled the Giants to within a single point, but the ball was blocked by Jarron Gilbert, and another opportunity was squandered.
When the reserves were competing in the fourth quarter, the Jets scored on Bilal Powell's one-yard run and Nick Folk's 33-yard field goal.
"We didn't play very well with our twos at all," Coughlin said. "I didn't think they played well at all and they are getting as many reps as everybody else. There has to be some improvement there no doubt. I thought we had some real chances and didn't finish anything obviously offensively but we have some work to do no doubt. There were some positives in the first half and a lot of yards but no points."
And that was pretty much the story of the night.