FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Kyle Lauletta threw the first walk-off pass of his life Thursday night.
On the final play of the final preseason game, Lauletta completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Alonzo Russell to give the Giants a 31-29 victory against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium. After Russell caught the ball with no time left on the clock, the Giants stormed the field to surround the passer and catcher as if they had just won the championship.
"Never had a throw to end a game like that," Lauletta said. "Never a walk-off, if you will.
"It's great. It's exciting just to see all of the people rush the field, all your teammates. I'm just happy that we made the play. It was a great game. Great game the whole way, and great drive to finish it off. … We're trying to win every game. First and foremost, it's a competitive sport. All of us are competitive as heck and we want to win the game. With an opportunity like that, you have a bunch of three's (third-teamers) in there just licking their chops, wanting to go down and prove that we can do well as a unit and score touchdowns. That's what we did, and I'm really proud of the guys."
"It's great to win with my teammates," Russell said. "To see them congratulate me and all that, it was a great feeling."
Lauletta, a second-year pro, played the entire second half, when the Giants outscored New England, 21-0. That was after they had turned an early 10-3 lead into a 29-10 deficit by halftime.
Eli Manning didn't play, and Daniel Jones played the first series before Alex Tanney finished the first half (and completed four of 12 passes for 53 yards, a 35-yard touchdown to Russell and two interceptions).
That left the third and fourth quarters for Lauletta, the 2018 fourth-round draft choice from Richmond. He completed 22 of 40 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns and lost a third scoring pass when Reggie White, Jr. dropped a ball in the end zone.
Lauletta dropped back to pass on each of the Giants' final 20 plays.
"It was good," he said. "It's just the way the game went. We were down and we had to throw the ball to come back. Guys were just making plays. It was fun. You could kind of see it happening. The defense got the stop, and we had one more shot with the ball. We've been so good at just chipping away and getting a few yards, a few yards, first down. It's demoralizing for a defense. They played good coverage, but we just made one more play than them at the end of the game."
Where that leaves Lauletta is a mystery. He threw just five regular-season passes as a rookie last year. With the arrival of Jones as the sixth pick in the NFL Draft, Lauletta is widely thought to be competing with Tanney as the team's No. 3 quarterback – if the Giants keep three on their 53-man roster. They must trim 36 players from their roster by 4 p.m. tomorrow.
"I think what's important is we want to keep the best 53 guys and how they fit," coach Pat Shurmur said. "We weigh everything. It's not just the quarterbacks, but all of the other position groups as well. We'll weigh what each player brings to the group, what his role is going to be, and how well he plays out there."
Lauletta had team-high totals of 62 passes, 37 completions and 453 yards in the four preseason games. He threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions. His passer rating was an impressive 103.8. Did his performance in the finale strengthen his bid to make the roster?
"I don't know," he said. "I feel like I put four solid games together. It wasn't just that game. I felt like the three games previous to that, I played well and did what I needed to do. That's all I was looking for. Like I said, I wasn't worried about any of that stuff. I was just trying to go out there and win the game, and it's fortunate that we did."
*Russell's situation is similar to Lauletta's. He made his regular-season debut in the 2018 season finale after spending the first 16 weeks on the practice squad. Like Lauletta, he is not guaranteed a roster spot. And he had an outstanding preseason, leading the team with a 21.8-yard average per reception (six catches for 131 yards). Russell had team-high totals of five receptions for 92 yards in New England.
"He had a lot of opportunities today," Shurmur said. "He made the most out of a couple of them. Anytime you get into the end zone, that's a good thing."
Asked where he stands, Russell said, "I don't know. Right now, I'm just trying to put my best foot forward. After that, I just sit and wait for the phone."
*Several players suffered injuries, which could complicate roster decisions. The group includes tight end Scott Simonson (who was carted off after suffering an ankle injury while catching a 27-yard touchdown pass from Lauletta), linebackers Nate Stupar (concussion) and Keion Adams (knee), wide receiver Brittan Golden (calf), and cornerback Ronald Zamort (ankle).
*The only Giants starter to appear in the game was wide receiver Golden Tate, who will miss the first four regular-season games while serving a suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing drugs. He caught two passes for 37 yards on the Giants' first offensive series.
*Paul Perkins started at running back and led the team with 11 carries for 54 yards…Wayne Gallman rushed for 29 yards, including a six-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
*Linebacker B.J. Goodson, a former starter fighting for a roster spot, led the Giants with six tackles (five solo), including a nine-yard sack.
*The Giants finished their preseason with a 4-0 record, their best since they were 5-0 in 2014.