EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It has become an NFL tradition that starting quarterbacks do not participate in the fourth and final preseason game. The Giants took it a step further Thursday night, also leaving the passer who has been their No. 2 since the spring on the sideline for the entire game.
So while Eli Manning and Davis Webb were uniformed spectators – as were all of the team's starters, plus kicker Aldrick Rosas - rookie Kyle Lauletta and third-year pro Alex Tanney took all of the snaps in a 17-12 loss to the New England Patriots in MetLife Stadium. They combined to complete 21 of 42 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown apiece, but the numbers for each were adversely affected by several dropped passes.
"It was a great illustration, in my opinion, of how important it is to catch the ball," Shurmur said. "I think we fell victim to the drops, and when you're in pro football and you're throwing the ball around, you need to catch it, especially in those third down situations."
That Manning wouldn't play was a given; he has missed the last four preseason finales. On Wednesday afternoon, Shurmur informed the quarterbacks that Lauletta would start. Lauletta was the first Giants rookie to start a preseason game since Manning on Aug. 19, 2004 at Carolina.
"I was very excited," Lauletta said. "I have wanted to play more and, obviously, I haven't played a whole lot. Probably the first game was the most that I played, so to say, 'Hey, you are going to get the start,' was big for me. I don't think I was nervous. Any time you get out there, you're a little bit amped up, but I don't feel nervous. It's more you just want to do well and you want to throw the balls so good and sometimes when you miss one, you really have to turn the page and move on."
The Giants must remove 36 players from their roster by 4 p.m. Saturday.
"I've received a lot of the reps from OTA one to now," Webb said. "I've had a lot of throws with the two group, the one group. I did the best I could and I think I got that each and every day. So I feel confident where I'm at and I know my teammates do, that's the most important thing."
Lauletta, the team's fourth-round draft choice (No. 108 overall) this year, played all seven series in the first half and the first possession in the third quarter. He completed eight of 19 passes for 118 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown to Amba Etta-Tawo, who ran 38 yards after catching a short pass. Lauletta was also intercepted twice by cornerback J.C. Jackson.
"I think he fell victim to some drops that would've made things look a little better," Shurmur said. "That one scramble where I think he hit (Jerell) Adams, that keeps a drive alive (but it ended on the tight end's drop). He was aggressive with this throws down the field, which we wanted to see. You can see he has plenty of arm strength, which is good, and I thought he was pretty poised throughout the game."
"We had positive plays," Lauletta said. "I mean, run-checks and the protection, I felt like I was pretty good. I knew where I was protected and I knew where I was hot from. They played a lot of man coverage; anytime a team plays a lot of man coverage, you're going to have those one-on-one deep balls and those are 50-50 balls, but as an offense, we want to complete more than 50 percent of those. We had our chances, but we just missed a couple that I wish I had back. An interception where I should have checked the ball down and just not take that risk. Just little things like that. But we'll clean it up and I'll watch the film and get better and learn from it."
Tanney played the final four offensive series, and completed 13 of 23 throws for 92 yards. In the fourth quarter, the Giants began one possession at their own one-yard line. They consumed almost nine minutes as Tanney led them to the Patriots' 14-yard line. The Giants should have advanced further, but Alonzo Russell dropped a third-down pass, and Tanney's fourth-down throw to Garrett Dickerson fell incomplete.
On their next possession, the Giants drove 75 yards in 12 plays, the last Tanney's eight-yard touchdown pass to Russell. But Jhurrell Pressley came up short on the two-point conversion try, all but ending the game.
"I thought Alex did a nice job, too, two pretty good drives," Shurmur said. "The first drive stalled on third down. Just catch the ball. We had the ball past the sticks and then we got a little fancy with it. Then I intended to go for it on fourth down there, anyway. You can be a little bit more cavalier in the preseason, but it was probably a good decision to go for it."
"I feel like there's a couple I missed that I would like to have back," Tanney said. "Maybe a couple protections here and there that I might have missed. It's tough to say now, but I feel like I put some decent film out there."
Tanney has been with eight teams since entering the NFL as a rookie free agent with Kansas City in 2012. He has played just one regular-season game, three years ago for Tennessee. Cutdown day uncertainty is nothing new for Tanney.
"I've been in this situation quite a few times," he said. "It's not the first time I've had to play in the fourth preseason game. I feel like there was some good and there was some bad, so we'll see what happens."
*The Giants finished 2-2 in the preseason for the fourth consecutive year. They lost both of their home games.
*This was the third year in a row Manning missed two of the four preseason games, all because of coaches' decisions. It was the fourth year in a row he missed the finale. In his 15 preseasons, Manning has sat out 12 of 61 preseason games, including nine because his coaches chose not to play him.
*Rookie third-string quarterback Danny Etling played the entire game for the Patriots. He completed 18 of 32 passes for 157 yards, including a one-yard touchdown to Ralph Webb, and scored on an 86-yard run around right end after the Patriots stopped the Giants on fourth down late in the game.
*Cornerback Donte Deayon intercepted two Etling passes.
*Tackle Nick Becton and running back Rob Martin left the game with ankle injuries.
*Backup kicker Marshall Koehn was wide right on the extra point try following the Giants' first touchdown.
*Former Patriot Nate Solder, Russell Shepard and Kareem Martin were the Giants' game captains.