New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was trying to throw a screen pass to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks on the right side of the line. Instead, Manning watched a Washington Redskins linebacker carry it into the end zone.
As Manning set to pass, rookie Ryan Kerrigan danced around a cut block meant to put him on the ground and stretched his 6- foot-4 frame high into the air to tip Manning’s pass. The first- round draft pick from Purdue University caught it and raced nine yards for the touchdown to break a third-quarter tie.
“He did a good job moving to avoid the cut and tip it,” Manning said in an interview. “Good play by him.”
The score was the lowest point in a game filled with low points for the Giants, who converted one of 10 third downs, had a field goal blocked and committed eight penalties to lose the season opener 28-14 yesterday at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
Manning completed 18 of 32 passes for 315 yards. He started the game 2-for-8 in the first quarter; four of the incompletions were thrown short or over his receivers’ heads. A fifth resulted in an intentional grounding call.
The slow start for the Giants’ offense put added pressure on a defense that’s been decimated by injuries.
New York has lost six players, including middle linebacker Jonathan Goff, cornerback Terrell Thomas and defensive tackle Marvin Austin, the team’s second-round draft choice.
Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora is out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, the Giants’ other Pro Bowl defensive end, Justin Tuck, is still recovering from a neck injury, and cornerback Prince Amukamara, the team’s top draft choice, is out with a foot injury.
While the defense put pressure on Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman early in the game, it couldn’t get off the field when Washington started moving the ball.
“We got to do our part,” Manning said. “We have to keep the ball longer and help out our defense and sustain drives.”
The Giants and Redskins were tied 14-14 at the half, until Kerrigan’s interception on the Giants’ first possession of the second half.
“I never scored a touchdown in college,” Kerrigan said. “So I was pretty excited to get my first touchdown in my first NFL game.”
Early in the fourth quarter, the Giants had another chance to score after moving the ball to the Redskins’ 20 yard line, setting up Lawrence Tynes’s 38-yard field goal attempt. Instead, a breakdown on the left side of the line allowed linebacker Brian Orakpo to block the kick and linebacker London Fletcher to recover the ball.
Ten plays and 70 yards later, Grossman threw a 4-yard pass to receiver Jabar Gaffney for the Redskins’ final score.
“We start the second half with an interception and that’s a tough way to start,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said during a news conference. “Then to be in position to kick a field goal and have it blocked. That was disappointing and very well may have changed the complexion of the game.”
The Giants’ locker room was quiet after the loss. Players mumbled about having to play better and about being prepared next Monday night to play the St. Louis Rams at home.
Tuck, who was injured in a preseason game against the New York Jets on Aug. 29, said he expects to play next week, and expects the team to perform better.
“We’re resilient,” Tuck said. “We’ll bounce back.”
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