Michael Boley returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown and New York Giants defenders harried the St. Louis Rams into another turnover on the way to a 28-16 win in the National Football League team’s home opener at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Boley, a linebacker who also recovered a fumble in last week’s loss to the Washington Redskins, scooped up a lateral pass that bounced off the hands of Rams running back Cadillac Williams in the second quarter for a score that Coach Tom Coughlin called critical to helping the Giants get their first win of the 2011 season and improve to 1-1. New York also stopped the Rams three times inside the 10-yard line.
“No question, when you score on defense that’s a huge play,” Coughlin said. “In addition to that, the number of times we turned them back and they had to kick field goals, that was something as well.”
Giants defenders held the Rams to field goals of 21, 25 and 27 yards, while limiting St. Louis to 59 rushing yards without the injured Steven Jackson. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed 22 passes for 331 yards, while throwing one touchdown pass.
“I thought we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was the Giants’ defensive coordinator when they won the Super Bowl after the 2007 season. “It’s very difficult to beat these football teams or any football team in this league when you are finding a way to beat yourself.”
Giants quarterback Eli Manning recovered from an interception on his team’s first possession to complete 18 of 29 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He connected on six straight throws during one drive just before halftime that ended in a juggling, one-handed touchdown grab by receiver Domenik Hixon that gave the Giants a 21-6 halftime lead.
“It was a heck of a play by him,” Coughlin said. “The drive right before the half was crucial.”
It was Boley’s play, however, that changed the game’s momentum, Coughlin said. The Rams trailed 7-6 and had advanced to the Giants’ 25 yard-line when Bradford threw a backward pass that bounced off Williams’s hands.
“It looked like he just dropped it,” Boley said.
While Williams stopped running, Boley grabbed the ball and sprinted up the right sideline, pursued by Bradford all the way to the end zone.
“That was a big momentum shift,” Boley said. “Any time the defense scores it’s a bonus.”
Bradford said the play was supposed to be a screen to Williams. He hurried and threw the pass backwards, making it a free ball.
“In hindsight, I probably should have called a timeout and gotten out of the play,” Bradford said.
Coughlin said it was important for the Giants to avoid falling to 0-2 when the team’s three division opponents all have at least one win. The Giants play the 1-1 Eagles in Philadelphia next week.
The Giants, who have lost at least five defensive players to season-ending injuries, also suffered attrition on offense. Receiver Mario Manningham left the game with a concussion, while Hixon went to the sidelines with a knee injury.
Coughlin said the team is still developing, and that he was disappointed by the offense’s inability to pick up short yardage in some situations.
“Obviously there is much to be improved upon, which is OK,” he said. “We’ll get the medical report and we’ll do the best we can with it.”
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