The New York Giants kicked off their NFL title defense with a 16-7 win over the Washington Redskins in the season opener on Thursday.
Despite being without the retired Michael Strahan and injury casualty Osi Umenyiora on their defensive line, the Giants limited a new-look Washington to just 11 first downs and 209 total yards, indicating New York will be a Super Bowl contender again in the new campaign.
Quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Plaxico Burress and the rest of the offense that upset the New England Patriots in last season’s Super Bowl also played its part in spoiling the debut of Redskins coach Jim Zorn.
Manning capped a game-opening 84-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, and recently signed kicker John Carney got three field goals as the Giants scored on their first four possessions. It was a rare home win for the Giants, who won their final 11 away from Giants Stadium in capturing their third Super Bowl, but they were 3-5 at home, losing the last four games.
“It was a great opening to the season,” said Manning, who completed 19 of 35 for 216 yards and an interception. “There was a lot of emotion, a lot of excitement. It was a great crowd. They were fired up. It was good to play well at home and to win a game at home. It’s been a while.”
New York defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo made sure that streak came to an end, and might have made Redskins owner Dan Synder ponder the failure to hire leading candidate Spagnuolo as Washington head coach for this season, replacing long-time coach Joe Gibbs.
Zorn eventually got the job.
Jason Campbell threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss with 13 seconds to play in the first half to account for the Redskins’ points. The score was set up by a 50-yard kickoff return by Rock Cartwright.
Washington only got in New York territory three times in the game, the last time in the final seconds.
The game belonged to the Giants, who had been overlooked when it comes to their chances of defending their NFL title. Their odds were 25-1 going into the game.
Manning, Burress (10 receptions for 133 yards) and halfback Brandon Jacobs (21 carries for 116 yards) had the fans on their feet early.
Manning completed passes of 30, 19 and 11 yards to Burress on the opening drive. Burress, who signed a two-year contract extension just hours before the game that will pay him an average of US$7 million annually for the next five years, started earning that money on the 11-play opening drive, especially on the last catch.
He caught a third-down pass and was hit as the pass arrived, causing the ball to pop in the air. Burress reached out and hauled it in.
Manning’s touchdown run on a rollout after a pass-interference penalty gave New York a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Carney, signed last Saturday after a knee injury sidelined Lawrence Tynes, kicked a 24-yard field goal to push the lead to 10-0 on the Giants’ second possession. It capped a nine-play, 45-yard drive that featured a bruising 17-yard run by Jacobs.
The Giants’ defense, which led the league with 53 sacks last season, contributed by forcing Washington to a three-and-out series in Zorn’s first use of the Redskins offense.