By Paul Dottino
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Something just wasn’t right.
The Giants’ chances of beating the Washington Redskins took a big hit from the minute the doctors ruled out defensive end Justin Tuck (neck) from playing shortly before Sunday’s game. And yet the team still had numerous opportunities to grab the momentum and take care of business. Instead, the Redskins walked away with a 28-14 opening day victory.
It really is easy to identify the key moments in this one – they were as obvious as the green color of the perfectly manicured field and so we will incorporate them into this week’s Game balls and Gassers:
Game ball – WR Hakeem Nicks. The guy can play, regardless of what type of coverage a defense throws at him. No wonder Eli Manning targeted him 11 times.
Nicks finished with 122 yards on seven receptions, highlighted by a 68-yard grab to the Washington 2 on the Giants’ second drive of the game. Manning ran in for a score on the next snap, but Nicks’ big play was the key to the 7-0 lead and should have turned on the offense’s switch – somehow it did not.
Gasser – RT Kareem McKenzie. Maybe it’s unfair to point to one player because so many things went wrong, but he was at the center of the turning point of the game.
On the first drive of the third quarter, McKenzie failed to cut block rookie DE Ryan Kerrigan, who remained on his feet, tipped Manning’s pass, hauled it in and rumbled 9 yards for a TD and a 21-14 lead. This was a game-changing play that injected life into the Redskins, who clearly began playing with more confidence.
Game ball –DE Jason Pierre-Paul. Fellow ends Osi Umenyiora (knee) and Tuck were out, so JPP became the most important impact player for the Redskins to contend with. They didn’t do so well.
He collected six tackles (three for losses), two sacks and a forced fumble. Ah, yes, the fumble, another key play. The Redskins were up 21-14 early in the fourth when JPP sacked Rex Grossman and Michael Boley took the fumble 13 yards to the Washington 27. What did the Giants do with the ball? See “Special teams gasser.”
Gasser – FS Antrel Rolle. He was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty – believed to be ruled a “helmet to helmet hit” that – for all practical purposes – sealed the Giants’ fate with nearly 8 minutes to play and the Redskins up, 21-14.
The failed third-down conversion by TE Fred Davis became a first down at the Giants 33 and they capped the drive with the clinching TD. Although the infraction appeared to be questionable, coach Tom Coughlin usually tells his players not to put themselves in a position to get burned.
Rolle said after the game, “There’s nothing I can do about it – the call was made.” So we’ll have to make this call, too, if only because of the impact of the flag.
Game ball-WR Domenik Hixon. He was put on punt return duties after being held out during the preseason to protect his surgically-repaired knee. Hixon looked like fine, with returns of 18 and 9 yards (with two fair catches).
Gasser-PK Lawrence Tynes. The Giants’ offense inexplicably went three-and-out following Boley’s fumble recovery – so Tynes was asked to kick a 38-yard field goal. But he hit a liner that linebacker Brian Orakpo reached up and swatted away, preserving a 21-14 edge with 11:07 to play.
Who do you think was the goat of Big Blue’s loss? Let Dottino know in the comments below…