NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Scoop and score.
It’s one of those silly expressions defensive coaches scream at their players to get them to run after the ball any time it hits the ground.
Most times, it’s meaningless — the ball is dead and picking it up is a waste of time.
For Michael Boley and the Giants, scoop and score played a big role in a 28-16 victory over the error-prone St. Louis Rams on Monday night — the first matchup between Tom Coughlin and his former defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo.
Boley made the biggest play of the game, returning a lateral by Sam Bradford 65 yards for a second-quarter touchdown that gave the Giants (1-1) some breathing room and sent the Rams on their way to a second straight loss.
“Boley’s play is tremendous,” Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said. “I’ve seen that happen a lot of times where guys just leave the ball there and think it’s an incomplete pass.”
Boley never considered leaving the ball on the turf at MetLife Stadium after Bradford’s pass on a third and eight from the Giants 25 with New York ahead 7-6.
The veteran linebacker had smelled out the screen pass to Cadillac Williams and it didn’t take him long to run after the ball after Bradford’s errant toss and take it down the sideline for a score.
“For us, one of the things we talk about in practice is whenever the ball hits the turf is to pick it up and leave no doubt and always scoop and score,” Boley said. “Right before I picked it up I didn’t hear a whistle so I am just thinking score.”
Bradford, who was 22 of 46 for 331 yards, took the blame for the mistake, one of four major gaffes by the Rams that either led to or contributed to a Giants touchdown.
“They were bringing someone off that edge, and I hurried and tried to get it around the guy and in doing that I threw it backward,” Bradford said. “I just can’t do that. In hindsight I probably should have called a timeout and gotten out of that play.”
A muffed punt, a blown coverage late in the first half and a crucial pass interference penalty early in the second were the other key mistakes that led to the Rams handing the Giants a gift win.
“It seemed when they gave us a little opening, we jumped in there and got points and scored touchdowns and didn’t settle for field goals,” said Eli Manning, who completed 18 of 29 passes for 200 yards, two touchdown and an interception.
Manning hit Hakeem Nicks with a 3-yard TD pass after a muffed punt and Domenik Hixon made a spectacular juggling grab on a 22-yard score after a busted coverage late in the first half. Brandon Jacobs scored on a 9-yard run in the third quarter after a third-down pass interference call kept New York’s opening drive of the half alive.
“It’s a little bit of the same story as last week, we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Spagnuolo, who kept the media waiting 25 minutes after the game before talking. “It’s difficult enough to beat any football team in this league without doing that, when you kind of beat yourself.”
Bradford threw a touchdown pass and Josh Brown kicked three short field goals for the Rams, who moved up and down the field, gaining 367 yards. The one area they could not move was in the red zone.
“The thing I liked about what we did tonight was we showed resiliency,” said Tuck, who had 1½ sacks in his first game of the season after sitting out the opener with a neck injury. “In a lot of those situations, if they get touchdowns, that score is a lot different.”
The Rams killed themselves in the red zone. They settled for three short field goals after drives stalled inside the Giants 10, with the first coming after they got a first-and-goal at the 1 following a 68-yard catch and run by Danario Alexander, who had three catches for 122 yards.
Nicks, who was questionable for the game because of a bruised knee, put New York ahead with the 3-yard TD catch. The score came after New York got a first down at the Rams’ 9 after Bradley Fletcher was called for pass interference against Nicks.
A 25-yard field goal by Brown closed the gap to 7-6 later in the quarter, and the Rams seemed to be in position to take the lead early in the second until Bradford threw his lateral and Boley went the other way.
“It was a big momentum lift,” Boley said after his first career regular-season touchdown. “Anytime the defense scores, it’s a bonus. Not only does the defense feed of it but it gives the offense some momentum as well. It looked like he just dropped it. It was a pretty good throw. He just missed it. Scoop and score. We work on that drill a couple of times each week. It paid off.”
The margin grew to 21-6 just before halftime when cornerback Al Harris let Mario Manningham run past him on a first-and-10 from the Giants 47 and Manning hit him in stride for a 31-yard gain.
Hixon made a one-handed catch of Manning’s pass — juggling the ball three times with his right hand — for a 22-yard touchdown. He hurt his calf on the play and barely played in the second half. He missed all of last season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in June.
“It happened so fast, I don’t know if it him in the arm or hit me in the shoulder,” Hixon said. “Until I see the replay, I won’t be able to tell you. At the end of the day we always say, catch the ball. I didn’t want to get fined by the receivers for not catching it.”
What do you think was the biggest play of the game? Let us know in the comments below…
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