The more things change, the more they stay the same. That wasn't the case with the Giants last night, as reserve players starting at fullback and offensive line didn't do anything to hurt the team's red zone offense. That's because New York's red zone offense wasn't very good to begin with.
The Giants didn't score a single touchdown after running back David Wilson thrilled spectators with an 84-yard touchdown spring in the first quarter of Saturday night's 24-21 loss to the Jets. Two red zone opportunities resulted in a failed fourth down conversion and a successful Josh Brown field goal attempt.
Three points in two tries isn't going to cut it now, and it's certainly not going to be acceptable in the regular season for a team with aspirations of making it back to the playoffs.
"You've just got to execute," said quarterback Eli Manning, "We had an opportunity to throw a fade to Hakeem one on one and we've got to hit those and make them work."
The fade has been a staple of the Giants' goal line strategy since Manning started throwing the lofty passes to Plaxico Burress in 2005. When it works, it looks beautiful; when it doesn't, it looks like the team should just stick to the ground game. Manning's fourth down try to Nicks fell into the latter category.
"I probably could have thrown it a little bit further out there and gave him a chance," said Manning, "[Jets defensive back Dawan Landry] got his hands on it and knocked it away. I think it was a combination. It could have been a little bit better ball and [Landry] made a good play also."
With tight end Bear Pascoe stepping in for fullback Henry Hynoski as well as Jim Cordle and rookie Justin Pugh filling in on the offensive line, it wasn't any easier to find cohesiveness in the red zone. Manning, however, tough the line did a decent job against the exotic defensive fronts that the Jets put on display.
"They were prepared and they were ready," said Manning, "Those guys, I thought, did a good job versus a complex defense that shows a lot of looks. They're always going to have something you don't prepare for and you've got to make some calls on the run and have everybody on the same page, so I thought they did a good job of making adjustments and did a good job of protection."
For now, Giants fans will have to hope that their team will be more prepared for the complex defenses it is sure to face in the regular season. Manning, for one, is confident that the Giants will execute better in September.
"I know we can correct things and we have guys who want to do it correctly and sometimes you have games where it's just tough and you're going against a good defense. They make a lot of offenses earn every point that you get and the first group, we didn't turn the ball over. We didn't make tons of mistakes. It's just a matter of executing and doing a little better on third down."