Game Story: Giants 26, Bengals 23
Stat worth noting: In an obviously very tight contest the first down battle was even at 24 and the time of possession was separated by only a hair, 33:15-33:06 in favor of Cincinnati.
Stat worth noting II: The Giants defense just couldn't get off the field when it needed to. All told the Bengals converted 10-of-17 third-down opportunities.
Turning point: While the Giants offense eventually had to win this one, it was a clutch defensive play that set Big Blue up for its final, game-winning drive. And the unlikely hero was veteran corner Sam Madison, who didn't even dress on opening night. Madison made a great play to knock away Carson Palmer's third-and-eight pass that was intended for T.J. Houshmandzadeh. With excellent coverage, Madison reached to bat the ball away. Seven plays later, the Giants were 3-0.
Play to remember: Needing a play in overtime, where else would Eli Manning look other than Amani Toomer? On a third-and-10 from the Bengals 38-yard line – aka no man's land – the veteran receiver got behind the defense down the left sideline and did his usual super job of keeping his feet in bounds for a 31-yard gain. While Toomer's tootsies were very close to the sideline, the officials up in the booth decided that no replay review was needed and the Giants were in business. After a Derrick Ward run, John Carney ended it.
Play to forget: The Giants were desperately attempting to hold onto a 16-13 fourth-quarter lead. It wasn't to be. On a third-and-six from the Giants 17, Carson Palmer hooked up with Houshmandzadeh for a go-ahead touchdown. The receiver with the really long last name got open in front of Giants safety James Butler on a post pattern for the points.
What Went Right
The Giants answered the first real adversity they've faced this season. When the Bengals went up 3-0, it served as the first time all season that the Giants had been behind. When Cincinnati went up 20-16 in the fourth quarter, it meant the Giants needed to rally once again or risk dropping from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Derrick Ward was phenomenal spelling Brandon Jacobs. Twice Ward was one broken tackle away from a touchdown and his 22-yard run in the fourth quarter was a game-changer. He averaged a whopping 8.9 yards per carry, gaining 80 yards on only nine carries.
Antonio Pierce was dominant, making a game-high 13 tackles. Pierce was all over the field; New York's defensive leader posted 10 solo stops and was instrumental in keeping the Bengals from stealing one.
The Giants secondary turned Chad ‘what's his name' into a total non-factor. The receiver formerly known as Johnson was very quiet, catching only three passes for 29 yards.
Fred Robbins had two more sacks as the Giants dropped Palmer on six occasions.
What Went Wrong
The Giants missed a golden opportunity on Cincinnati's first drive. Palmer fumbled the ball inside his own 10-yard line when he was sacked by a blitzing Corey Webster. However, Bengals G Bobbie Williams recovered at the Cincy 9-yard line to avert disaster.
While the Giants defense did hold the Bengals to a field goal, Big Blue received a little dose of its own medicine when Palmer marched his offense down the field right before halftime. The 13-play, 66-yard drive resulted in a Shayne Graham field goal that gave Cincinnati a 13-10 lead at intermission.
The Giants defense certainly shut down Chad Johnson, but Houshmandzadeh absolutely tore them up. He caught 12 passes for 146 yards and the one TD.
Former Giant Dhani Jones was all over his former mates. The former Giants draft pick posted a team-high 12 stops, which was hardly characteristic of his play in New York.
While down from the seven in each of their first two games, six penalties (for 40 yards) is still a tad high.
4 – Number of sacks from resident DL superstar Fred Robbins in the last two games
6 – Average yards per play on New York's 68 offensive snaps
8 – Years since the Giants last started a season 3-0; the 2000 club turned the trick en route to a 12-4 season
"You want to get off to a fast start and to start 3-0, to win this game today the way we did, to fight, it's a good feeling. We're going to enjoy this week off." – Giants QB Eli Manning
"Obviously we're as disappointed as you can be losing the football game. We made some positive plays, but you got to finish the thing out. And we didn't get that done today." – Bengals coach Marvin Lewis
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