After an unlikely Jake Delhomme interception by Will Allen halted Carolina's 75-yard drive at the Giants five, it took less than a minute for quarterback Eli Manning to hook up on an unexpected 90-yard touchdown toss. Unexpected that is, if you're looking for big free agent acquisition Plaxico Burress's name here as the recipient. Instead special teams ace David Tyree caught the 10-yard comeback pass, then made like Otis Taylor and bounced off a shot by Carolina linebacker Will Witherspoon, spun to the outside and ran untouched down the right sideline for the score. "I was able to jump out of a tackle and off to the races," Tyree said. "I had a few escorts out (in front) that felt pretty good, too."
The rookie must have been watching Allen. Early in the second quarter, Delhomme threw a six-yard out to receiver Steve Smith, who bobbled the ball, and had it plucked away by Giants rookie Corey Webster. The Giants O scored again in less than a minute. Unfortunately, they did it by marching the ball one yard backwards in four plays, settling for a 35-yard Jay Feely field goal. Webster picked off another pass by backup Chris Weinke later in the third-quarter.
The other rookie must have been watching the rookie. After Webster's first pick, Delhomme badly missed on a short pass that was intercepted by Giants rookie defensive end Justin Tuck, who brought it back seven yards.
This time the Giants O went backwards again. To the other endzone. On the third play of the drive, Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers blew past Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie, sacked Manning, who sneezed up the ball, and scooped it up on the fly 29 effortless yards to the end zone. Peppers punctuated the jaw-dropping feat by making like another Julius – Dr. J. – and slammed the ball through the cross bar.
Manning made amends on the next series by firing a 41-yard TD strike to another unlikely recipient, Amani Toomer. It was Toomer's first touchdown since the 2003 season.
Manning finished his night's outing with impressive, albeit peculiar, stats: 3-of-9 for 150 yards and two TDs for a Peyton-like rating of 121.5. Of course, leaving the game with a 17-14 lead at the half is the only lead that counts.
"We turned the ball over, we made big plays," said coach Tom Coughlin. "We didn't sustain a whole lot." Coughlin was pleased, however, with special teams. "I thought we played very well (on special teams). I thought we had outstanding coverage teams. I thought we ran the ball up in there hard on kickoff returns and thought we had an opportunity on punt returns."
Giant Plays Highlight Uneven Performance.
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