LANDOVER, Md. — When Roger Lewis Jr. heard the surprising news Sunday morning that Sterling Shepard would not be able to play against the Chiefs, he had a message for his fellow second-year Giants receiver.
“I told him that I got him,” Lewis said. “That we were going to go out and get this win.”
He was right. Lewis caught the overtime pass that set up the winning field goal for the Giants’ second victory of the season.
Shepard missed a second straight game Thursday night when the Giants played Washington at FedEx Field, but this time the Giants were more prepared. Not only did they have a good sense that Shepard would continue to be sidelined with a migraine, they also are much happier with his replacements.
Lewis, Travis Rudolph and Tavarres King, the Giants’ replacement receivers group, all had good games against the Chiefs. Each had three catches for a combined 137 yards. That may not seem very impressive, the kind of numbers that Odell Beckham Jr. racked up in a game by himself, but it was a positive step for the young, unproven group. In the four prior games the trio totaled 20 catches and 193 yards, or five catches and about 48 yards per game.
The leader of the triumvirate is Lewis. He’s the Giants’ only healthy receiver who has been on the team all season.
“Lewis is a guy that’s been around,” Ben McAdoo said. “He’s a young player, had a big role on special teams, and really grew into his role on offense. You see how important it is to him to develop chemistry with the quarterback. He’s been outspoken on it, and he works hard on it every day in practice. He’s one of our work dogs out there.”
“Me being undrafted, I play with a chip on my shoulder no matter what I’m doing,” Lewis said. “I want to have a chip on my shoulder every game and practice. I practice hard and put in the work.”
Eli Manning is one of those who noticed it. It paid off for Lewis on the winning drive against the Chiefs.
“When we got in the huddle, (No.) 10 was like, ‘You ready?’ ” Lewis said of Manning’s words to him before the big pass on fourth down. “And I said, ‘Yeah, you can believe in me.’ I want 10 to believe in me, and that’s what I’ve got to do. I’ve got to make that play.”
McAdoo was also happy with the other two.
“We hit Rudolph on a couple third-down throws last week,” McAdoo said. “Not all conversions, but he did have some completions there.”
Speaking of King, he said: “He’s a guy we’ve always had a lot of confidence in. It’s been hard to get on the field for us at the receiver position. He knows the offense inside and out. He’s a Giant, loves it here, and it shows in the way he plays.”
They’ll probably never put up the kind of numbers the Giants’ three receivers heading into the season — Beckham, Shepard and Brandon Marshall — were supposed to. Expectations have been lowered a bit. But the Giants had won two of the three games without their three projected starting receivers and were hoping to make it three out of four Thursday.
“Everybody was down (against the Chiefs),” Lewis said before rattling off the jersey numbers of the high-profile but inactive receivers who would have been ahead of him on the depth chart: 13, 15, 17, 87. “Nobody believed in us,” Lewis added. “But it’s that time.”
Notes & quotes: Eli Apple was inactive for the second consecutive week. He missed practices last week because of a personal matter — his mother underwent surgery — but McAdoo had said this would be a normal week for the second-year cornerback. The Giants said Thursday’s inactivity was a coaching decision . . . Jon Halapio and Chad Wheeler started on the right side of the offensive line for the Giants. It was Halapio’s first NFL start and Wheeler’s second . . . Also inactive for the Giants were LB B.J. Goodson, G D.J. Fluker, OL Justin Pugh, QB Davis Webb and LB Calvin Munson . . . The Giants played 14 previous games on Thanksgiving Day, the first 11 prior to 1939. That includes their Thanksgiving debut in 1926, when they beat the Brooklyn Lions, 17-0, at Ebbets Field. The Giants’ Thanksgiving record was 7-4-3.