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Eli Manning finally grasps offense; G Geoff Schwartz has 'serious' toe injury

Eli Manning passes during the first quarter of

Eli Manning passes during the first quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Getty Images

Henry Hynoski called it the turning point of the game, but it quickly turned into much more than that in his mind.

"Obviously it catapulted us for the rest of the game," the fullback said of the 11-play, 91-yard touchdown drive the Giants' starting offense produced at the end of the first half in Friday night's 35-24 preseason win over the Jets. "I feel it's going to catapult us for the rest of the season."

Maybe. What it certainly did was allow the Giants to breathe, give them some optimism and confidence, and show that Eli Manning can look like a functioning quarterback in the new offense. It was the first time this summer he looked crisp and efficient, completing 7 of 10 passes for 84 yards on the march for a touchdown that yanked the Giants and their fans from despair and at the very least provided both with a sense that things will be OK.

"It was big for us to get into a rhythm," wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "We needed that. We needed that in a bad way."

The success was not consistent and eventually may be overshadowed by a big loss on the offensive line. On the drive before Manning's only scoring possession of the game, guard Geoff Schwartz had to be carted off the field with a dislocated right toe (Tom Coughlin described it as "serious"). Schwartz was one of the key free-agent acquisitions on a rebuilt offensive line that was having difficulty protecting Manning for most of the first half. Rookie Weston Richburg replaced Schwartz at left guard.

The Giants trailed 10-0 and had managed just 93 yards on their first five possessions of the game -- four of them ending with third-down plays facing 14 yards or longer -- when Manning took the field at his own 9 with 1:53 remaining and three timeouts. Four snaps later it looked as if it would be another fruitless drive; Manning rolled right and tried to thread a sideline pass to Cruz that was intercepted by Kyle Wilson. The play was overturned because Wilson was out of bounds before the pick -- the second Manning interception in two games negated by an official's call -- and Manning was able to regroup. He hit Cruz for 18 yards on the first play after the review, hit Cruz again for 19 on a third-and-3 later in the drive, and found Rueben Randle for a 15-yard touchdown with 5 seconds left.

"That's our quarterback that we're used to," Hynoski said.

Manning completed 12 of 21 passes for 129 yards and the touchdown in the half (he did not return for the second half) after completing just 1 of 9 passes for 6 yards in the previous two games. Rashad Jennings ran for 67 yards on 13 carries and proved invaluable as a pass protector on the final drive.

After that it was the Ryan Nassib show as he led four touchdown drives and threw scoring passes to Hynoski, Preston Parker and Corey Washington. Nassib completed 8 or 12 passes for 103 yards and virtually secured the backup quarterback job with a second straight strong performance.

Manning is still on his first. Now he'll have to keep it going.

"I'm excited to go out and get some routes in against the Patriots," Cruz said of Thursday's preseason finale. "Hopefully we can build off what we did this week."

Notes & quotes: RB Andre Williams scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter after an interesting week in which he was the focus of trash talk between the two teams. After the score, the rookie held a finger up to his lips to silence both the Jets and himself. "I got my moment of peace getting in the end zone," he said . . . DE Damontre Moore said it was "surreal" to sack Michael Vick, a player he grew up playing in video games. He added that it was "a little more gratifying" to get a sack against a starting unit as well. He finished with two sacks and recovered a fumble . . . WR Marcus Harris, who was on the 53-man roster bubble, suffered a sprained AC joint and likely will be out for 3-4 weeks. "Hopefully, they keep me around," Harris said . . . CB Zack Bowman (arm) and DT Markus Kuhn (leg) also left the game early with injuries . . . The Giants are 4-0 in the preseason for the first time since 2006 and only the sixth time in their history.

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