DETROIT — Last week Davis Webb was too amped up. Now his fans and supporters get a chance to be.
The second-year quarterback settled down from a disappointing performance in the opener against the Browns to look composed, sharp and productive in the first half of Friday night’s 30-17 win against the Lions at Ford Field. The “what if” scenario that the Giants and their fans have feared for the better part of the past decade and a half in regard to Eli Manning’s health and availability was reduced to Defcon 4.
“I kind of hit the restart button on things after last week, changed my pregame routine, and played it more calm cool and collected,” Webb said. “I just needed to figure out how I wanted to play football, at a smooth, calm level.”
Said Giants coach Pat Shurmur, “I was happy about the way Davis Webb responded as a starter. I think he made improvement from last week to this week. He had a much better night...I think he was calmer tonight.”
It all began with the most fortunate incompletion Webb has thrown as a Giant.
Starting at the Giants’ 21, Webb was drilled and coughed up the football for what was initially called a fumble that was recovered by the Lions at the 1. The play was overturned, though, and ruled an incompletion because Webb’s arm was moving forward when the ball came loose. Webb and the offense returned to field and embarked on a 17-play, 79-yard drive that lasted nine minutes and likely cemented Webb’s precarious role as the team’s backup quarterback.
The drive really got going when, after pushed back by a penalty, Webb threw a laser to Sterling Shepard down the left sideline for a 27-yard gain on third-and-17 from the 14. Then he drilled Cody Latimer for a 15-yard gain to bring the Giants to the 32.
Few ever doubted Webb’s arm strength, but he was able to show a delicate touch on a third-and-7 pass to Evan Engram running across the field, lofting the ball softly for a first down to the 22. On fourth-and-1 from the 13, Webb ran a successful quarterback sneak. The Giants reached the 1 on a pass interference penalty in the end zone and Webb capped the drive with another well-paced intermediate pass, an 8-yarder to Wayne Gallman for Webb’s first professional touchdown of any kind.
“That was the Davis Webb I’m used to seeing,” Shurmur said.
It wasn’t a flawless drive, but it gave an accurate portrait of what the Giants had been seeing from Webb before last week’s setback: A highly competitive quarterback who trusts his arm and is able to rebound from adversity.
Webb was 8-for-10 for 66 yards on the drive. Starting in place of Manning, who saw plenty of work during the week’s joint practices with the Lions and sat this one out, Webb played the entire first half and finished 14-for-20 for 140 yards with a passer rating of 106.2. He did it without the Giants’ two top playmakers as well, as Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley (hamstring) both watched from the sideline. His longest connection was a 40-yarder that he dropped right into the arms of Russell Shepard (who later left the game with a finger injury).
The Giants went ahead 10-3 on a 55-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas late in the second quarter, then pulled away when third-string quarterback Kyle Lauletta scrambled left and cut back for a 10-yard TD run. The score that made it 17-3 was set up by Ray-Ray Armstrong’s interception off Matt Cassel. Gallman and Robert Martin each had TD runs in the fourth quarter for the Giants with fellow running back Jalen Simmons out with a concussion.
Notes & quotes: Although they did not play in the game, Manning and Beckham spent extra time together on the field during warmups. The two have spent a good deal of time working on their chemistry. “Instead of just saying, ‘Here’s a route, run it,’ it’s ‘Here’s a route, this is the coverage, this is the technique,’ ” Manning said this week about their extra work. “You make sure he is seeing things the same way, so we are expecting the same thing, so you can coach it up after” … Davis wasn’t the only Webb who had a good game. Cornerback B.W. Webb was the starting nickel cornerback and played well enough to set himself apart in the battle for that job … Defensive lineman Kerry Wynn had a sack and several big special teams tackles and should be a valuable role player for the Giants in both regards this season.