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Giants' offense not sharp in win over Steelers

Giants wide receiver Corey Washington makes a catch

Giants wide receiver Corey Washington makes a catch for a touchdown against Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Isaiah Green in the fourth quarter of a preseason NFL game, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: AP / Bill Kostroun

The Giants won, which is good. But that's not the level of satisfaction they are looking for.

"We want to be great," running back Rashad Jennings said.

So far, through two preseason games and a total of seven offensive series with Eli Manning at quarterback, the Giants' new offense has yet to approach that level.

In Saturday night's 20-16 win over the Steelers at MetLife Stadium, the starters were on the field for four drives. One of them lasted only one play, and it was the best of the night: a 73-yard touchdown run by Jennings through what might have been the largest hole a Giants running back has seen since 2012. The other three series lasted a total of 11 offensive snaps and accumulated 6 yards.

"The production should have been better," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We certainly do have some things to work on."

Most pressingly, it would seem, in the passing game. Manning had only three drop-backs in the game. He was sacked once and threw two incompletions. One of them was a throwaway to avoid a sack as he rolled to his right and could not find any open targets.

For the second game in a row, Manning did not even look in the direction of Victor Cruz or Rueben Randle. Randle later caught a pass from Ryan Nassib, but Cruz remains untargeted as a receiver through two preseason games and seven offensive series.

"We still have three games to go," Coughlin said of the preseason. "[Cruz] gets plenty of balls in practice, etc., etc."

Though it is far too early to worry about what the new Ben McAdoo-designed offense will be like when the regular season begins in less than a month, it was clear that Saturday night, the Giants took a step backward -- both literally and figuratively.

"I didn't think we were real effective," Manning said. "After that [touchdown run], we just had some penalties, had sacks. We kept going backward and couldn't really get anything going. We have to find ways to be more efficient and avoid the negative plays."

The touchdown run by Jennings showed what the offense can do. Center J.D. Walton and left guard Geoff Schwartz opened a hole and right guard Brandon Mosley pulled across and sealed the lane for Jennings to go through. Will Allen was the last Steeler to have a chance at the tackle, diving just beyond the line of scrimmage. After that, it was just Jennings winning the race to the end zone.

"It was a well-executed play," he said. "Eli made sure we were in the right play. It was a hat on a hat, a gaping hole in the offensive line."

That touchdown gave the Giants a 7-3 lead. They made it 10-3 on Josh Brown's 45-yard field goal, as the Giants could not take full advantage of a poor punt after which they started their drive at the Steelers' 35 with Nassib at quarterback. Brandon McManus made it 13-3 with a 46-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the first half.

Charles James II muffed a punt in the third quarter that led to a Steelers field goal and Pittsburgh kicked another three-pointer with 14:01 left in the game to make it 13-9. An incomplete screen pass from Nassib for Michael Cox was ruled a lateral and scooped up by Howard Jones for a 28-yard return and a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 16-13 lead with 10:16 remaining. Third-string quarterback Curtis Painter led a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a 3-yard pass to Corey Washington with 2:50 left. It was the second week in a row that Washington caught what turned out to be a game-winning touchdown pass.

The final score, though, is the most meaningless of the preseason observations. This time of year is more about feel. Confidence. Progress. The Giants' starting offense seemed to be out of whack.

"It does need to have more rhythm, it does need to have more speed with it," Coughlin said. "We have some more time to work on that."

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