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Jets’ Christian Hackenberg struggles vs. Giants, throws two pick-sixes

Jets quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg (5), Josh McCown (15)and Bryce

Jets quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg (5), Josh McCown (15)and Bryce Petty jog onto the field prior to a preseason game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 26, 2017. Credit: Alan J Schaefer

It’s called the Snoopy Bowl, but with apologies to MetLife’s former mascot, Saturday night’s matchup between the Giants and the Jets actually paid homage to another of Charles Schulz’s beloved characters. It was Charlie Brown, after all, who was tortured by a football.

Given the start by coach Todd Bowles, Christian Hackenberg showed definitively that he was unprepared to lead an NFL offense in the Jets’ 32-31 loss Saturday night. Then, after Bryce Petty relieved him and weaved together a brilliant performance, he too, suffered great pains.

With less two minutes left — and after having thrown three touchdown passes — Petty tripped over a falling Ben Braden and injured his knee. He stayed down, got tended to by trainers, and looked to be in significant pain when he tested his leg on the sideline. He will get an MRI on Sunday. Hackenberg did score a touchdown in those final minutes — on a 17-yard pass to Frankie Hammond — but it didn’t erase his earlier play. Elijah McGuire was stuffed on the two-point conversion attempt that would have given the Jets the lead with 1:26 left.

“Obviously, the first half is a bummer,” said Josh McCown, who, for the second straight game, did not play. “When you go out there and it doesn’t go as well as you’d like, it’s tough. But part of playing this position in the league is being able to bounce back from that, so I’m just really excited about this last drive under those circumstances . . . That’s huge.”

Hackenberg was sacked on his second play of the game and his second series resulted in a safety. With 4:52 left in the first quarter, he tipped his hand — staring down Eric Tomlinson before throwing to him. Lance Collins jumped the route for Hackenberg’s first pick-six of the night. He’d end the day with two. At the end of the first quarter, the Jets offense had managed negative two yards, and it somehow didn’t get much better after that.

By the time Hackenberg got pulled for Petty in the second half, his numbers were reminiscent of his last start of last season: a disastrous preseason performance against the Eagles. In Game 3 of this preseason — the dress rehearsal — he was 8-for-15 for 60 yards and two interceptions until he returned in the final two minutes for the hurt Petty. Hackenberg was also sacked three times behind an offensive line that appeared to have more holes than the moon’s surface. He ended up 12-for-21 for 126 yards and Bowles still did not rule him out as the Week 1 starter.

“Everyone has their own opinions on how growth is supposed to happen,” Hackenberg said. “You need to be able to take the good, take the bad, learn from the bad and build on the good . . . I think that’s what really defines you as a player and as a person, how you react to adversity.”

Still, the Jets’ puzzling quarterback situation could very well be headed into crisis mode. Bowles said earlier in the week that he would announce his Week 1 quarterback early next week, but Hackenberg’s struggles could put McCown in a difficult spot. McCown has played only one series this preseason and received limited reps in practice this week.

And after going 15-for-18 for 250 yards, including an 85-yard TD pass to Bilal Powell, Petty is now a question mark.

“It felt weird. It felt loose, which is obviously not something you want to feel as an athlete,” Petty said of his knee. “It’s just not stable.”

As for Hackenberg, the second-year quarterback at times looked lost during the first half. With 1:23 left in the second quarter, his pass to Anderson got jostled out by Landon Collins and intercepted by Donte Deayon, who returned it 36 yards to give the Giants a 29-3 lead. After that, it was almost all Petty — until, that is, the Jets lost their one bright spot.

“You’ve got to roll with it,” Petty said. “Shoot, that’s life. There’s a lot of things that happen that you don’t have answers for.”

Notes & quotes. Leonard Williams left the game midway through the second quarter with a sprained wrist. X-rays were negative . . . Despite returning to practice this week, outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (back) did not play. The Jets’ 2015 third-round draft pick hasn’t played in a single preseason game and his roster spot is potentially in jeopardy. Josh Martin started in his stead, while Jordan Jenkins has apparently locked up the other outside linebacker spot. He started as well . . . Juston Burris intercepted Eli Manning at second-and-10 on the Jets’ 28-yard line midway through the first quarter . . . Cornerback Morris Claiborne (shoulder) didn’t play, as expected. Tight ends Jordan Leggett and Jason Vander Laan were also out.

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