By Michael Avallone
Mother Nature still says it’s summer, but the calendar is definitely tipping in fall’s favor. With that in mind, the New York Giants and New York Jets hit the gridiron on Sunday to open the 2005 NFL season.
Big Blue had the honor of hosting the Arizona Cardinals and old friend Kurt Warner while Gang Green took their Super Bowl hopes to the Midwest to face the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Jets seemed ill-prepared and out-of-sync for their first game of the year, collecting only a late-fourth quarter touchdown to avoid the embarrassment of getting shutout by the Chiefs. Kansas City rolled to a 27-0 bulge before backup QB Jay Fiedler pushed Gang Green into the endzone with 1:35 to go. At the Meadowlands, the Giants played a horrendous first half against the visiting Cardinals, and entered the intermission trailing by six. But a huge third quarter – highlighted by special teams – thrust New York to largest point total since December 22, 2002.
A few tidbits from each game:
The Giants’ opening-day record is 46-30-5, including a 6-1 mark against the Cardinals on opening day. Their only loss came during the 1961 opener.
The 42-19 pasting was their highest opening-day total since Sept. 19, 1971, when they defeated the Packers in Green Bay, 42-40.
The 23-point margin of victory was Big Blue’s largest since a 37-7 victory over Dallas on December 15, 2002.
After scoring just a touchdown during the first half, New York exploded for 35 points following the intermission — The Giants scored 35 points in the second half, their highest total in any half since they scored 35 points in the first two quarters at Houston on Dec. 8, 1985.
Six different players scored touchdowns for the Giants – RB Tiki Barber, RB Brandon Jacobs, TE Jeremy Shockey, WR Plaxico Burress, KR Willie Ponder and PR Chad Morton.
The Cardinals finished with 31 net rushing yards, the lowest total by a Giants opponent since the Redskins ran for 29 yards on December 3, 2000.
Morton’s punt return touchdown was the Giants’ since Barber ran back an 85-yarder against Dallas on Oct. 18, 1999, 91 regular season games ago.
Ponder’s kickoff return (98 yards) as well as Morton’s punt return (69 yards) TDs marked the first time the Giants tallied both in the same game since Oct. 30, 1955 at Washington.
QB Eli Manning’s opening-drive TD pass to Shockey was the longest of his brief career, surpassing a 15-yard strike last season.
P Jeff Feagles has now punted more times than any player in NFL history, tallying six on Sunday to pass former Giant Sean Landeta. Feagles’ total now stands at 1,370.
WR Amani Toomer did not catch a pass, ending his streak of consecutive games played with at least one reception at 98. The last time Toomer played and did not catch a pass was December 6, 1998 – also against the Cardinals.
Next weeks game against the New Orleans Saints – originally scheduled in the Big Easy before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast – will be played at the Meadowlands instead as part of a Monday night doubleheader of sorts. With the Saints (1-0) coming off an emotional opening day win at Carolina, the Giants (1-0) will have their hands full with a team intent on lifting a fallen region on its back.
TE Chris Baker, made his first career start with the Jets one to remember, grabbing seven balls for 124 yards, including a 23-yard TD pass with just over a minute to play in the game It was the first 100-yard receiving day by a Jets tight end since Johnny Mitchell turned the trick against New England in December, 1995..
Rookie KR Justin Miller impressed Gang Green in his debut, averaging 30.3 yards on six kickoff returns, including a 50-yarder at the end of the first half.
QB Chad Pennington completed five of his six first quarter passes for 65 yards, but things would only get worse from there. Pennington fumbled a career-high six times, losing three. The Jets quarterback fumbled only four times in 13 games last year.
New CB Ty Law prevented further damage when he picked off his first pass as a Jet on a third quarter endzone attempt.
Rookie K Mike Nugent might want to forget his first NFL field goal attempt. The youngster slipped on a 28-yard try early in the third allowing the Chiefs to block his first professional kick.
While the 27-7 loss was ugly, maybe it shouldn’t have been unexpected. An offseason of change produced 18 new players on the current New York roster. A whopping 35% of them were not with the team in 2004. C Kevin Mawae made his 172 straight regular season start (his 113th with the Jets), which is the longest streak among active NFL centers.
WR Wayne Chrebet (568) had three receptions and passed former San Francisco 49ers RB Roger Craig (566) into 51 st on the all-time receptions list. The Hofstra product needs just two more to pass Chicago Bear WR Mark Carrier for 50th.
P Ben Graham became the oldest rookie to ever start a season in the NFL at the tender age of 31. He averaged 44.3 yards on three punts, including a 51-yard boot.
Head Coach Herm Edwards, now beginning his fifth season as the head coach of the Jets, owns a 35-26 record as the skipper of the Gang Green. The 35 wins represent the fourth-most victories among head coaches in team history. With five more wins, Edwards will pass Walt Michaels (39) for third in Jets history.
If you’re the Jets (0-1), forgetting about Week 1 would be the best way to prepare for Week 2. Nick Saban and his 1-0 Miami Dolphins will invade the Meadowlands for game two of the season on Sunday. Miami is coming off an impressive 34-10 victory against the Denver Broncos, so it will be interesting to see how Gang Green bounces back from such a poor showing in an important, early-season matchup.