The New York Giants (3-2) erased the bad taste in their mouths from the Philadelphia loss with Sunday’s 41–27 dismissal of the Cleveland Browns (0-5) on a day that saw Coughlin’s Giants run for 243 yards.
“What was really impressive was the running game and thank goodness we got that going,” said head coach Tom Coughlin, according to the Giants’ website. “Bradshaw had a big day, but he walked into the locker room and gave credit to the offensive line, which did a really outstanding job.”
Bradshaw certainly should have after running for a career-high 200 yards on 30 carries. In addition, rookie running back David Wilson totaled 44 yards on his two carries—including a 40-yard blast up the middle untouched into the end zone for the Giants final score.
“He broke some arms and he was gone before you could blink an eye,” said Coughlin regarding the team’s first-round pick.
The day actually didn’t start well for the Giants’ backs though. Bradshaw fumbled away the ball on the first play from scrimmage after teammate Chris Snee collided with him, as the Giants looked lost early on.
“I stayed hard on myself after the fumble and I wanted to use it with the ball in my hand and I just ran angry today,” said Bradshaw. “I’m mad at myself for the fumble.”
With the ball at the Giants’ 22 the Browns handed off the ball to rookie Trent Richardson on consecutive plays, the second of which was a 15-yarder up the middle that ended in the end zone. The score put Cleveland up 7–0, just 52 seconds into the game.
The talented Richardson would finish with 81 tough yards on 17 carries. He also caught five passes for 47 yards.
After a Giants’ punt followed five plays later by a 62-yard touchdown pass from rookie Brandon Weeden to Josh Gordon gave the winless Brown a 14–0 lead, second-string running back Andre Brown hit his head hard on the turf on the ensuing kickoff. Brown, who has 198 yards on 38 carries this season did not return.
“It didn’t start out the way we wanted to, but along the way it got a lot better,” said Coughlin of his team’s slow start.
Now down a pair of touchdowns, Eli Manning with Bradshaw led the team on an 11-play, 92-yard drive to cut the deficit to 14–7. Manning found Cruz in the end zone for the team’s first score.
After the teams traded field goals on their ensuing possessions the Browns, which had been moving the ball with ease from the get-go, mounted another drive into Giants’ territory. But on third-and-one from New York’s 25, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was picked off by safety Stevie Brown, who returned the ball all the way to Cleveland’s 40.
“I should’ve airmailed it; let Phil (Dawson) kick a field goal,” said Weeden.
The play would be the momentum-changer the Giants needed.
On the very next play Manning found Rueben Randle down the sideline for 36 yards to Cleveland’s four-yard line. Bradshaw ran it the very next play to tie the game at 17.
The Giants weren’t done though. On the kickoff that followed, Will Hill stripped Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs and the fumble was recovered by safety Stevie Brown at Cleveland’s 29. Five plays later Manning found Victor Cruz in the end zone again to put New York up 24–17 with just over a minute before halftime.
The Giants still weren’t done though.
After forcing a quick punt on Cleveland’s next possession the New York caught a break when Browns cornerback Buster Skrine was called for pass interference at the Browns’ 22 with just four seconds until halftime. After Tynes kicked home the 40-yarder, the Giants took a 27–17 halftime lead, having scored four times in just under seven minutes.
The Browns would never be within 10 points the rest of the way. Manning found Cruz for a 28-yard touchdown on the Giants’ first possession of the second half to extend it to a 34–17 cushion. The hookup was the third time that Manning and Cruz connected for a touchdown on the day.
“He has a great feel for what teams are trying to do, so he adjusts his route and runs it differently to get open,” said Manning of Cruz.
The Giants will have to do some adjusting of their own next week as they travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. Another slow start won’t get it done there.
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