EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants’ defense is in midseason form, while Eli Manning and the offense are finally showing signs of life.
With roughly two weeks to go until the season opener, the Giants are ready. The Jets aren’t.
Landon Collins and Donte Deayon scored on interception returns, Jason Pierre-Paul recorded a safety and the offense got its first touchdown as the Giants turned the annual game for the braggin’ rights of New York into an early laugher and late thriller with a 32-31 win Saturday night.
“We are just trying to make some plays, make game-changing plays,” Collins said of the defense that carried the Giants last season.
After failing to score a touchdown in their first two preseason games, the Giants (1-2) got three in the first half against the Jets (1-2) in opening a 29-3 lead against the franchise with whom they are the co-owners of MetLife Stadium.
Defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said everything was working in the first half.
“We scored points on defense, and to be the defense we want to be that’s where we need to go,” Casillas said. “Creating turnovers, wreaking havoc in the backfield and putting a lot of pressure on quarterbacks, we did that today.”
Jets coach Todd Bowles said the turnovers were the difference.
“We gave them about 16 points on offense and we were out of our gaps two times on defense and that led to some big runs,” Bowles said. “But I’m proud of the way they fought back in the second half. Petty played well in the second half.”
The Jets actually had a chance to win after starter Christian Hackenberg took over for an injured Bryce Petty with 2:00 to play and finished off a 75-yard touchdown drive with a 17-yard pass to Frankie Hammond with 1:26 left. Bowles went for the win, but the Giants stopped a 2-point run by rookie Elijah McGuire.
Even more impressive was the Giants played without top receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (shoulder), who were hurt on Monday night in a loss in Cleveland.
“I feel like this offense is going to be as good as we make it,” receiver Sterling Shepard said. “We did a good job of moving the ball tonight.”
The starting defense was outstanding.
Collins stepped in front of Hackenberg’s pass in the final five minutes of the first quarter and high-stepped 23 yards into the end zone to give the Giants a 12-0 lead. Pierre-Paul had opened the scoring by tackling Matt Forte for a 3-yard loss and a safety two plays after Manning was intercepted at the 3-yard line by Juston Burris.
Deayon scored on a 38-yard run down the right sideline after cornerback Janoris Jenkins put a big hit on Robby Anderson and Hackenberg’s pass popped in the air and was grabbed by Deayon.
“Obviously, the two interceptions can’t happen,” said Hackenberg, who finished 12 of 21 for 126 yards. “Those are things that I’ve got to look back at on tape, but I thought with the exception of the slow start and those two plays, there were some good things sprinkled in there.”
Manning completed 7 of 14 passes for 121 yards in a quarter of work. His last drive included passes of 31 yards to Shepard and 17 to Roger Lewis Jr. Orleans Darkwa scored from 1 yard on Manning’s final play.
Mike Nugent added field goals of 50 and 54 yards for the Giants, while Aldrick Rosas converted from 24 yards.
Petty (15 of 18 for 250 yards) made the game respectable for the Jets in the second half, sandwiching TD passes of 25 and 15 yards to ArDarius Stewart around an 85-yard touchdown catch and run by running back Bilal Powell. He also had a 2-point pass to Chad Hansen.
Petty injured his knee, tripping over fallen offensive lineman Ben Braden after throwing a pass.
“It kind of felt weird, it felt loose, which is not something you want to feel as an athlete,” said Petty, who will have an MRI on Sunday.
Hackenberg, who had failed to generate any points in his first 17 possessions, had gotten the Jets on the board by setting up Chandler Catanzaro’s 27-yard field goal with a 10-play drive.
ROSTER UPDATES: Giants starting right tackle John Jerry may have lost his job after allowing an early hit on Manning that resulted in an interception by Burris. Brett Jones replaced Jerry on the next series, while D.J. Fluker got some snaps in the second quarter. … Giants rookie free agent Travis Rudolph has been a major surprise in camp and he may have nailed down a roster spot with a 57-yard leaping catch and run on a night he had three catches for 81 yards. … Stewart had five catches for 82 yards for the Jets and Forte had 10 carries for 43 yards.
INJURY UPDATE: Both teams had a starting defensive lineman hurt. The Jets saw end Leonard Williams leave with a wrist injury in the first quarter. Bowles said it was sore and he was not concerned. The Giants had tackle Jay Bromley leave with a sprained knee, an injury that might make rookie Dalvin Tomlinson a starter for the opener against Dallas. Giants CB Eli Apple did not play in the second half because of an ankle injury. He missed the game against Cleveland because of an ankle issue. … Other Giants injuries: RB Shaun Draughn (possible concussion), S Duke Ihenacho (knee), G Adam Gettis (foot).