The Jacksonville Jaguars' starting unit faded after a fast start, but their second and third teams rallied at the end for a 32-21 win over the New York Giants in both teams preseason opener Friday night at EverBank Field.
Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert was sharp, directing an 89-yard touchdown drive in 13 plays on the Jaguars' first series. But that was the extent of his success as the next two drives were halted by lost fumbles, the second one by Gabbert.
Gabbert was 5 of 10 for 62 yards and a touchdown pass on the opening drive in the first quarter.
"That's the way you want to start football games," Gabbert said. "Not everything was perfect, but the biggest thing that matters is getting a touchdown."
"I was extremely proud of Blaine tonight," said Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey, who was awarded the game ball by the team after his coaching debut in Jacksonville. "No more pressure on him than anybody in the stadium when he walked into that huddle. And to take a team 90 yards and the things he did on third down. To do it all right and not do anything self-inflicted and move the ball down there against that defense, I was very proud of him."
Giants QB Eli Manning only played two series and produced three points before taking the rest of the night off. He was 4 of 8 for 60 yards and a passer rating of 75.0. The Giants were forced to punt in their first series, but Manning directed a drive into the red zone on the next series before settling for a field goal.
New York (No. 3 in the AP Pro32) built a 17-point first half lead, but Jacksonville (No. 31 in the AP Pro32) responded with an 18-point second half to earn the victory.
The Giants had two fumbled punt returns -- both inside the 10-yard line and led to 10 points by the Jaguars. Jayron Hosley fumbled the first punt, dropping the kick at the 2-yard line with 32 seconds left in the first half.
The Jaguars recovered and two plays later, Chad Henne connected with Brian Robiskie for a 2-yard score to cut the Giants' lead to 24-14 at the half.
Another mistake came in the fourth quarter when New York was protecting a 31-21 lead. Jerrel Jernigan dropped Bryan Anger's punt at the 9-yard line with Antwon Blake recovering for the Jaguars.
Jacksonville got to the 5, but a 10-yard penalty pushed it back to the 15. The Jaguars had to settle for Josh Scobee's 29-yard field goal to cut the Giants lead to 31-24 with 7:19 left.
The Giants went three and out, had to punt and the Jaguars (No. 31) went 64 yards in five plays and then added a 2-point conversion for the win.
"The No. 1 thing is ball security as a punt returner," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "The first thing you have to do is catch the ball. We also have a lot of people who quite frankly don't know what they're doing."
"They may have some talent and ability, but they're going to have to spend some more time trying to figure out how to do what we're asking them to do."
Coughlin said he felt that Jernigan took his eye off the ball which resulted in his botched catch.
"Give credit to the punter. He punts the ball very, very high," Coughlin said. "But all you have to do is signal fair catch and concentrate totally on catching the ball. You don't have to go through all that."
After Manning's two series, backup quarterback David Carr took over and led the Giants to a pair of scores following Jacksonville's two fumbles.
He connected with tight end Martellus Bennett from 12 yards and late in the first half, teamed with wide receiver Isaiah Stanback for a 5-yard TD completion.
Manning produced three points in his two series in the first quarter. He finished 4 for 8 for 60 yards and a quarterback rating of 75.0.