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Champs Open Up Pre-Season

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Giants parade:  Eli Manning (Al Bello/Getty Images Sport)

Giants parade: Eli Manning (Al Bello/Getty Images Sport)

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting
unit faded after a fast start. The New York Giants were the
opposite, scoring on four consecutive series after being stopped on
their opening drive.

Eli Manning only played two series and produced three points,
and backup quarterback David Carr was impressive with a pair of
second-quarter touchdown passes, but the Jaguars (No. 31 in the AP
Pro32) used an 18-point second-half to squeak out a 32-31 win over
the visiting Giants in the preseason opener for both teams.

Manning was 4 of 8 for 60 yards and a passer rating of 75.0 in
his first game since leading the Giants (No. 3) to a win over New
England in the Super Bowl in February. 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.

Manning’s best throw was a 28-yard completion to Victor Cruz to
the 23. But he threw two incompletions in the next three plays and
the Giants settled for a Lawrence Tynes’ 34-yard field goal as
Manning’s night came to an end.

Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert was the better of the
two quarterbacks in the first quarter, directing an 89-yard
touchdown drive in 13 plays on the Jaguars’ first series. After
overthrowing Marcedes Lewis on his first pass attempt, Gabbert
completed 4 of 6 passes for 51 yards, capped by a 3-yard TD toss to
Cecil Shorts III.

All four of his pass completions came on third-down situations.
The first three resulted in first downs and the fourth was a
touchdown. That drew the praise of Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey.

“I was extremely proud of Blaine tonight,” said Mularkey, who
was awarded the game ball by the team in 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.”

But that one drive was the extent of Gabbert’s success. The
Jaguars’ Cecil Shorts fumbled at the end of end-around run on the
first play of the next series. Gabbert gave it up on the next
series. He was sacked by Adrian Tracy and fumbled with the Giants
Jason Pierre-Paul recovering on the Jaguars’ 47.

It was reminiscent of some of Gabbert’s deficiencies in his
rookie season a year ago. That’s when he was sacked 40 times in 15
games and he lost five fumbles, third most ever by a Jaguars
quarterback.

“The biggest thing is that I’ve got to protect the football,”
Gabbert said. “We can’t afford to fumble away the ball on
back-to-back drives like that when the regular season comes
around.”

Carr took advantage of the Jaguars’ two miscues to lead the
Giants to a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter. He connected
with tight end Martellus Bennett from 12 yards out and late in the
half, teamed with wide receiver Isaiah Stanback for a 5-yard TD
completion.

“This is a system that I’m comfortable with and that helps
especially since we have a lot of young guys that are learning,”
Carr said. “For me to go out and do some good things, that way, I
can take more of a leadership role. You tend to play better when
you’ve got a lot of young guys around you.”

There were plenty of young players on the field in the fourth
quarter when the game was decided. Both teams’ special teams gifted
the opponent by fumbling away punts inside the 15-yard line. New
York recovered the muffed catch by Mike Brown at the 12 and after a
penalty scored on a 6-yard pass play from Ryan Perrilloux to Rueben
Randle.

But the Giants returned the favor, coughing up two punts, one at
the 9-yard line, which the Jaguars turned into a field goal, and
another at the 32 that led to the game-winning drive.

Third-string quarterback Jordan Palmer led the TD march with
running back Keith Toston taking it in from 9 yards out with 2
minutes left in the game.

The Jaguars then went for two with Palmer connecting with tight
end Matt Veldman for the winning points.

“The number one thing is ball security as a punt returner,”
bemoaned Giants coach Tom Coughlin. “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.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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