SETH WENIG / AP Enlarge
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The New York Giants won the Super Bowl with defense, and they kicked off defense of that title with more of the same.
Playing without Pro Bowl linemen Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, New York limited the new-look Washington Redskins to 11 first downs and 209 total yards and gave indications that these Giants are back for another run in a 16-7 victory that ushered in the NFL season last night.
"We played well, and it's no surprise to us," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "We feel like we got capable guys, and we held them for very few yards other than the two-minute situations where they got most of their yardage. We are confident in our defense and feel like if we stick with the scheme we'll have success all year."
Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress, and the rest of the offense that started the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots also came up big in spoiling the debut of Redskins coach Jim Zorn and his West Coast offense.
Manning capped a game-opening 84-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run, and recently signed John Carney kicked three field goals as the Giants scored on their first four possessions in posting a rare home win. They won their final 11 away from Giants Stadium in capturing their third Super Bowl, but they were 3-5 at home, losing the last four games.
The win capped a fun-filled opening night for Giants fans, who saw the retired Strahan hold up the Lombardi Trophy just minutes before the opening kickoff.
"It was a great opening to the season," said Manning, who completed 19 of 35 for 216 yards and an interception. "There was a lot of emotion, a lot of excitement. You could feel it in the crowd. It was great to see Michael holding the trophy.
"It was a great crowd. They were fired up. It was good to play well at home and to win a game at home. It's been a while."
Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his defense made sure the home woes came to an end. In the process he might have made Redskins owner Dan Synder think twice about trying harder to hire him.
Spagnuolo was a serious candidate to replace Joe Gibbs until backing out to stay with the Giants.
Zorn eventually got the job, but his offense did little against Spagnuolo's aggressive defense, which limited Washington to three of 13 third-down conversions.
Jason Campbell threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss with 13 seconds to play in the first half to account for the Redskins' points. The score was set up by a Giants' special teams lapse, a 50-yard kickoff return by Rock Cartwright.
Washington only got in New York territory three times in the game, the last time in the final seconds.
"A team held us to three and out for over half the game," said Redskins halfback Clinton Portis, who had 84 yards on 23 carries. "We have to be better than that."
The only concern for the Giants was that defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka went down with an ankle injury on the final play, but he said after the game that he was OK. He was switched from linebacker to end when Umenyiora was lost for the season with a knee injury in the preseason.
Other than that the game belonged to the Giants, who have been overlooked when it comes to their chances of repeating. Their odds were 25-1 heading into the game.
"We are not worried about what people are saying," middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "We are trying to win games. You have to get to the Super Bowl to repeat, and if we don't make the playoffs if won't matter."
Manning, Burress (10 catches for 133 yards), and halfback Brandon Jacobs (21 carries for 116 yards) had the fans on their feet time for most of the first half.
Manning completed passes of 30, 19, and 11 yards to Burress, who signed a two-year contract extension just hours before the game that will pay him an average of $7 million annually for the next five years.
Burress more than earned his money on the 11-play opening drive. His 11-yard catch got the ball close, and Manning scored on a naked rollout one play after a pass-interference penalty gave New York a first-and-goal at the 1.
Carney, signed on Saturday after a knee injury sidelined Lawrence Tynes, kicked a 24-yard field goal to push the lead to 10-0 on the Giants' second possession. It capped a nine-play, 45-yard drive that featured a bruising 17-yard run by Jacobs.
The Giants' defense, which led the league with 53 sacks last season, contributed to the score by forcing Washington to a three-and-out series in Zorn's debut of the West Coast offense.
Justin Tuck, who replaced Strahan at left end, started the series, with a sack.
Carney's 25-yarder was set up by a 23-yard pass to Sinorice Moss, Santana's brother. The drive for the third field goal was highlighted by a 24-yard run by Jacobs.
Campbell finished 15-of-27 for 133 yards, but he was very ineffective on third down. Washington had the ball for less than 25 minutes.
"The thing that hurt us was not converting those first downs when we had the opportunity," Zorn said. "We had third-and-6 and we'd made 5. We'd have third-and-9 and make 8 1/2. We'd have third-and-7 and make 6. We just couldn't get over that line."40.83455 -74.09835