EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Inevitably, Eli Manning was going to suffer the pains and hardships of the NFL. One huge serving of both struck the Giants’ rookie quarterback Friday night against the Jets.

Kurt Warner has emerged as a solid favorite to open the regular season in Philadelphia after Manning completed just four-of-14 passes for 20 yards with two interceptions, and handed the Jets a touchdown with his fumble in the 17-10 loss at Giants Stadium.

Warner was more respectable, completing nine-of-11 for 104 yards in improving his preseason passing rating to 80.2, almost twice Manning’s rating of 44.5.

“I never got in a groove,” Manning said of his poor outing. “I made some bad decisions and mental mistakes.

“You never assume a night like this is going to come and you hope it never comes. But I still know I have a lot to learn.” But I won’t dwell on this and stay upset, just see what the mistakes were and try to correct them.”

Warner refused to lay claim to the starting job. “I’m not concerned about that,” he said of Coughlin’s final decision. “I think I made progress. I thought we did a lot of good things, but we did turn the ball over and had a couple of near-misses.”

Warner opened the game with a 33-yard strike to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe off a play fake to Ron Dayne. He completed a pass to Amani Toomer for 7 yards and another to Tiki Barber for 17 as the Giants reached the Jets’ 14.

He threw another strike to Tim Carter for 8 more yards, but the wide receiver fumbled the ball away to kill that drive.

The Giants did cash in, however, after the defense held the Jets and Toby Gowin’s punt only got out to the Jets’ 32. Warner actually fumbled the ball away during the short scoring drive, but the play was negated by a penalty on Jets’ safety Jon McGraw. That allowed Dayne to score from 9 yards out to give the Giants a 7-0 lead.

Basically, however, that was the end of the Giants’ offense for the evening.

Jet blitzes befuddled the Giants’ offensive line all game, but Coughlin said that’s no excuse for the turnovers.

“The quarterbacks have to learn not to hold the ball out so it can get slapped away,” he said. “They’ve got to keep it tight to their body.”

Defensively, the Giants got some good play from young linebackers Reggie Torbor, Wesly Mallard, and Nick Greisen and a couple of big hits from safety Shaun Williams.

But cornerback Will Allen left the game with a sprained knee (he said it’s a mild sprain and nothing serious) and his running mate, Will Peterson, was hit with three penalty flags as the NFL officials continue to crack down on contact by defensive backs on receivers down the field.



(c) 2004, North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-08-28-04 0039EDT



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