DETROIT – Even when the New York Giants finally scored their first touchdown, they needed four plays to reach the end zone from a yard out.
And that was one of the highlights.
Eli Manning was intercepted twice, and the Giants lost to the Detroit Lions 35-14 on Monday night in a game New York never led. Matthew Stafford improvised brilliantly on two early touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson, and Jim Caldwell won his debut as Detroit's coach.
Manning was 18 of 33 for 163 yards and a touchdown.
"No excuses. We played very poorly," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We don't have a lot to be proud of here. Couldn't move the ball, couldn't stop them, turned the ball over, got into that business again. Got a punt blocked, so you name it. It was a nightmare performance."
The Giants missed the playoffs last season, thanks mostly to an 0-6 start. They were eager to begin on a better note against the Lions, but barely five minutes into the game, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul went down with a neck injury. He was able to walk off the field, but he was taken in for X-rays.
Pierre-Paul was back in the game in the second quarter, but New York never caught up after Detroit scored two touchdowns in the first.
With first-and-goal from the 1 in the second, Manning threw two incompletions. After a running play went nowhere, Manning finally threw a 1-yard scoring pass to Larry Donnell on fourth down.
That made it 14-7, but the Lions scored the next 13 points.
The Giants revamped their secondary in the offseason, but Stafford took advantage of a couple big breakdowns. In the third quarter, he found Golden Tate for a 44-yard gain on third-and-11, which led to a field goal.
Detroit's secondary, meanwhile, looked solid despite an injury that kept newly acquired safety James Ihedigbo out of the game. Glover Quin's interception in the third helped set up Stafford's 5-yard touchdown scramble that made it 27-7.
Although his coach was displeased after the game, Manning remained fairly upbeat.
"I'm not concerned," he said. "From that first game is where you'll learn the most. Looking at a full game and a lot of plays we'll go back and dissect and it'll be great for me to learn where I need to improve, where I need to get better."
Stafford went 22 of 32 for 346 yards. Johnson had seven catches for 164 yards.
Stafford scrambled to his right and threw deep to Johnson on the game's first drive, and defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Stevie Brown appeared to collide. Nobody else on the Giants was anywhere near Detroit's star receiver, who was able to jog into the end zone for a 67-yard touchdown.
Later in the first, Stafford scrambled to his left, and then threw back to his right. Johnson made a diving catch in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard TD.
"When Matt breaks the pocket, I know I have to keep working, because he can put the ball anywhere on the field," Johnson said. "We worked out together a lot during the offseason, and we did a lot of footwork drills. You can see that it is paying off for him. He's making moves."
Lions rookie Nate Freese made a 28-yard field goal early in the third to make it 17-7, after an interception by DeAndre Levy gave the Lions the ball at the New York 18. Freese added a 27-yarder later that quarter.
"We could have definitely performed better than we did tonight," Manning said. "There's no reason for the turnovers. That's not part of the offense and there's no reason to have those. And besides that there were some other opportunities to make plays and we just didn't make them."
Rashad Jennings scored on a 1-yard run for New York in the fourth, but Detroit's Joique Bell answered with a 3-yard scoring run and the Lions added a 2-point conversion.
NOTES: Giants LB Devon Kennard hurt his hamstring. Lions OT LaAdrian Waddle went down with a calf injury, and CB Bill Bentley hurt his knee. ... There was a pregame ceremony honoring William Clay Ford, who owned the Lions until he died in March. His widow Martha — who took over control of the franchise — and their four children received a game ball after the win.
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