The story has been well told by now, and it’s likely to cost coach Ben McAdoo his job. Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive regular-season games ended. Smith started Sunday in a 24-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, while Manning spent most of the afternoon analyzing the play calls with rookie Davis Webb.
Smith was behind center, experiencing his fair share of ups and downs. It was almost exactly what you would expect from the former Jets quarterback — he made some good throws, moved around the pocket well, but also turned the ball over. Call it the story of his career, so far.
The Giants offense did look different with Smith instead of Manning. But, the results were similar. They came into the game averaging 15.6 points per game. They scored 17 against a porous Raiders defense.
The Giants (2-10) came into Sunday with the third-fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards. They had three against the Raiders, two in the second half.
Smith finished 21-of-34 for 212 yards with a touchdown and two turnovers. He began slowly, starting his second game in three seasons. It was the first game that Smith started and finished since the 2014 season.
The Giants went three-and-out on each of their first three possessions before Smith went 4-of-5 passing for 54 yards on the fourth possession, which ended with an Orleans Darkwa touchdown run.
It was the Giants’ first touchdown drive of more than 20 yards in two and a half games.
The difference between Manning and Smith was evident in the first half. The more mobile Smith was able to salvage some plays with his legs, even if it involved avoiding pressure before throwing the ball out of bounds.
But then there were the turnovers — two sack/fumbles in the first half. The first appeared to be on a play where Smith did not see the Raiders blitzing from his blind side. The Giants were outnumbered, and Bruce Irvin came off the edge to force a fumble.
The second turnover came after a big special teams play gave the Giants the ball in the red zone late in the first half. But rookie right tackle Chad Wheeler was inexplicably matched 1-on-1 on the outside against Pro Bowl defensive end Khalil Mack. Mack beat Wheeler quickly, and it resulted in Smith getting hit from behind and fumbling.
Turnovers have always been the problem for Smith. He came into Sunday with 43 turnovers in 34 career games.
Smith’s TD toss came on a 10-yard bullet over the middle to rookie tight end Evan Engram. It was Smith’s fourth touchdown pass in the past three seasons, and his first with the Giants. It wasn’t enough to silence the critics who wanted Manning to remain the starter.