- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
- 0 Shares
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Quinn's hunch became a reality.
All week, the New York Giants' special teams coach had stressed to the team, particularly rookie defensive end Damontre Moore, that a blocked punt was a possibility Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
Early in the first quarter, the Raiders lined up in the specific tight formation the Giants saw vulnerabilities in. Moore had an opportunity to prove his coach correct.
"He was like, you just get down there, fire off on the ball and do exactly what we say and you're going to get you a block," Moore said. "He was right once again."
Moore's blocked punt was returned for a touchdown and a tie game in the Giants' eventual 24-20 victory against the Raiders. Rookie safety Cooper Taylor returned the ball 21 yards for the score. It marked the Giants' first punt block for a touchdown since Sept. 5, 1988.
The play made up for an earlier special teams blunder when Jerrel Jernigan fumbled the opening kickoff, setting the Raiders up at the Giants' 5-yard line for the first touchdown of the game.
"It was big to get it locked at seven early," Taylor said. "When you have a play like that at the beginning of the game, it can definitely sway the momentum, but to have another big special-teams play like that, kind of redeem ourselves as a special-teams unit that early in the game, definitely helped us build confidence as the game went on."
The Giants' special teams unit has been up and down all season long, and that continued Sunday. Jernigan's fumble led to a Raiders touchdown just two plays later, and Giants punter Steve Weatherford averaged just 30.5 net yards per punt on the day, including having one deflected. Moore and Cooper's big play, however, redeemed the unit.
On the block, Moore busted through the Raiders 'line and hit Marquette King's punt with his forearm. The ball bounced toward the Oakland end zone before Taylor, with four other Giants nearby, scooped it up and took it to the house.
"I was so excited, just the way it happened, the way it unfolded, the time of the game, it changed the momentum," Taylor said. "No words can express. I was ecstatic. I loved every minute of it."
Moore, who also blocked a punt against the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the preseason, was excited to see Taylor return the block for the score.
"That's what really made happy. He was my roommate during training camp and we were really good friends. We had a really good bond," Moore said. "He scored and it was like a one-two punch, old roommates again. I think that was honestly what made it special."
Almost each week, it seems, the Giants' special teams units are involved in some type of highlight play. Most afternoons, the highlights usually show the Giants allowing a return for a touchdown. The unit had its mistakes Sunday, but this time the Giants made the biggest play.
"It's been a difficult year. But I think it's definitely a learning process," Taylor said. "A lot of guys are contributing every week on special teams trying to get better. I think that we're starting to show that we're a unit that can really, really make things happen."
3hBy Dan Graziano