DETROIT -- The game would eventually get closer, and the two New York Giants drives that ended with Eli Manning interceptions were candidates for this week's honor. But the very first drive of the very first game of this Giants season gets the nod here because of what it felt like and what it symbolized.
The Giants spent big on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie during their free-agent spending spree in March because (a) the Jets were trying to get him too, and (b) they thought for some reason he was the type of corner they could assign to the other team's top wide receiver every week in single coverage. Their first test of this came in Monday night's season opener, and it could not have been a tougher test.
The Lions' top receiver is Calvin Johnson, the unquestioned best in the game at his job, a 6-foot-5, 236-pound specimen who can reasonably consider himself a mismatch against any corner on the planet. The Giants decided to cover him with Rogers-Cromartie, plus some occasional help, and it was a disaster from the start.
First of all, Rodgers-Cromartie struggled to find the big guy. He lined up on the against him on the first two plays when Johnson was on the right side of the Lions' formation, but when Johnson moved to the left side on the third play, Rodgers-Cromartie spotted him late and found Prince Amukamara already on him. So he moved back left and covered someone else. Matthew Stafford looked for Johnson on Amukamara and found him for 24 yards, but the play was overturned because Johnson had run out of bounds prior to the catch.
Anyway, two plays later, Johnson went up the right sideline and for some reason Rodgers-Cromartie let him go. The safety, Stevie Brown, did not stay with him, instead colliding with Rodgers-Cromartie on a clumsy play while Johnson sailed out as open as he's been since high school, with no defender within 20 yards of him. Stafford had to elude a rushing Damontre Moore on the play, but he did, and he easily found Johnson downfield for the 67-yard touchdown that touched off the 35-14 rout.