By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — It didn't matter if it was Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow at quarterback. The New York Jets could do little against the New York Giants' relentless defense.
Rookie Jayron Hosley returned an interception of Sanchez 77 yards for a touchdown, and the defending Super Bowl champions stifled the Jets in a 26-3 preseason victory over the hometown rivals on Saturday night.
Tebow, making his home debut for the Jets (0-2), led the Jets (No. 14 in the AP Pro32) to their only points of the night on a 30-yard field goal by Josh Brown. But he, like Sanchez, struggled to get much of anything going while working with the second-team offense.
"As a defensive line, we were able to get some pressure," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "And that's really what we need to do if we want to be a good defense. Defensively, as a whole, we played pretty well. We were able rush the quarterback. ... It's a step in the right direction, a plus for us."
Lawrence Tynes kicked four field goals, and former Rutgers fullback Joe Martinek had a 14-yard touchdown catch for the Giants (1-1). Eli Manning and the Giants (No. 3) starters were mostly quiet, too, with the Super Bowl MVP going 7 of 14 for 62 yards and an interception, but they didn't need much to win on this night.
"I thought we had a couple good drives and moved the ball," Manning said. "We converted some third downs, had some opportunities, but didn't get in the end zone. Whenever you play the Jets, you're always going against a great defense."
Sanchez finished 9 of 11 for 59 yards and the costly interception, but was under pressure on nearly every play. He was sacked three times, including twice by Jason Pierre-Paul. The Jets were without injured wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens, and it showed.
Jets coach Rex Ryan joked his team's offense would be "vanilla with some sprinkles" — and he wasn't kidding. The Jets started slowly and never really got going as the Giants' front seven played like the group that helped lead them to the Super Bowl title last season.
Tebow came in to a mixed reaction — cheers from Jets fans and boos from the loads of Giants fans in attendance — and appeared to energize the team. But he had a shot at his first touchdown on second-and-20 from the 29 and short-hopped a pass to a wide-open Stephen Hill in the end zone. The Jets settled for Brown's field goal that bounced off the right upright and over the crossbar to cut the deficit to 16-3 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.
Tebow was 4 of 5 for 52 yards on the drive, and had two runs for 5 yards, but finished 5 of 14 for 69 yards.
It was the teams' first meeting since Christmas Eve, when Victor Cruz's 99-yard catch helped send the Giants on their Super Bowl run and the Jets into a disappointing offseason without a playoff appearance.
Tynes gave the Giants a 3-0 lead with a 35-yard field goal on a 12-play drive that was kept alive by a personal foul penalty on the Jets' Joe McKnight — a sign of things to come for the home team. The running back rolled into punter Steve Weatherford and turned a fourth-and-5 from the Jets 25 to a first-and-10 from the 40.
McKnight got an earful from Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff on the sideline after the play.
Manning completed three passes to Cruz for 34 yards after the penalty, and following two incompletions, found Martellus Bennett for 7 yards on third-and-10 from the 24 to set up the field goal.
Tynes kicked a 30-yarder early in the second quarter to make it 6-0 after Manning just missed on connecting with Cruz in the end zone — a play in which Kyle Wilson appeared to make lots of contact with the Giants receiver but wasn't called for a penalty. The field goal capped a 13-play drive in which the Giants converted on a fourth-and-1 from the 16 on a 4-yard catch by Domenik Hixon.
The Jets had a good opportunity when Manning was intercepted by LaRon Landry, but the offense stalled again. On third-and-1, Shonn Greene was stuffed for no gain, and then fullback John Conner was stopped on fourth-and-1.
Hosley gave the Giants a 13-0 lead on his long interception return with 2:03 left in the opening half. With the Jets finally moving the ball, Sanchez tried to get a short pass to Patrick Turner, but Hosley stepped in front and ran down the sideline untouched for the score.
"When I threw the ball, I thought it was really accurate," Sanchez said. "You miss on one play and that's what can happen. I think it was a little behind P.T., but I want to see the film on that. It just goes to show how fragile that ball is and how close things are."
Tynes kicked field goals of 40 and 45 yards to put the Giants up 19-3.
Martinek capped the scoring when he took a swing pass from third-string quarterback Ryan Perrilloux and rumbled down the left sideline, diving and getting the ball over the goal line for a 14-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 26-3 lead with 6:41 left.
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