The New York Giants, after losing six of their seven games last season following Coach Tom Coughlin's decision to make Eli Manning the team's starting quarterback, are 2-0 for the first time since the 2000 season.
Manning has a modest 337 passing yards in the two games, but the Giants have scored a league-high 69 points. They're tied with the Washington Redskins atop the NFC East after beating the New Orleans Saints, 27-10, here Monday night.
"What I like most is that guys are aggressive," said defensive end Michael Strahan, who played Monday and had a sack after suffering severe back spasms over the weekend. "Guys are hungry. Guys want to make plays. Nobody's satisfied with what we're doing. When that's the case, we can only be excited about the next week and getting better. We haven't even come close to playing the way we can play. The exciting thing about it is, once we put everything together, how good can we be?"
Manning faces a difficult task this weekend as the Giants travel to San Diego for a Sunday night game. The Chargers are 0-2 and desperately need a win, and Manning will face the team he snubbed last year in forcing the draft-day trade that sent him to the Giants.
Because the Saints were listed as the home team Monday, Manning's first-quarter scoring toss to tailback Tiki Barber officially was the first road touchdown pass of his NFL career.
Horn: Saints Have No Excuses
No other team in the history of the NFL has had as many excuses for bad games at its disposal as this season's Saints. They won't play a game in their home stadium all season. They had to relocate with practically no notice to a new city, where some of their early-season practices were held at a high school sports complex. They were forced to play their first scheduled home game of the season in their opponent's stadium.
But after the Saints suffered their first loss of the season, wide receiver Joe Horn had a message for his teammates: Forget the excuses.
"If some of them tell you it's a detriment that we don't have a home stadium and we practice on a high school field, I don't agree," Horn said late Monday night. "We're professionals. We get paid a lot of money to play this game. . . . I don't think it should be difficult."
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue rescheduled Monday's game and moved it to Giants Stadium after the Saints were displaced from hurricane- and flood-ravaged New Orleans. Coach Jim Haslett had been critical of Tagliabue's decision to move the game to Giants Stadium instead of San Antonio, where the Saints have based their operations for the season. But Haslett didn't attribute his team's poor performance Monday to the venue and began his postgame news conference by applauding the night's fundraising efforts, which generated $5 million in approximately 61/2 hours. The NFL has raised a total of $21 million for Hurricane Katrina relief. . . .
Results of an MRI exam taken Monday confirmed the fears of Jacksonville Jaguars officials about the knee injury safety Donovin Darius suffered in Sunday's loss at Indianapolis. He has a torn anterior cruciate ligament and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Deke Cooper replaces him.
Jets QB Shoulders Questions
Quarterback Chad Pennington's uneven early-season performance for the New York Jets hasn't removed the doubts about the soundness of his surgically repaired right shoulder.
Pennington completed all seven of his passes on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive here Sunday that gave the Jets some breathing room after the Miami Dolphins had pulled to within three points, at 10-7. The Jets held on for a 17-7 triumph, evening their record at 1-1 on the heels of a poor performance in a season-opening defeat at Kansas City.
Still, many of Pennington's passes floated and fluttered Sunday. He had a relatively modest 190 yards on 19 of 30 passes. That came on the heels of a dreadful opener against the Chiefs in which he threw an interception and fumbled six times in the 27-7 defeat and had little zip on his passes. Pennington never has had a Nolan Ryan fastball, relying instead on accuracy and a quick release. But an NFL quarterback needs a certain amount of velocity on his throws to succeed, and some observers wonder whether Pennington's shoulder remains too weak for him to thrive. The Jets brought him along slowly in the offseason and preseason, trying to ensure that he didn't suffer any setbacks.
"I'm doing well," Pennington said Sunday.
Jets Coach Herman Edwards said: "His arm is fine. He made some bad throws [Sunday]. But he made some good ones, too."
Only the misadventures of place kicker Doug Brien late in their conference semifinal at Pittsburgh kept the Jets out of the AFC title game last season, so expectations for this season have been super-sized in true New York fashion. As is always the case with the Jets, much depends on Pennington. The club signed former Dolphins starter Jay Fiedler as insurance during an offseason in which Pennington underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, but the Jets know they probably need Pennington in the lineup and effective.
As if Edwards didn't have enough to worry about with Pennington's arm, he also is fretting about a knee injury suffered Sunday by tailback Curtis Martin, the NFL's reigning rushing champion. . . .
The Jets limited Dolphins rookie tailback Ronnie Brown to 35 rushing yards on 12 carries Sunday. Brown, selected by Miami with the second overall choice in the NFL draft in April, has struggled in his first two games, running for 92 yards on 34 carries.
Meantime, Brown's former college backfield-mate at Auburn, Carnell Williams, has announced his arrival in the NFL loudly. Williams, drafted fifth overall by Tampa Bay, has run for a league-leading 276 yards while helping the Buccaneers to a 2-0 record. He had 128 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in Sunday's 19-3 triumph over the Buffalo Bills.
If this continues, the Dolphins obviously will be accused of drafting the wrong Auburn running back. Brown said Sunday that's not on his mind.
"I can't really worry about that," he said. "People can say what they want to say. I don't compare myself to him."
Boller Doesn't Need Surgery
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller does not need to have surgery on his hyperextended right big toe at this point, according to team spokesman Kevin Byrne. Boller, who was injured in the season opener on Sept. 11, was examined by a specialist Monday and his right foot was placed in a cast.
The original prognosis has not changed, though Boller will not be ready to play when the Ravens (0-2) host the Jets on Oct. 2, as the team initially hoped. Boller is limited in the kind of conditioning he can do now because his foot is immobile, and he will need time to rehabilitate once the cast is removed. The earliest he might return is Oct. 16 against the Cleveland Browns. Baltimore has a bye this weekend.
The Ravens also released rookie quarterback Derek Anderson, their sixth-round pick in this year's draft, and re-signed wide receiver Patrick Johnson.
Staff writer Camille Powell contributed to this report.