EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A week after spending the first quarter on the sideline for violating team rules, Plaxico Burress redeemed himself with one of the best days of his career.
The sixth-year wide receiver had two touchdown catches among a career-high 10 receptions Sunday as the New York Giants defeated the St. Louis Rams 44-24. In addition to Burress’ two touchdowns, Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw scoring passes of 1 yard to Amani Toomer and 31 yards to Jeremy Shockey.
The Giants (3-1) overcame a 40-for-62, 442-yard performance by the Rams’ (2-2) Marc Bulger that represented the most passes attempted and completed by a Giants opponent in the team’s history. Bulger threw touchdown passes to Steven Jackson and Torry Holt, but was hampered by his team’s inability to establish a running attack. St. Louis was held to zero net yards in the first half and finished with 42 yards on 15 carries.
The 6-foot-5 Burress, the Giants’ major free-agent offseason acquisition, has caught four touchdown passes this season, or twice as many as all the Giants’ wide receivers caught last season. He has developed into Manning’s favorite target, and his height has added another weapon to the Giants’ receiver corps.
He wasn’t on the field in the first quarter of the Giants’ 45-23 loss at San Diego last Sunday after being benched by coach Tom Coughlin for being late to two team meetings. The move was questioned by some Giants players and became a focus of attention leading up to the Rams game.
“He was taking a lot of heat last week about things, and I think he just came out and had a good week of practice,” Manning said. “He didn’t say anything about it, he didn’t apologize to me; he didn’t have to. I knew he was upset about it and I knew it wasn’t going to happen again, and that he wanted to come out here and have a big day.”
Burress and Manning hooked up for both touchdowns in the first half. The first came on a 31-yard catch-and-run that Burress leaped high to snare and then ran untouched into the end zone. On the second, Manning laid the ball between two defenders on a post pattern.
“Last week is last week,” Burress said. “I treat each day like a new day, and I’m pretty sure everybody else does, too.”
Manning picked up where he left off after last week’s career-best 352-yard performance against San Diego. His four touchdowns against the Rams were also a career high for the second-year quarterback, who now has a 9-6 edge in touchdown passes over older brother Peyton, who has been to the Pro Bowl five times in eight seasons and is a two-time league MVP for Indianapolis.
“Peyton and I aren’t competitive with each other,” Manning said. “We root for each other to do well. Last year was the first time we’ve ever been in the same league and playing at the same time. I’m always glad for him when he plays well and they’re winning.”
The Giants led 27-17 at halftime and took advantage of a critical St. Louis turnover early in the third quarter to pull away from the Rams. On an attempted reverse from the Giants 6, Jackson took a pitch from Bulger and botched a pitch to wide receiver Shaun McDonald that was recovered by defensive tackle Fred Robbins.
According to Rams coach Mike Martz, the play should have been run with running back Marshall Faulk, who was on the sideline.
“Marshall always does it and Marshall wasn’t in the game,” he said. “That’s an issue for me. We always practice it with Marshall and he’s supposed to be in the game. There was some confusion there. That’s a coaching deal all the way.”
Instead of pulling within a field goal, the Rams wound up trailing 34-17 as Manning drove the Giants to the Rams 31 and then feathered a pass just out of the reach of Rams safety Adam Archuleta and into the hands of Shockey, who tumbled into the end zone.
Jay Feely kicked field goals of 38, 32 and 23 yards for the Giants, is 8-for-8 this season and has made 17 straight attempts counting preseason games.