Punt return man Ted Ginn is congratulated after his 71-yard punt return gave the Cardinals the lead in Sunday's win at New York.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Bruce Arians' patience was running thin with his new return man.
Wide receiver Ted Ginn had a track record of success on both punts and kickoffs when he joined the Cardinals, but the first seven quarters of the season were so poor the Cardinals coach started dreaming up other candidates.
And then the fourth quarter came, when Ginn returned a punt 71 yards for a score to not only save his job but help the Cardinals escape MetLife Stadium with a 25-14 win.
"It was great to see Teddy pop loose, because I was about to fire him on kickoff returns," Arians said. "I still might. But he gets to
stay back there on punt returns right now. That was a big, big play."
The Cardinals trailed 14-13 with 10:28 remaining in the contest but forced a three-and-out defensively. Ginn fielded the ensuing punt at the Cardinals' 29, and after hesitating initially, made one defender miss and then hit a big hole in the middle of the field. He slipped the final grasp of punter Steve Weatherford and sprinted into the end zone for the go-ahead points.
When Ginn reached the end zone he didn't stop, instead running up an adjacent tunnel which led to the Cardinals' locker room.
"I was trying to let them know it was over," Ginn said.
On the ensuing kickoff, linebacker Kenny Demens forced a fumble, which running back Robert Hughes recovered. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro connected on a 32-yard field goal four plays later to put the Cardinals ahead by eight points.
Demens had been a blocker on Ginn's touchdown and had to return immediately to the kickoff cover unit, but a quick pep talk from linebackers coach Mike Caldwell made him forget about being tired.
"Those words gave me a little energy, something from deep down under," Demens said. "Making that play was great. After that play, coach Caldwell had the biggest grin on his face. That was for him."
While the special teams unit had a punt blocked for the second consecutive game, it came up big in the end.
"That's all we can really ask for, is play after play after play," Ginn said. "It was a blessing that it started with mine."
PENALTIES GALORE IN SECONDARY
The contact between a wide receiver and defensive back was a point of emphasis during the preseason, but
sometimes those calls dissipate as the real games begin. While the season opener played out that way, the referee crew at MetLife Stadium on Sunday paid special attention to infractions in the secondary.
Both teams were affected, as the Giants were whistled for four illegal contact penalties and two defensive holds. The Cardinals were hit with two holding calls, two pass interference calls and an illegal contact.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson was demonstrative on the field, clearly unhappy with some of the yellow flags, but afterward understood the adjustments he needs to make.
"Obviously, they implemented the new rule after five yards," Peterson said. "They want your hands off them. At the end of the day, the referees are calling the game the way they see it. Nothing I can do about it. Just have to play smart football."
Peterson was called for holding midway through the third quarter, and was nabbed again three plays later for pass interference when he grabbed Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz in the end zone.
It led to a Giants touchdown and 14-10 lead, but Peterson and the defense tightened up from then on. Peterson finished with four tackles.
"That series I let them get the best of me," Peterson said. "So I calmed down, got my composure and played football the way I normally play football."
MATHIEU MAKES SEASON DEBUT
Safety Tyrann Mathieu returned for the first time since tearing two knee ligaments last December, though it was in a limited capacity.
He played in dime packages and finished with one tackle. Mathieu said it was a mixed bag, because he enjoyed returning but had a tough time watching the majority of the contest from the sidelines.
"It was kind of both," Mathieu said. "You want to be patient. You want to take things slow. But on the other hand, you want to be out there to make plays for your team."
Mathieu played so infrequently that Arians will need film review to assess his performance.
"I didn't see much of him," Arians said. "The bit he played I was probably doing something else. We'll watch the tape, and his role will increase each week now that he's back at it."