EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No Tom Brady. No Eli Manning.
This time there was nothing at stake, except a few jobs before the final roster cutdown on Saturday, and David Carr took advantage.
Shaking off the frustration of recent seasons, Carr took advantage of Manning's rare night off and threw two touchdown passes and led the Giants on four long scoring drives in a 19-14 victory over the winless Patriots at Giants Stadium.
"This is the best I have felt since early in Houston," said Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft. "I did feel good."
Carr was outstanding. He finished 20-of-29 for 192 yards in seemingly nailing down the backup spot to Manning. Anthony Wright seemingly had the edge in that race until hurting his back a week ago against the Jets.
"I have played decent games where I have not felt good," Carr said. "I felt I sporadically made plays and things lucked into happening. Tonight I was in control of what was going on and that hasn't happened in a long time."
With Brady out with an injury to his right foot, little has gone right for the Patriots (0-4) in an imperfect preseason.
The offense looked anemic until fourth-string quarterback Kevin O'Connell came on in the fourth quarter.
The good news for New England fans is that Brady, the NFL MVP, says he will be ready for the season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 7.
"When the regular season starts, it's a whole new ballgame," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We know that. Is it nice to win the games? Yeah, but it doesn't mean anything. We've had good records in preseason, we've had bad records in preseason. What counts is how you play in the regular season."
The Super Bowl champion Giants (2-2) certainly looked ready for the NFL kickoff here next Thursday against the Washington Redskins, even with Manning, the Super Bowl MVP, watching from the sideline.
Carr threw a 26-yard scoring pass to tight end Darcy Johnson on the Giants' opening possession and he added a 9-yarder to Sinorice Moss late in the second quarter. Carr also engineered second-half drives of 54 and 64 yards that ended in field goals of 20 and 30 yards by Josh Huston.
The quarterbacks weren't the only starters held out.
Less than a week after losing two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora to a season-ending knee injury, Giants coach Tom Coughlin gave five other starters the night off -- receivers Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, tight end Kevin Boss, offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie and defensive end Justin Tuck. Linebackers Antonio Pierce (back) and Danny Clark (groin) also did not play.
When asked if he wasn't taking any chances, Coughlin did not hesitate.
"That is what it was," he said.
Linebacker Adalius Thomas, receiver Wes Welker and tight end Benjamin Watson were healthy Patriot starters who did not play.
Carr took the Giants 80 yards in nine plays on their opening drive. Halfback Brandon Jacobs had runs of 19 and 11 yards and backup Derrick Ward had an 11-yard run. Johnson broke tackles of rookie Jerod Mayo and cornerback Fernando Bryant in turning a short toss into a touchdown.
Carr hit all five of his passes for 50 yards on a drive that ended with Moss catching a pass over the middle and fighting his way into the end zone for a 13-0 lead. Huston hit the upright with the extra point.
Third-string quarterback Matt Gutierrez drove New England to the Giants' 2 in the closing seconds of the half, but R.W. McQuarters intercepted an ally-oop pass in the corner of the end zone on the final play of the half.
Trailing 19-0, returnman C.J. Jones and O'Connell finally woke up the Patriots.
Jones had a 44-yard kickoff return after Huston's second field goal, setting up a 16-yard TD pass from O'Connell to Chad Jackson.
Jones went 42 yards down the sideline on a punt return to the Giants' 18 the next time the Patriots touched the ball. O'Connell scored on a 5-yard run to make it close.
"We still have a lot of work to do and we have to get better," Patriots defensive lineman Jarvis Green said. "The preseason is over and Kansas City is coming in. We have to be ready. Nobody is waiting for us. We had a bad day. But we have to put that behind us. There are no concerns. We have to move forward and move on."
DE Mathias Kiwanuka, who was moved back to defensive end in the wake of the Umenyiora injury, had a sack in limited action. ... Giants WR Domenik Hixon had X-rays after experiencing back spasms in the first half. ... Giants backup OT Guy Whimper left the game with turf toe. ... Giants DE Dave Tollefson had a stringer in his shoulder. ... Agent Drew Rosenhaus was at the game and had no news on talks to get Burress a new contract.