The Giants came into this game with their new offense fully installed and anxious to prove that they were starting to grasp its intricacies. Eli Manning was to be unleashed, and Victor Cruz to be targeted early, often, and determined to make his first catch of the preseason. Will Beatty, returning to the field for the first time since breaking his leg in December would solidify the offensive line and kick the Giants running game, which had been good, but not great through two games into high gear. When game captains Curtis Painter, the former Colt, Stevie Brown, and Mathias Kiwanuka won the toss and the Giants got the ball, none of it happened. What unfolded was the worst performance of the three preseason games to date. The Giants won the game, 27-26 on the strength of a fourth quarter surge by the third and fourth team units, but that’s not the story of this game. The continued lack of execution by the players that will take the field on September 8th is the headline.
To call the Giants starting offense comatose would give them too much credit. Manning completed 1 of 7 passes for 6 yards in almost 2 quarters of play. Two turnovers were wiped out by point of emphasis penalties in one of only two drives that lasted more than three plays. The officials seemed to be the Giants best offensive weapons. Cruz was targeted 3 times but didn’t not register an official catch. On the one pass he did catch, he fumbled, only to have the play wiped out by an illegal contact penalty. That play immediately followed a negated interception where Manning threw a bad pass towards Cruz. An illegal contact penalty also bailed the team out. Despite the breaks, the Giants could not capitalize, punting on the drive.
Quintin Demps fumbled a kickoff return on the first quarter, gifting the Colts with a field goal. Manning was on the field for four drives, resulting in no points, one completion, 38 yards, and no indication that he understands any of the new offense. Either the team is playing the best game of possum ever perpetrated in the history of the world, or they have three weeks to straighten out a myriad of issues. It may not be enough time.
The offense’s funk seemed to spread to the defense which had difficulty containing Andrew Luck, old friend Hakeem Nicks, and the Colts starting offense. Luck completed 12 of 18 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown to Griff Whalen, and also used his legs to extend plays and elude the Giants pressure consistently. Nicks, admitting later he was highly motivated coming into the game, caught 5 passes for 53 yards and had another 36 yard gain wiped out by a taunting penalty. Both teams were highly penalized, continuing the prevailing trend of the preseason, where the officials, not the players, are the dominant force in games. The accomplishes the NFL Competition Committee’s goal of, whatever they hope to accomplish by interrupting games with two dozen or more flags in each and rendering them nearly unwatchable. They may have thought ratings have been too high and set out to correct the problem. If this trend continues, that’s what will happen.
The Colts were able to move the ball on the Giants, but Lucks’ touchdown was the only one the starting defense surrendered. Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri hit field goals of 53 and 43 yards, and backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw a touchdown pass to receiver Da’Rick Rogers to give the Colts a 20-0 half time lead. The Giants gained 48 total yards for the half. The Giants defense showed some of the ability to stiffen in the red zone and rookie Devon Kennard registered a sack in one of the few big plays on the night for the first or second teams. As Coughlin said in his post game press conference, “There was nothing to look at in terms of production.” That applied to both units.
Curtis Painter entered the game in the second quarter hoping to spark the offense as he did last week. His performance was a moribund as Manning’s until the fourth quarter when he lead the Giants on their first offensive touchdown drive, hitting tight end Kellen Davis for a 3 yard score in the back corner of the end zone. The big play on the scoring drive was a strike to receiver Preston Parker for 30 yards where Parker tapped his feet to keep them down in bounds. Prior to that drive, Painter was 2 of 10 for 30 total yards. On his final drive, the scoring drive, Painter was 4 for 5 for 54 yards.
The Colts offense slowed in the second half when Chandler Harnish entered the game and only managed two field goals, although they did have a 26-0 lead when the fourth quarter started.
After the kickoff and a penalty that pinned the Colts back at their own 12, the Giants made the play that turned the momentum in their favor. Linebacker Justin Anderson buried Colts running back Phillip Tanner in the backfield and jarred the ball loose. Linebacker Spencer Adkins recovered in the end zone for a Giants touchdown, cutting the Colts lead to 26-14. A critical play that went against the Giants seemed to shift momentum back to the Colts when cornerback Brandon Jackson appeared take a pass away from Colts receiver Tony Washington for another turnover, but it was ruled simultaneous possession when Coughlin challenged, and the Colts retained possession at the Giants 41. The third team defense stiffened and forced the Colts to punt and Ryan Nassib came into the game with 8:24 remaining.
Demoted to third string, Nassib had a horrid week in practice. He responded by completing 5 of 7 passes, and drove the Giants 92 yards for a Michael Cox 2 yard touchdown to bring the game within one score at 26-21 with 3:59 remaining. Down to 2 timeouts because of the lost challenge, the Giants used them and the Colts went three and out. A 30 yard return by Parker was negated by an illegal block by Travis Harvey and the Giants took over at their own 14.
Nassib only completed 4 passes on the drive, but the biggest two were to struggling tight end Adrien Robinson, including a 26 yard strike on 4th down and 22 and a 33 yard gain on the very next play. The winning touchdown pass went to fourth quarter specialist Cory Washington, who has caught the winning touchdown in three straight games. The two point attempt failed and with 55 second left on the clock the Giants has their first lead of the night, 27-26.
With all three time out remaining, and needing only a field goal, the Colts were in a good position to win the game following Brandon McManus’ touchback. Aided by a roughing the passer call on Jordan Stanton, Harnish drove the Colts to the Giants 46, where it was 4th and 6 with 10 seconds remaining. Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano decided to try a 64 yard field goal with strong legged punter/long range kicker Pat McAfee, which had enough distance, but was wide left, and the Giants held on for a hollow victory.
Several Giants left the game due to injury, the worst of which was safety Cooper Taylor, who was carted off with a toe injury and was seen after the game with crutches and a walking boot. Offensive Charles Brown suffered a shoulder injury, defensive tackle Markus Kuhn an elbow injury, and cornerback Prince Amukamara, a groin injury. After the game, Amukamara said he could run and cut on the sideline, but didn’t think he could “Open it up.” Kuhn said his elbow felt fine.
Despite the comeback win, the mood is somber. Once the regular season starts, the team will not be able to turn to Painter, Nassib, or Washington to rally them against the opponent’s scrubs. Next week is the most critical game of the preseason, as week three is seen as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. If the Giants offense doesn’t show some signs of life, another rough early season may be coming. Prepare yourself accordingly. Somewhere, Kevin Gilbride is laughing.