That’s more like it. If you’re going to spend time watching preseason football, you should be treated to a thrilling comeback now and then, and whoever wrote the script for this Giants-Colts matchup gets it.
This story’s first couple hours of painful setup had New York left for dead and the depths of each roster being tapped to fill snaps for the just-don’t-get-injured fourth quarter that lie ahead. But, as a perfect commentary on these two weeks of football, a penalty turned the tides.
Up 26-0 and preparing for the fastest way to kill the final 13 minutes, Indianapolis was set to get the ball back following their defense’s sack of Curtis Painter on 3rd-and-8, but a flag for defensive holding changed everything. The Giants kept the ball, drove for their first score and barreled on from there to take the game 27-26 with a fourth-quarter flurry that’ll get any fan of the game ready for Week 1.
Not a tale of two halves, this one was a tale of three quarters to one and here were some of the notable performances that came of it:
New York – Three Performances of Note
1. Nothing to lose
Entering the game for the Giants’ final two possessions, second-year signal-caller Ryan Nassib made the most of his opportunity. Still trailing 26-14 when he took the stage, there was nothing to do but fire the ball around the field and hope for the best. Going 11-of-15 for 158 and producing a pair of touchdown drives did the trick. Nassib’s +2.5 overall grade in that short span tells the story but his 92.9 Accuracy Percentage puts a bow on it – of those four incompletions, two were drops and one was a throwaway. We’ve yet to see him take a regular season snap with the team’s entrenched leader holding a pair of rings and a firm grip on the No. 1 job, but showings like this are intriguing, even if just a glimpse of a future that might not be.
2. Sputtering Out of the Gate
On the other end of New York’s quarterback spectrum for the evening was the man at the helm while the team was being dismantled by the Colts’ first-teamers. Eli Manning is looking at a preseason of three games and 57 snaps that holds two red-graded outings and a -5.2 passing mark. Not shouting for his ouster or anything of the sort, but it’s worth noting that this performance was among the worst-graded games he’s logged since we’ve been around and he managed it in only 23 snaps. A series of errant throws, a forced-ball interception (that was erased by penalty), and another that floated into the arms of a downfield defender only to be dropped, will do that. There were a couple of down spells for Manning last season and this just may be another as he shakes off the offseason and gets familiar with the new playbook, but something to keep an eye on. We’ve seen the best of him in years past and any chance the team has to rebound will be squarely on his shoulders.
3. Enough About the Quarterbacks
Let’s talk penalties. Three times the Giants were given chances by big penalties, the aforementioned fourth-quarter flag being the last of them. Before that tide-turning moment, though, there were back-to-back plays on New York’s third possession that took away Colt takeaways, both because of the dreaded Illegal Contact call that’s so popular these days. At 4:38 of the first, Manning tried to wedge a poor decision on an out route past Darius Butler that the Colt corner cradled on only to see it stricken from the record by play elsewhere on the field — contact that stretched beyond the no-touch zone. Properly pouncing on the new life they were given, New York completed a deep shot on the next snap. That mindset will be something to watch if the league is determined to keep this pace. Dealing with and responding to the chances given will play a major role in the success of teams and that glimpse from the Giants was telling. Never mind that the next play was called back, too and then followed by a less-than-daring run up the middle… I suppose you can’t be overly obvious with your plans at this stage.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
1. Fitting In
Former Giant Hakeem Nicks (+2.7) seemed to be having fun. Catching all six balls that come your way on just 20 passing snaps is a reason to smile, but knowing you’ve settled into an offense that will carve out your ideal role has to have you happy for things to come. Nicks worked the slants and crosses and made defenders miss (three of them) only to wipe a couple away when joy got the best of him and he got dinged for taunting on his way out of bounds at the end of his highlight play of the night. With T.Y. Hilton stretching the top of defenses, Reggie Wayne working his side, and Dwayne Allen pushing the seams, all of those bubbles they create could be Nicks’ for the taking.
2. Some Run D
Kelvin Sheppard saw his first action of the preseason in this game, starting alongside D’Qwell Jackson in the middle of the Colt defense. After coming to Indianapolis in a swap with Buffalo prior to last season, Sheppard’s -9.4 run defense grade has been a worry, especially if the team was going to count on him as a starter again. If this showing was anything to go by — and yes, it’s preseason, so take it for what it’s worth – he could be getting off on the right foot. With four run stops on just 14 run D snaps, Sheppard topped all defenders in the game. He had issue on a couple of occasions with New York’s Hynoski-Connor fullback duo, but easily shedding left tackle Charles Brown (at 6:42 of the second quarter) for a third-down stop to get his defense off the field was something to point to
3. Making a game of it
It’s rare that kickers and punters get a spot in one of our Refocused pieces, but given their role in this game, the Colts’ trio of kickers — who all graded in the green — deserve a word. Adam Vinatieri (+1.3) contributed a pair of long field goals (and a pair of long extra points) in the early going before giving way to rookie free agent Cody Parkey (+2.3) who added a couple more three-pointers to go with four touchbacks that kept the Giants working with a long field. Not to be outdone, punter Pat McAfee (+3.0) dropped four of his kicks inside the 20 and set up his coverage team to allow only 3 yards of returns on the night. To top it off, the game came down to one final chance for the Colts to salvage a win after surrendering their massive lead – a 64-yard field goal try that McAfee marched out to attempt. The kicks drifted just wide, though it looked long enough, and the game ended, but their statement as a strength of this roster had been made.
– The Giants averaged 4.0 and 4.3 yards per carry off of right guard and right tackle, respectively; the most successful spots for either team in the game.
– Colt running back Dan Herron has caught all nine passes he’s seen this preseason to lead all backs.
– Walter Thurmond was targeted six times and gave up five catches, a passer rating against of 143.8, and a pair of touchdowns.
PFF Game Ball
With the story of the game being the fourth-quarter comeback and Ryan Nassib being at the center of it, it only makes sense to hand him the game ball.
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