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Indianapolis Colts 38 (1-1) – New York Giants 14 (1-1)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: So much for all the hype surrounding Manning Bowl II.  Peyton Manning once again showed the country why he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.  Peyton played a near flawless game and methodically took apart what appeared to be an improving New York Giants defense.  Peyton simply recognized what the Giants wanted to do on defense and denied them by doing the opposite.  As noted by Eric from BBI on the “inactives” thread in The Corner Forum,

Eric from BBI 9/19/2010 7:07 pm
two DT’s inactive tonight…going with the DE’s.”

The Giants indeed decided to try to force the Colts to pass and asked the safeties and whoever was placed into the interior of the line to stop the run.  Peyton Manning said after the game that the inactives list gave the Colts a strong idea of what their game plan was going to be and during the game, Peyton used it against them time and again.

“Obviously we are a no-huddle team,” Peyton said. “They didn’t dress but two defensive tackles. They dressed all their defensive ends which kind of told you they were going to play that pass rush type front, that they were going to defend the pass. I can’t remember when we had more rushing attempts than passing attempts so it would be hard not to blame them, especially after last week.”

The Colts were able to run double tight end sets on to the field between plays yet keep the Giants from substituting and the results were such that they were able to run through the Giants for 160 total yards on 40 carries for a 4.0 ypc average (Peyton’s 3 kneel downs at the end of the game were removed from the analysis).

The Colts doubled their average rushing yards per game from last year.  The 23 first half rushes were the most by the Colts in the first half since 1991.  Overall, the Colts ran the ball 17 more times than they passed, and they didn’t do that too badly, either.

As noted on The Corner Forum, this strategy wasn’t exactly a bad strategy.  In fact, early on with the exception of the first drive, the strategy actually worked fairly well.  Granted, Reggie Wayne uncharacteristically dropped a sure catch that could’ve gone the distance, but the Giants did get 2 consecutive 3 and outs.  After that, however, they didn’t execute and waited too long to change things up when they could not stop the run.

The killer drive for the Giants, after three unsuccessful offensive possessions, was the fourth Colts possession.  Inexplicably, with the Colts pinned at the 2 yard line on 1st down, the Giants went with the 3 Safety 3 CB package (4 linemen, 1 true linebacker, and 6 DBs).  The Giants were in a traditional look on defense, with Thomas and Webster on the outside, 7 men in the box (Kiwi, Canty, Cofield and Tuck on the line with Ross, Boley and Grant in the traditional linebacker formation) and the true safeties Rolle and Phillips both playing a deep cover two, both of whom took up station  on the 15 yard line. Neither was in the TV picture pre-snap, but clearly on the replay you can see they’re both very deep.

This was the defensive formation despite the fact that coming out of a TV time out, the Colts were in a single back double TE set.  In other words, at least on this occasion, the Colts didn’t catch the Giants in a formation and take advantage of it.  Could this be a situation that Rolle was discussing when he said “sometimes you have to let dogs be dogs”?  Were they being overly cautious?  The Giants showed none of the aggressiveness you’d expect in that situation.

On the play, Tuck was neutralized by Dallas Clark, Ross was vaporized by the RT, Grant ran himself completely out of position, not so much negated by anyone he simply negated himself by running behind Kiwanuka who was effectively walled off by the LT.  By the time Grant realized he took the wrong angle, the LG had him walled off as he attempted to double back into the play.  Canty, Boley and Cofield were collapsed by the middle of the Colts line and Addai had nothing but daylight until Phillips met him halfway at the 8 and finally took him down.  Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy, 8 yard gain, Phillips shaken up, and the Colts out of danger.

The Giants had an opportunity to turn the game around two plays later when Addai fumbled but were unable to recover the football.  After a pass to Clark and then 3 consecutive running plays, Manning had the Giants defense set up.  When S Michael Johnson, subbing for Phillips, bit like a Michael Vick pit bull on play action, Peyton hit a wide open Clark for an easy 50 yard touchdown.

On their next drive, the Colts ran on every down.  All seven.  The Giants held on a 3rd and 1, holding the Colts to a field goal.

The statistics really tell the whole story of the half in this one.  The Colts held the ball for just under two thirds of the first half, ran up 278 (124 on the ground!) yards to 69 for the Giants.  The Colts had 18 first downs, 41 offensive plays (23 were runs).  The Giants had a mere 11 yards passing, 5 first downs, and held the ball for just over 10 minutes. With the score at 24-0 at the end of the half, this one was all over.  Though the second half was statistically more even, the game was out of hand.  After the Giants got a quick strike touchdown on the opening drive and a three and out, the Colts got to Manning for a second fumble which was recovered for a touchdown.  All in all, the Giants had three turnovers turned into 17 points.  Game, set, match.

Offense: Kevin Boss was the only starter on offense not to play on Sunday night.  Unfortunately for the Giants, that really hurt them on Sunday night.  With only one ‘experienced’ tight end on the roster, Adam Koets saw a lot of time in double tight end sets and even was the only tight end on the field at times.  In fact, Koets started as the lone TE Sunday.

The Giants offense had a horrid first half.  Although the defense gave up 31 points Sunday, Big Blue had 3 opportunities to right the ship after the Colts’ first touchdown.  Questionable play calling on the first 2 drives resulted in quick 3 and outs.  On the 3rd drive, after obtaining their first 1st down via the penalty, the Giants stalled and were forced to punt at the Colts 40 yard line. The last two drives of the half were disastrous.  After Indianapolis stretched the lead to 14-0, Eli attempted to get a quick 7 and threw deep into triple coverage where Steve Smith nearly made a miraculous catch.  As luck would have it, however, the ball was stripped and wound up intercepted.  That led to 3 more Colts points.  Following that, the Giants had a chance to close the gap and get the ball back to start the second half and maybe make this into a game, but a promising drive was halted when Eli was strip sacked and the Giants lost the ball.  This turnover turned into 7 more Colts points.  So instead of going into half time down 14-0 or possibly better, it was an insurmountable 24-0.

The Giants started the game with an end around, but that play went nowhere when Bradshaw blocked the wrong Colt as he passed right by the safety that made the play.  On the second “drive”, after an 8 yard gain on a first down run, the Giants dropped back to pass twice before punting.

Now, after these two possessions, one has to question just what the Giants are thinking.  It’s been widely reported that Ahmad Bradshaw is the starting running back, and the reasons we’ve heard vary from the thought that he’s the better back and more suited to the offense to the thought that Jacobs is no longer capable of being the back he once was.  So what do the Giants do?  After giving Bradshaw just TWO CARRIES on the first two possessions, they bring in Jacobs.  Why?  Was Jacobs suddenly the better option than Bradshaw?  Was there a “shake up” in the works?  It just makes no sense.

The Giants, for reasons unknown, did not let Bradshaw establish anything.  Now for sure, on the next drive, in which Jacobs began and finished, Jacobs did well.  There’s no disputing the results.  It’s just something to ponder.  If Bradshaw is your guy, why do you remove him from the game after just two carries for the sole reason that it’s the third series?  It’s maddening that the staff never lets one of these guys get anything established, or when they do, they still pull them in favor of touches and not by situation, but by series.

On the night, the Giants had 8 possessions of 3 plays or less.  Their other 4 drives were 7 plays on 3 possessions and 8 on a fourth.  They never got any continuity going.

The Quarterback: Before the game, some discussion on The Corner Forum suggested that it might be wise to try to throw against Indianapolis for a couple of reason.  One, the Giants were light at TE and may not be able to establish an effective running game.  Two, if they could protect Eli, he’d most likely have a good day against a suspect back end of the defense.  Third, the Colts were embarrassed last week and many thought they’d sell out to stop the run, no matter what.

Unfortunately, number two didn’t happen as Eli Manning had almost no chance from the very start of this game to establish anything in the passing game.  The Giants offensive line, particularly the offensive tackles were abused by the quick Colts DEs, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.  Eli had very little time to throw, allowing the Colt DBs to sit on the short routes.  Manning had just 11 yards passing in the first half.

Just 3 of 8 in the first half with an interception and fumble, Manning’s stats were better in the second half, and he finished 13-24 for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns, 1 interception and 2 fumbles.  All of Eli’s turnovers were capitalized upon for points by the Colts, 17 in total.

The puzzling thing is that the Giants never attempted to use the Colts speed against them by trying to either roll the pocket or set up some quick hitters in the flat or on screens.  They also didn’t try to use the no huddle or hurry up offense to try and slow down the quick defensive ends.  I suppose you can say that both of Manning’s touchdown passes were perfectly thrown.  So he had that going for him, which is nice.

The Running Backs: Ahmad Bradshaw got the start as expected, then received just one carry in each of the first two drives before giving way to Brandon Jacobs.  Though Bradshaw finished with respectable statistics, 17 carries for 89 yards and a 5.2 ypc average, the Giants did not run two successful running plays, runs of 4 yards or greater, in a row all night.  Bradshaw never was able to step up and help in the passing game, either.  He was weak all night on his blitz pickups and targeted just one time as a receiver, which went for an incompletion.

And while Brandon Jacobs had a tough night, not everything attributed to him was his fault.  On the play that Jacobs danced east and west instead of hitting the hole, the intended hole was filled because acting TE Adam Koets missed his block at the second level.  Had Jacobs continued on, he’d have been stopped for no gain.  When Jacobs broke to his left, he had a second hole that he could have turned up into and gained a few yards, but instead chose to bring the ball wide and we all saw where that went.

On the interception return in which Jacobs was penalized 15 yards for a hit out of bounds, it’s extremely hard to find fault with what he did.  Jacobs did not hit Jarrod Power, who intercepted the ball.  Watching the play several times, Jacobs had his eyes on the returner the entire time.  What he didn’t see, possibly until the very last millisecond, was that another Colt, Kelvin Hayden, circled back into his path and while Jacobs appeared to pull up and attempt to avoid him, he ended up hitting him pretty hard.  I believe it was accidental and should not have been called for “unnecessary roughness”.

All in all, the Giants were never able to get the ground game going in any sustained fashion.  Ahmad Bradshaw missed a few open holes, too.  With the TE situation as it is, along with a fullback who is not playing very good football right now, it’s difficult to pin all the problems from Sunday night on the two featured backs.  There is simply no room inside for the Giants to run, even on the inside handoffs that have become a staple of the offense.

Speaking of the fullback, Madison Hedgecock isn’t very effective right now.  While he gets to the hole in seemingly good shape, he’s been unable to move any one out or at the very least, neutralize them.  This causes the backs to have to look for cutback lanes or try to squeeze through very tight spaces.  Not one time did a Giants running back get through the line of scrimmage untouched before getting to the second level.  On each run into the line, a lineman was able to at least get a hand on them.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: As with the running backs, it’s very difficult to place any blame on the wide receivers for Sunday night’s offensive woes.  There were receivers open on several occasions in which Eli Manning had no time to deliver the ball.  Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks both caught long touchdown passes and Steve Smith continues his other worldly production on third down situations.  Overall, the WRs were targeted 20 times and came down with 10 receptions.  In the blocking department, Steve Smith did an adequate job but missed on a couple that could have sprung both Jacobs and Bradshaw for very long runs.

Where to begin with the tight ends?  Adam Koets started at TE for the Giants on Sunday night.  He was also in the game on nearly every running play, either as a single TE or with Bear Pascoe in a double TE set.  Koets, as far as I can tell, only missed one key block and actually played with passion and toughness.  He seemed to take on his role with great enthusiasm.  Unfortunately, everyone in the country knows when he’s in there they have to pay absolutely no attention to him in the passing game.

Bear Pascoe, for the most part, was horrible in the running game.  After watching his performance on Sunday, it’s easy to see why he was waived/signed to the practice squad.  31 other teams passed on him for good reason.  He’s slow out of his stance, stands straight up, and gets very little push.  He can be effective when he is doubling and walling off an opponent.  In the passing game, Pascoe was targeted once and gained 7 yards on the reception.

H-Back Travis Beckum is nearly the exact opposite of Adam Koets.  Beckum, in the first half, was in the lineup for just 4 rushing plays.  3 of those plays saw the action come to his side, and all three were unsuccessful.  He simply can’t block.  Every other time he was on the field, the Giants attempted to pass the ball.   Beckum lined up all over the field for the Giants.  He saw time in the backfield, the slot, wide out, and as a tight end.  He was only thrown to once, however, and had a 4 yard reception.  In pass protection, Beckum is no match for anyone.  On the Manningham touchdown, Beckum allowed Freeney to go right past him as he looked back at Eli right at the snap, never getting out of his stance to engage Freeney or do whatever his assignment was on the play if it wasn’t to engage Freeney.  At any rate, Eli got the ball out fast enough to avoid getting clobbered by the quick DE.  Overall, Beckum was in on about a third of the offensive plays, but only in a couple of two TE sets.

The Offensive Line: The offensive line had a very, very rough night on Thursday.  They neither run blocked or pass blocked with any consistency.

Particularly, LT David Diehll and RT Kareem McKenzie had tough goes of it.  Diehl was repeatedly beaten like a drum by DE Dwight Freeney, but McKenzie had an equally tough time with Robert Mathis on the other side.  For some reason, the Giants never attempted to get help for either one of them, many times allowing them both to be on an island for the play.  The Giants never went to a max protect at any time in the game.

While Bradshaw did stay in to pass protect on a good number of occasions, he wasn’t very effective and at times seemed at a loss as to which side he should give help to.  The Colts didn’t blitz often, because they didn’t have to.  When they did, however, they got home as evidenced by Alvin Bethea’s QB hit.

C Shawn O’Hara was up and down during the game, as well.  On several plays he was simply blown back into the play as his ankle/Achilles is obviously bothering him.

There is a lot of talk in The Corner Forum about these guys suddenly getting old and that their no longer able to play the game at a high level.  What needs to be remembered is that these guys, while older, are still pretty damned good.  There are mitigating circumstances which contributed to the problems on Sunday night.  The only effective blocking TE on the team was their backup center, and their fullback simply isn’t getting his job done.  In fact, the Giants didn’t even employ a fullback in many of their plays on Sunday night, running primarily out of a 1 back set.

Defense: As noted above, the game plan for the Giants was to pressure Peyton, employ a heavy dose of dime package looks, and concede the running game but keep it in check to a degree.  As we saw on Sunday, it didn’t work and the Giants didn’t try an alternate tactic until it was too late.  One thing that should be noted, however, is that the Giants used their two normal starting DTs, Chris Canty and Barry Cofield, a lot of the time.  They were not always in a three DE set, though Chris Collinsworth (whom I like as an announcer) would have had you believe otherwise.  One problem turned out to be that the likes of Aaron Ross and Deon Grant were completely ineffective from the traditional outside linebacker positions against the run.  They were exploited over and over again.  Another problem was the line got absolutely no pressure on Peyton other than 1 sack by Mathias Kiwanuka.  The Giants, as a team, only got 3 hits on Peyton all night in 27 drop backs.  Finally, even with the safeties marked to cover Dwight Clark, they couldn’t stop him from wreaking havoc in the middle of the field.

Front 7: With DTs Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph inactive and LBs Jonathan Goff, Gerris Wilkinson, Chris Sintim and Keith Bulluck not sharing a very big part of the defensive game plan , the job of stopping the run fell to Chris Canty, Barry Cofield and a variety of DEs asked to play inside and defensive backs to fill from the traditional outside linebacker positions.  While the strategy worked in spurts, overall it failed.  Michael Boley was the only significantly active linebacker on the night, and it showed as he was in on 15 (11 solo) tackles which led the team.

With the master Peyton calling the game with clinical precision, he effectively neutralized any rush the Giants may have tried to put on him because they had no idea what Peyton was going to do.  The outside pass rush was non-existent all night; however, the Giants didn’t do anything to try change things up.  The Giants didn’t blitz very often, and it may have been due to the personnel package they were employing on most downs which consisted of 6 defensive backs.

Jonathan Goff and Keith Bulluck both played more in the second half, and both played reasonably well.  Bulluck is hitting hard, which is a good sign.  Goff, in his limited snaps, managed to get in on 8 tackles.  Justin Tuck was also in on 7 tackles.

Defensive Backs: The defensive backfield had their hands full all night with the very good Indianapolis receiving corps, yet they threw everything but the kitchen sink at them to try and slow them down.  While most people have been focusing on the incredible and unexpected rushing success that Indy enjoyed, not much is being said about the fact that the DBs allowed Peyton to complete 20 of 26 passes (with two outright drops) for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns.  No matter what’s going on with the running game, and even though they received very little help from the pass rush that kind of production allowed is unacceptable.  Frankly, everything worked for the Colts Sunday night.

Terrell Thomas had the unenviable task of covering the explosive Reggie Wayne, and was burned early and often by him.  Thomas was beaten on the in slant at least 3 times, and Wayne ended up catching 7 balls for 83 yards and a touchdown.  Thomas, coincidentally, had 7 tackles on the night and 1 forced and recovered fumble late in the game.

Antrel Rolle had an uncharacteristically quiet night, but sure was loud later in the week when he complained about playing in a cover two shell for most of the night.  Rolle also had 7 tackles.

Kenny Phillips, an integral part of the defensive backfield, showed just how much he’s missed when not in the lineup.  After getting up woozy from a blow to the head while making a tackle on Joseph Addai, Phillips had to leave the game for a bit.  His replacement, Michael Johnson, was immediately victimized by Peyton on a play action fake that had him stampeding towards the line while Dallas Clark waved goodbye to him on his way past him for an easy 50 yard touchdown catch.  Thankfully Phillips was not hurt badly and was able to go back into the game shortly thereafter.

Deon Grant had an eventful night, tasked with covering the TE over the middle and the backs out in the flat.  Grant was abused by Peyton in the running game.  When he was up near the line of scrimmage, the Colts ran at him.

Special Teams: Finally, P Matt Dodge punted with success.  Unfortunately, he had to punt 6 times!  His net of 41.2 yards was certainly acceptable, and he did drop one down on the Indy two yard line.  The first punt was a line drive, but the other five were all well struck with decent hang time and distance.

Lawrence Tynes had a decent night kicking off after a shaky first game.  He had 1 touchback and the other two were dropped inside the 5 yard line.  The coverage teams were much better on Sunday, with Victor Cruz doing a good job as the gunner to turn the returner inside into the field where the Giants did a good job of limiting returns to minimal damage.

There was no return game to speak of, as the Colts kicker notched 5 touchbacks and an obviously frustrated Darius Raynaud unwisely took one out from 5 yards deep and only got back to the 15 yard line.

Coaching: All we can do is speculate as to what the coaching staff was thinking on Sunday night when they employed the game plans we saw.  While it’s easy to understand the logic behind the defensive game plan, it’s difficult to understand why they didn’t change it up when it was obviously not working.  Why did they stick with the 6 DB package for so long before reinserting Goff and Bulluck?  Why didn’t they try to overload Peyton on one side to get him at least moving laterally to try to take half the field away from him?  Why no blitzes?  Why did they stick with the cover 2 which some of the players obviously were uncomfortable with?

As for the offense, Sunday night’s game makes no sense to me.  They never established the run.  They didn’t try to use the Colts’ aggressiveness against them by moving the pocket, employing screens, or going to a no huddle offense.  Not once, after an end around to open the game, did the Giants try to change the pace or momentum of anything.

It appeared as if HC Tom Coughlin, OC Kevin Gilbride and DC Perry Fewell were all paralyzed by the fact that their plans were not working and they had no contingencies.  They just appeared mesmerized.

Offensive Player of the Game: After rewatching this game several times, I’m giving the OPOG to backup OL Adam Koets.  He wasn’t great.  He was, in fact, adequate.  Yet he played hard, he played tough, and when watching him you could tell he knew his assignments, even if he wasn’t always able to execute it.  I just liked his attitude and competitiveness.

Defensive Player of the Game: The Giants ran into a cerebral buzz saw on Sunday night.  If the offense could have scored on one of their first three possessions, or at the least run some clock to give them a break, this game could’ve turned out differently.  Michael Boley was all over the place on Sunday night playing primarily from the MIKE position with two DBs flanking him.  Boley had 15 tackles on the night, 11 of which were solo.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts, September 19, 2010)
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