Colts Defeat the Giants 26-21 in Season Opener: The Giants fell 26-21 to the Indianapolis Colts in a painful opener, filled with costly Giants’ mistakes that could have changed the game’s outcome. There were too many penalties, dropped interceptions that could have prevented points, a missed field goal, untimely turnovers, and shoddy special teams.

The Colts received the football to start the game and began a methodical, 17-play drive that lasted almost nine minutes. Indianapolis’ offense moved the football from their own 34-yard line to the Giants’ 8-yard line before being forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal to give the Colts a 3-0 lead. On the play before the successful field goal, S James Butler dropped an interception.

On the ensuing kickoff, HB/Returner Chad Morton was only able to return the football to the 15-yard line. The Giants moved the football to the Colts’ 33-yard line, with the big play being a 22-yard end around to Morton. However, on 4th-and-5, QB Eli Manning’s pass intended for WR Plaxico Burress fell incomplete. Incredibly, after this exchange of opening possessions, the first quarter was almost over.

The Colts’ second offensive drive also resulted in a successful field goal – this one from 32-yards out. CB Corey Webster dropped an interception on the play right before the field goal. On this possession, Indianapolis drove 51 yards in 11 plays. The Colts now lead 6-0.

The Giants’ second drive began at their own 20, and once again the Giants were able to move the ball. There was a 13-yard pass to HB Tiki Barber on 3rd-and-8 and a 37-yard pass to WR Plaxico Burress on 3rd-and-8 to keep the drive alive. But the possession stalled at the Colts’ 22-yard line and PK Jay Feely missed a 40-yard field goal.

Indianapolis really gained momentum on their third possession by driving 70 yards in 10 plays – this drive ended with the first touchdown of the game and the Colts taking a 13-0 advantage. QB Peyton Manning found TE Dallas Clark for a 2-yard score, after hitting WR Reggie Wayne for a big, 34-yard gain earlier on the drive.

Just when things looked the most bleak, New York finally got on the board as QB Eli Manning led the Giants on a quick, 8-play, 86-yard drive that resulted in a superb, leaping, 34-yard touchdown reception by Burress right before halftime. But the Giants inexcusably handed back momentum to the Colts as the ensuing Colts drive started at the 38-yard line after a poor kickoff and kickoff coverage. With only 25 seconds left on the clock before intermission, the Colts were able to get into field goal possession in only four plays and PK Adam Vinatieri hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired. The Colts led 16-7 at halftime.

The Colts scored on all four of their offensive possessions in the first half, albeit three of them field goals.

The Giants began their own 11-play, 69-yard marathon at the start of the third quarter – a drive that took almost eight minutes off of the clock and resulted in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to TE Jeremy Shockey. The Giants now trailed by only two points, 16-14.

After generating long drives all evening, both teams then exchanged quick three-and-outs. The Colts’ second possession of the second half ended when CB R.W. McQuarters intercepted Peyton Manning and returned the football 16 yards to the Colts’ 46-yard line. But after an unsuccessful deep pass to Burress, the Giants immediately handed the ball back to the Colts as Manning and Barber muffed the exchange and the Giants fumbled the football away at the Colts’ 49-yard line. “Tiki and I had a little miscommunication,” said Eli Manning. “That’s the stuff that we can’t have happen. We’ve got to be on the same page. It’s my fault for trying to hand it off. It was supposed to be going one way and I should have known that if something happened to just keep it, go down, just dive up and try to minimize the loss. You hate to get a turnover right there.”

Eight plays and 51 yards later, Indianapolis scored a touchdown to go up 23-14 early in the fourth quarter.

With the game looking bleak again, the Giants managed an 11-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by HB Brandon Jacobs. New York trailed 23-21 with roughly eight minutes to play in the game.

After picking up only one first down, the Colts were forced to punt. A 3rd-and-2 pass from Manning to WR Tim Carter was completed for 19 yards, but Carter was flagged with offensive pass interference, causing the third-down play to be played again. Manning’s ensuing pass on 3rd-and-11, intended for WR Amani Toomer, was intercepted, giving the Colts the football at the Giants’ 34-yard line.

“Just a bad decision by me to throw it,” said Eli Manning. “I probably threw it to the right guy, I just can’t float it there with the safety. I’ve got to throw a line drive. Just a bad decision by me there.”

Seven plays later, Vinatieri hit his fourth field goal for a 26-21 advantage with just over a minute to play.

The Giants’ last offensive possession started at their own 23-yard line with 1:06 on the clock. Completions to Shockey and Toomer, followed by a false start on OC Shaun O’Hara, put the ball at Giants’ 46-yard line. Shockey did not help matters by not getting out of bounds to save time on the clock. Eli Manning’s last desperate heave was incomplete. The game was over.

“The final drive I think we just had some missed opportunities,” said Eli Manning. “We didn’t have a whole lot of time. We just tried to make some plays. The second to last drive, we had about five minutes left and were about to get a first down right there on the throw to Tim Carter, they called the foul. I couldn’t see what it was; it looked like a good route. I don’t think we lost the game right there, we lost the game earlier in the game. We had some missed opportunities, we drove the ball down there, we were driving the ball. We moved the ball well all night, running the ball and throwing the ball. We didn’t capitalize on getting points early in the game and scoring, getting field goals and touchdowns. That’s something we’ve got to work on. We had some mistakes, had some penalties, and we just have to learn to capitalize on our opportunities.”

In the game, Eli Manning completed 20-of-34 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. His brother completed 25-of-41 passes for 276 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The Giants shut down the Colts’ running game, holding their two backs to 55 yards on 23 carries. The Giants gained 186 yards on the ground, with Barber (110 yards on 18 carries) and Jacobs (54 yards on eight carries) leading the way. Burress had 80 yards receiving on four catches, while Barber, Shockey and Toomer had five catches apiece.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: The following is the transcript of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game press conference:

Opening Statement: We lost the game obviously to a good football team as the game was dealt. We feel like we could have won the game. We had opportunities – no excuses. The one area that is of big concern to me obviously is the penalties. When you’re constantly going backwards it’s difficult to go forward. We had an awful lot of things to overcome against a good football team. We did some of the things we set out to do. We ran the ball – I thought we ran the ball well. We came back and put ourselves in position to win the game. We had the ball at midfield with a two-point deficit and then turned the ball right back over to them. We had two turnovers and they had one. We knew we could not turn the ball over and win the game. That was just the way it was. We had to get more turnovers than we gave up. We dropped a couple of passes that could have been interceptions that could have made the difference in the first half and not allowed them to get on the board. We missed a field goal we should not have missed. Our special teams were not very good. We didn’t turn the ball under to cover kicks the way we’re capable of. We lost the game against a good football team. The season is a marathon – it’s not a sprint. The next game is the most important game. We have a lot of things to improve upon to tighten up the level of our play. I think we’re certainly capable. We did a lot of good things tonight. We put ourselves in position – we didn’t win the game, but we certainly had a chance to do that and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Q: What is your perspective on the offensive pass interference penalty against Tim Carter and the illegal snap penalty against Shaun O’Hara in the fourth quarter?

A: I have nowhere…There’s no place for me to go talking about penalties. I expressed myself on the field to the officials. It’s a shame, because we got the ball out there near midfield, and that’s where it should have been. I was standing right there. It’s very difficult for me to think that that kind of play is a foul.

Q: What happened on Eli Manning’s fumble?

A: It was a mistaken – miscommunication.

Q: What do you attribute the penalties to? It seemed like they came out of nowhere.

A: Well, they’re not coming out of nowhere. Obviously, we’re making them. I think you’ve got to almost look at every one of them individually. Obviously we’ll go to work on that this week. We came into this game talking about wanting to win it and we’ve got to get better disciplined. We have to control ourselves better in the heat of battle. They had three and we had, what? – Ten? 11?

Q: After a loss like this, is it almost like your next game can’t come soon enough?

A: No. We have a lot to work on from this game. It’ll come soon enough.

RE: Eli Manning’s performance

A: He played well, with the exception of the interception. He certainly put us in a position to have an opportunity to win the game. He was sharp, he was accurate, for the most part. He ran the offense well. He had the one delay penalty, which, I don’t know how that happened, but he used the clock well, he changed the play well at the line of scrimmage, he got us into the end zone. He did things that a quarterback has to do in order for you to win. If you look at the stats, I think, I don’t have any in front of me, but there were a lot of penalties. I really did think that if we had the two-and-out with the penalty – the three-and-out with the interception at the beginning of the second half, I thought we had a real good chance to come back and win it. But it seemed like we got up close and then we lost momentum. Instead of being able to just push it over the top, we weren’t quite in there.

Q: On the opening drive of the game, what did you see from your defense?

A: Well, there’s the inability to get to the quarterback, obviously. They made a lot of good plays, some of which were not well defended and some of which and some of which we could do a better job (of defending). I think it’s, again, you don’t want to see that happen. I think the time of possession after their drive was nine minutes gone in the first quarter. They’re a good offensive team. They’ve done it many, many times before and they do have some new faces in there and they still performed well. Their quarterback performed well.

Q: Any update on Osi Umenyiora?

A: Osi was cramping. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.

Q: How about Chris Snee?

A: I don’t know anything yet about Snee. It could be an ankle…but we’re going to have to do a few tests to figure out what’s wrong.

Q: You have to be pretty pleased with the running game.

A: That’s something we had to do. We did it. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring us the win.

Post-Game Notes and Quotes: Right guard Chris Snee hurt his ankle in the first half and did not return. Rich Seubert took his place.

Offensively, the Giants did not allow a sack in the game.

Giant inactives for the game included QB Tim Hasselbeck, WR Sinorice Moss, HB Derrick Ward (foot), OT Na’Shan Goddard, OT Guy Whimper, DT Jonas Seawright, LB Brandon Short, and CB Kevin Dockery.

Colts’ Head Coach Tony Dungy’s initial post-game comments: “The Giants have an outstanding team. There was a lot of emotion here in the stadium tonight and a lot of energy all week. We didn’t play our best but we were able to get a win. I thought our offense did a good job of making enough plays for us and keeping the ball in time of possession. On special teams, I thought this was the best our cover unit has played since I’ve been here and that was a big part of the game. Defensively we just weren’t sharp. I know a lot of it had to do with the fact that New York really studied us and did a good job. They had some good stuff for us. We didn’t tackle as well as we need to and we didn’t play as well as we are going to need to in order to carry on this year. As I said, we are happy with the win and I think our defense will get sharper as we go. They have an excellent football team and we are 1-0. We are excited about that.”