For the first time since Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants returned to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana this past Saturday to take on the Indianapolis Colts. And despite a brutal start, they eventually secured a 27-26 victory.
Although the Giants walked away with a win, it was far from pretty. In fact, it might have been the most criticized win in several years, preseason or otherwise. And in looking at the film, the lack of faith and uneasiness amongst fans and experts is certainly justified.
Key to Victory: Strong 4th Quarter Effort from Reserves
After the Giants' first and second team left them with a 26-point fourth quarter deficit, the lingering reserves (some still from the second team) constructed the greatest comeback in NFL history that doesn't count. In fact, even if it did count, no other team in NFL history has ever overcome more than a 25-point fourth quarter deficit with 10:00 minutes or fewer remaining in the preseason, regular season or postseason.
"I was very pleased with the competitiveness of our late surge in the bottom of the third and then in the fourth quarter. I was pleased in the way in which we competed at that point in time. I thought that starting with Curtis Painter, we had an excellent drive and a score," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "The defensive play that got us the second score, of course, with them kicking the ball out, having a penalty, backing it up and getting the big hit out of [Justin] Anderson, ball flies up in the air, and we get the ball recovered down underneath the pile for a touchdown by [Spencer] Adkins. That was a real plus because of what it meant to our sideline in terms of continuing the belief that we could get it back.
"Then Ryan Nassib took over and we had big plays out of Adrien Robinson and we had big plays up and down the field. Kellen Davis jumping in there with Curtis [Painter]. We had a big play from Corey Washington, so we did have some really nice plays down the stretch. The clock was used well."
Despite kudos for his back-end players, Coughlin was not pleased with his first team and admitted concern for the very first time.
- Ryan Nassib – Nassib completed 11 of his 15 passes for 158 yards and the game-winning touchdown, but it was his poise and comfort in the West Coast-style offense that really stood out. Not to mention his ability to rebound after being demoted to third-string. His performance immediately put him back in the No. 2 spot in practice.
- Corey Washington – Washington was targeted only three times on Saturday, but caught every single ball thrown his way — the last of which was his third-consecutive game-winner. Big players make big plays in big moments. For Washington, all of those have been big plays at big moments at this early stage of his career.
- Marcus Harris – Not to be forgotten or outdone, Harris led the Giants in receptions (4) for the second time this preseason. He tallied 41 yards on his four receptions (targeted five times). He looked crisp in his routes, smooth with his hands and fearless across the middle.
- Steve Weatherford – Steady as a rock, Weatherford didn't blink when punting the ball a remarkable nine times. In total, he booted it for 447 yards and a 49.7 average. But it wasn't just the length of his punts, as Weatherford really showed some solid directional punting skills. If only the coverage was better. Thank goodness for Zak DeOssie bailing them out a number of times.
- Damontre Moore – Moore looks like an entirely different player defensively from a season ago. He was active against the run and impactful when rushing the passer. He ended the game with four tackles, one sack and one pressure.
- Jacquian Williams – Although he had only a handful of snaps, Williams recorded a team-leading nine tackles (four solo) and appeared very active against both the pass and run.
- First-Team Offense – There's no sense in breaking this down player-by-player. The sad reality is that every single person on the first-team offense deserves to be listed here after a dreadful performance. The offensive line appeared hesitant and confused, Eli Manning looked skittish and uneasy, while receivers dropped a pass or two, Victor Cruz fumbled on what would have been a big play and the running game was nearly nonexistent. All in all, it was a very 2013-ish performance.
- First-Team Defensive Line – From Jason Pierre-Paul to Mathias Kiwanuka, the starting defensive line looked over-matched and failed to put much pressure, if any, on Andrew Luck.
- Kelcy Quarles – Quarles displayed a complete lack of discipline on Saturday night, being flagged three times — all at very inopportune times. And it's not as if they were five-yarders or something less significant. Rather, two were of the 15-yard variety, including a horsecollar that may end in a fine.
- Quintin Demps – Demps had been anxious to return a kickoff for the first time this preseason and had the opportunity on Saturday. Unfortunately, he immediately coughed up the football.
- Walter Thurmond III – Thurmond was targeted six times, surrendering five receptions and two touchdowns on Saturday night. That equates to a passer rating of 143.8 — something that's just not going to get it done.
- Referees - More than 30 yellow flags were thrown on Saturday night with 26 of those accepted and enforced. Most were defensive holding or pass interference for "emphasis" as the league has termed it. Unfortunately for players and fans, the league has no intention on slowing this down and recently said "strict enforcement" will continue.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Quarterback Ryan Nassib
Would you believe that Nassib leads the NFL in preseason passing? Well, he does. With his game-winning performance on Saturday night, Nassib leaped a few other quarterbacks to take the NFL lead with 378 yards passing.
OVERALL PERFORMANCE GRADE:
Yes, the third team reserves came in and led the Giants to a historic comeback that doesn't count, and as impressive as that final 10:00 was, the other 50 minutes were about as dreadful a performance as a professional team could muster. Almost from top to bottom the first team would have received negative grades — especially on the offensive side of the ball — and left little hope that things could round into shape come Week 1 and the Detroit Lions.
The sad reality is, the Giants have a tremendous amount of work to do and not much time to do it. They have to perform better on Friday against the New York Jets or risk going into the regular season with countless lingering questions and shaken confidence.
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Tags: Corey Washington, Eli Manning, Football, Justin Anderson, Kelcy Quarles, Marcus Harris, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Ryan Nassib, Steve Weatherford, Walter Thurmond