After a demoralizing game versus the Texans in Week 1, the Colts faced a Giants team coming off of a 31-18 win over the Carolina Panthers. While the game was against the eventual 2-14 Panthers, Giants fans were encouraged by the win, and the improvements (or so it seemed) in the defense, which only allowed one touchdown in the win versus the Panthers.
That improvement didn't intimidate the Colts however, who came into the game looking like a completely different team. Apparently the pep talk that Manning had led during the end of the Texans game worked, because everybody on the Colts came out with a vengeance, and played much better than during Week One.
The marked improvement showed up right away in the first drive, as Manning picked apart the defense with a surgeon like precision. Focusing on the middle of the field, Manning found Garcon, Collie, and Wayne twice on the drive. At one point, Joseph Addai had four straight touches, foreshadowing a night where he would shine in rushing and catching the ball out of the backfield. Donald Brown also had a couple big runs, ending with a seven yard touchdown run behind an outstanding block by rookie tight end Brody Eldridge.
On defense on the next series, the Colts held them to a three and out, with a two yard reverse by Mario Manningham (LB's over pursued, but Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea played it perfectly), a one yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw (Fili Moala with a great job of holding his position and shedding the blocker), and an incomplete pass (Mathis blew by the right tackle). The defense seemed to really take offense at their performance during the previous week, flying around with a renewed passion.
The next three series (one by Giants and two by Colts) were all three and outs, but the Giants seemed unable to move the ball, whereas the Colts just seemed to get unlucky.
Then the Giants finally began to move the ball, aided by a deep pass interference call on Kelvin Hayden (For the record, Hayden had great coverage on the play, and just got unlucky). But then, the drive stalled with two great plays on running plays by the linebackers and a quarterback pressure by Freeney that caused an incompletion.
That series was the first series that I noticed that Kavell Conner was playing in the place of Clint Session. I went back and realized that Conner had started that evening due to Session's hamstring issues. Interesting, I don't think I noticed at the time.
After the defensive stop, the Colts received the ball and began to let the running backs shine. Starting with Addai, and ending with Brown, the Colts marched from their own two yard line to midfield on 6 running plays and one quick pass to Dallas Clark. After setting up the run with several successful draw plays, Manning faked a draw to Donald Brown, fooling the safety for enough time for Dallas Clark to get behind him and cornerback, resulting in a 50 yard touchdown pass.
The score was now 14-0 in the Colts favor, and the Giants needed some big plays. On first down from the 20, Eli Manning faked the hand off and threw a bomb to Steve Smith. The problem was that Powers and Bethea were both on Smith, and the throw was slightly under thrown by Manning. After a deflection by Bethea, Powers picked off the deep pass, and returned it 30 yards. The return would be overturned, but the interception stood. Colts ball!
That turnover led to a Vinatieri field goal, the drive once again consisting of Addai and Brown showing their talents. 17-0 Colts
On the next series, there was only four plays before Mathis caused a fumble on a sack around the edge. The Colts got the ball on the Giants 45 with 1:07 left before the half. General Manning led a quick drive, ending with a touchdown pass to Austin Collie in the left flat, making It 24-0.
The Giants would score a touchdown after coming out of the locker room, and then get a quick defensive stop. But their hope was finally dashed when, with 6:27 left in the third quarter, Freeney forced another fumble from Eli Manning, and Fili Moala recovered it in the endzone, giving the Colts a 31-7 lead. Both teams would score another touchdown before the night was over, but the game was over after this play.
What I noticed:
- The defensive tackle rotation of Fili Moala, Daniel Muir, Mookie Johnson, and Mitch King played well. Daniel Muir and Fili Moala in particular played extremely well. In fact, for the second straight week, I wasn't particularly impressed by Mookie. In fact, from those two games, I'd have to say Muir was better than Johnson playing the one tech. Mookie got pushed backwards consistently, while Muir seemed to be holding his ground or moving forwards.
- The biggest difference though, from Week One, was the linebacker play, particularly from the ROLB and MLB spot. Wheeler still seemed to be getting lost, and wasn't filling holes very well. However, Brackett was playing much better than in Week One, and the replacement of Session by Conner didn't seem to hurt the LB core at all. In fact, Conner played much better than Session had the week before, as Session was the king of over pursuit. Conner on the other hand was solid in both coverage and fundamentals of run support.
- This really was a game in which the running backs could show their stuff. Joseph Addai in particular was playing tremendously. He showed power, speed, agility, and incredible vision running the ball, and was his normal terrific self in catching out of the backfield. I particularly noticed his power, as he was hitting people hard, at one point running over Kenny Phillips and causing him to sit out for a couple plays. Donald Brown also played well, as he could hit the holes hard and gain good yards, even after contact. The Colts also lined him up as a receiver at one point, but the ball went to Collie.
- I've noticed that Kelvin Hayden is a better corner than people have been giving him credit for. In the first two games, his side was thrown to very rarely, and I noticed Powers' and Tryon's assignments getting receptions far more than Hayden's. Hayden did give up a long TD pass in garbage time, but I can't fault him too much for that. He also gave up a deep DPI, but his coverage on the play was actually fantastic, his arm hooked on the back of the receiver, but he could have made the play regardless.
- The defensive ends were marvelous. Every time Peyton's little brother stepped back to pass he felt pressure.
- Impact on the season: It would show how well the Colts defense really could play. While the offense was facing a defense that was playing small intentionally, the defense was playing a normal offense that just couldn't do anything against the Colts defense. They were forcing turnovers, stopping the run, the whole nine yards.
- Interesting point in the game, Part A: At one point, Brandon Jacobs tried to throw his helmet against the bench, but it slipped and flew into the stands. This resulted in a 15 minute affair in which security tried to retrieve the helmet from a fan who refused to let it go. How the helmet could "slip" and go into the stands as opposed to the bench is beyond me.
- Interesting point in the game, Part B: As Jacob Lacey got beat deep by Mario Manningham for the Giants first touchdown, Chris "I have no idea what I'm talking about" Collinsworth proclaimed his admiration that Eli could get the pass to Manningham "over the best man-to-man cover guy for the Colts." Heh. That was funny.