Had it been played in September instead of August, the Giants’ 27-26 preseason victory over the Indianapolis Colts Saturday night in Lucas Oil Stadium would be remembered as one of the greatest comeback victories in franchise history. The Giants trailed early in the fourth quarter, 26-0, before rallying to score four touchdowns to win the game. For the third consecutive week, rookie wide receiver Corey Washington scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, this time on a four-yard pass from Ryan Nassib with 55 seconds remaining in the game.
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Backup quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Nassib (who each threw a touchdown pass) and their fellow second and third-stringers engineered the comeback. That includes the defense, which made some key stops and scored a touchdown on Spencer Adkins’ fumble recovery in the end zone. Tight end Kellen Davis scored on a three-yard pass from Painter and Michael Cox scored the fourth touchdown, on a two-yard run.
“We challenged our players and they battled and they fought and they found a way to win a game that was a dismal looking circumstance at that time,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “It’s a great lesson for all of us – you keep playing, you keep playing, you find something positive, you get something done.”
But the other significant takeaway from the game is that the starters, particularly those on offense, continued their preseason pattern of getting very little done.
Eli Manning and his fellow offensive first-teamers played four series in the first half. They gained a total of 53 yards and each possession ended with a punt. Manning completed one of seven passes for six yards (though he did complete a 51-yarder to Victor Cruz, who lost a fumble before the play was nullified by a penalty). In the last two games, Manning has completed one pass in nine attempts. The Giants trailed at halftime, 20-0.
“We are realists and we are looking at what looked to be a very poor performance in the first half by the ones and then when the twos came in, we really didn’t get a lot going,” Coughlin said. “It wasn’t impressive at all. We didn’t get a whole lot done. We had some things planned for some of their special pressures, we didn’t take advantage of that. We missed some throws that could have helped us, that may have gotten us a chance to get moving. It is disappointing, but we go back to work. That’s all we can do, look at the tape, go back to work and put people in the same positions they were in this ballgame and hopefully they can achieve.”
In his first three games in the Giants’ new offense, Manning has completed seven of 16 passes for 49 yards, with neither a touchdown nor an interception. The starters have scored two touchdowns in three games, one on a 73-yard run by Rashad Jennings.
“I'm not concerned right now, but we know we've got to get better,” Manning said. “We've got to play better. We've got to start executing better and start making some plays.
“Obviously, (the performance) was not good enough for that first group. We did not execute. I thought we had some opportunities to hit some plays that we didn’t come down with, a deep one to (Jerrel) Jernigan, a deep one to Victor Cruz. I thought I had another one over the middle that I overthrew Victor on. Those are plays that we’ve got to make. Those are game-changing plays and could be big plays for us. Besides that, we still have some negative plays.”
That continued after Painter, who ascended to No. 2 after a strong performance last week vs. Pittsburgh, entered the game in the second quarter. When Cody Parkey kicked a 31-yard field goal four seconds into the fourth quarter, the Giants trailed by 26 points and appeared destined for an unhappy ending.
Then suddenly, remarkably, everything changed. Painter, who completed just two of his first nine passes, hit four of six on an 80-yard drive, including the touchdown to Davis. The Giants scored again 16 seconds later, when linebacker Justin Anderson forced a fumble by running back Phillip Tanner and Adkins recovered in the end zone. With 10 minutes remaining, the Giants were within 26-14.
After the defense forced a Colts punt, Nassib took over at quarterback with the ball on the Giants’ eight-yard line. Nassib had relieved Manning in the first two games, but had
The defense forced another punt and the Giants took over on their 14 – just two yards closer to the end zone and on the same end of the field where they began their game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLVI in Lucas Oil.
The Giants soon faced a fourth-and-16 at their own 22. Nassib responded with a pinpoint 26-yard pass to tight end Adrien Robinson. “There was just some soft coverage,” Nassib said. “Adrien ran a great route and was able to find an opening and make a big play down the middle.”
The duo hooked up again on the next play for a 33-yard gain to the Indianapolis 19-yard line. Colts cornerback Qua Cox was penalized 15 yards for interfering with Washington. On the next snap, Nassib threw to the right side for Washington, who leaped over safety David Sims to catch the game-winner. Nassib’s pass to Robinson on the two-point conversion try was incomplete.
“It was an all-out blitz, so the read took me to him,” Nassib said of the winning touchdown toss to Washington. “He’s made those big plays before. He did it once again.”
The Giants had to withstand one final drive that ended when Pat McAfee’s 64-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left with five seconds left.
“We just went out there, thought that if we could put a good drive together then we would have a chance to win it at the end,” said Nassib, who completed 11 of 15 passes for 158 yards. “Fortunately, that’s how it ended up.”
Finding someone to predict that finish when it was 26-0 would have been almost impossible.
“It was definitely strange in that fact,” Nassib said. “It shows that we have some perseverance and stuff like that. We’ll play until the game’s over. I’m proud of, not only the offense, but the defense as well, finishing out at the end.”
“It was nice to see the fight and the way the guys rallied back in the second half,” Coughlin said.
He hopes to get similarly positive results in the first half with the starters next week against the Jets.