INDIANAPOLIS – Last week, the newly-crowned NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys invaded Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Indianapolis Colts and failed to score in a 23-point loss.
On Sunday, the Giants played the same opponent in the same venue and put 27 points on the board. And it still wasn't enough to win.
Despite leading from the opening moments to the final minute, the Giants fell, 28-27, when Andrew Luck threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Chester Rogers with 55 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. That completed a 21-10 second-half surge by the Colts, who trailed by 10 points at halftime.
The Giants had a final opportunity to pull the game out, but Eli Manning's deep pass down the middle to Bennie Fowler was intercepted by safety Malik Hooker at the Indianapolis 35-yard line with 23 seconds left. It was the only Giants' turnover of the game.
This was the third road game this season in which the Giants opponent scored its game-winning point in the final minute of the fourth quarter (also at Carolina and Philadelphia).
"Right is right. You win or you lose, and we didn't win," coach Pat Shurmur said. "…They made enough plays to win and we didn't at the end, hard-fought game and we came out on the losing end."
"This game obviously hurts," running back Saquon Barkley said. "You know every loss hurts but when you come down to the wire and don't find a way to finish it definitely hurts a little bit more."
The loss dropped the Giants to 5-10. Their final game will be at home against Dallas next week. Indianapolis, 9-6, won for the eighth time in nine games, and will travel to Tennessee for a 'win, you're in" game.
For a while, it seemed the Giants would spoil the Colts' party. They scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions to take a 14-0 lead into the second quarter. Barkley (one-yard run) and tight end Scott Simonson (three-yard reception) got the scores.
Nyheim Hines cut the Colts' deficit in half with a one-yard touchdown run. But Aldrick Rosas' 40-yard field goal 1:10 before halftime increased the Giants' lead to 17-7.
In the third quarter, Luck threw a two-yard scoring pass to Dontrelle Inman to make it 17-14, but the Giants responded with an 85-yard drive that ended with Manning's touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak. The visitors seemed to be in command at 24-14 with 3:42 left in the third quarter.
And then the game started to get funky. On the Colts' ensuing possession, they had a first down on the Giants' 15 when Luck was sacked by Olivier Vernon and fumbled. The ball was recovered by defensive lineman B.J. Hill, seemingly a huge turning point in the game. But the takeaway was nullified when cornerback Janoris Jenkins was penalized for holding. Two plays later, Marlon Mack scored on a three-yard run. Thirty-two seconds remained in the third quarter and the Giants' lead was down to 24-21.
The Giants soon had a first down at the Indianapolis 15-yard line, and then a second-and-two at the seven. But they settled for Rosas' 27-yard field goal, robbing them of four points that proved to be the difference in the game.
"To not get a touchdown when we were down there that last time and had to settle for a field goal, it was tough," said Manning, who completed 25 of 33 passes for 309 yards. "We got second-and-two from the (seven) and then can't get a first down. Then go backwards on second down. So we've got to do a better job there. Did a lot of good things throughout the game, but obviously not just quite good enough."
The defense forced a Colts punt with 6:41 left, giving the Giants a chance to bleed enough time off the clock to clinch the game. But the ball was downed at the four-yard line. Penalties by Simonson and center John Greco – the latter negating a nine-yard gain - kept the Giants deep in their own territory. They punted from the six.
"We were backed up and at one point I thought of maybe taking a safety there" Shurmur said. "We had been punting the ball well, so they still had to go the better part of the field to score a touchdown. I just let the punt team handle it and they did a good job with it."
But the defense couldn't close the deal. The Colts took possession at their own 47 with 3:43 to play, needing a touchdown.
Luck threw a third-down incompletion, but got another set of downs from the Giants' 44 when linebacker Tae Davis was penalized for pass interference. The Colts' quarterback then scrambled for 14 yards before completing four consecutive passes to give Indianapolis a first down at the Giants' eight with 1:03 remaining.
On the next play, cornerback B.W. Webb picked up a pass interference penalty, moving to the ball to the one. Luck then found Rogers for the deciding touchdown.
"I can't really get into the officiating or anything, but it's tough, man," Webb said. "It hurts."
But the Giants still had a chance to execute their own late-game heroics, taking possession at their 25 with 55 seconds left and one timeout. On first down, Barkley caught a six-yard pass, but stayed inbounds to keep the clock moving.
"(Getting out of bounds) is what he should have done," Shurmur said.
Engram then picked up a first down at the 36 and stopped the clock. Had Fowler been able to come up with the next pass, the Giants would have been within Rosas' range for a game-winning field goal.
"Just trying to hit Bennie running down the middle," Manning said. "I thought I threw it in a pretty good spot, but obviously just a little high. It's one of those deals – throw high over the middle, those guys are going to make a play. But I thought I threw it in a spot where he could make a catch on him and get a chunk right there. Kind of had a double move called on the outside. Those situations, you're in a bit of – you've got to take a shot. You've got to take a chance and get a chunk play. I thought I threw a pretty good ball, but obviously not."
"We were just taking a shot down the field," Shurmur said. "We had three receivers up the field and they split the safeties on us and he tried to take a shot on them. I don't fault that. We had to get the ball down the field anyways."
The Giants were left to explain another disheartening defeat.
"It hurts a lot, man," Webb said. "I hate losing, I'm sure everybody else in this locker room hates losing, too. It sucks. It's just not fun, man. I know outside looking in, people think we don't have anything to play for, but we're playing for each other in here, we're playing for jobs next year so guys can come back. Everybody in here is playing for their family. So it hurts, it hurts to lose."
Next week is their final opportunity to walk off the field with a good feeling.