After an impressive win on Sunday Night Football, the Colts sent the Giants and the rest of the NFL an unmistakable message. They plan on representing the AFC in Super Bowl XLV. From their outstanding opening touchdown drive (12 plays, 80 yard drive) to the Giants first offensive play (Antoine Bethea plastering Mario Manningham), it was clear the Colts came to play. Between the touchdown drive and the decleating hit, the Colts wanted the entire nation to know that last week's loss to the Houston Texans was an aberration. The Colts were magnificent. Indeed, the Giants did not look good at all. Yes, the Giants did play poorly. Plain and simple, the Giants ran into a buzz saw. It is only Week 2, the Giants are 1-1. With a 1-1 record, the Giants are in a three way tie for first place in the brutal NFC East. Looking on the bright side of things, although this is an ugly loss, it is to an AFC opponent.
The Giants defense had difficulty stopping the run. Colts running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown rushed for 161 yards. Despite allowing a total of 160 yards on the ground, this number is somewhat misleading. In order to thwart the Colts potent passing attack, Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell used a 4-1-6 alignment. This means the Giants were in a "dime" package for most of the game. Fewell's gambit did not pay off. Peyton Manning said, “When a team’s playing five and six DBs on first and second down, obviously they’re playing pass coverage. In the past, we haven’t been able to run against that coverage and you sort of play into their hands. So it was nice to be able to run the ball against that look.”
The lighter defensive backs could not sustain the punishment from the bigger and stronger offensive linemen. Case in point, on Donald Brown's touchdown run, Colts guard Jamey Richard easily blocked Giants safety Deon Grant out of the way. This enabled Brown to scamper into the end zone untouched. Why did Fewell use this formation? Fewell leveraged all his resources in order to compensate for the weakness at the linebacker position. Besides Michael Boley, the Giants do not have "three down" linebackers. They do not have linebackers who can play in pass coverage. This weakness at linebacker manifested itself at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With a sound ground game, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning dissected the Giants pass defense. Out of his 26 pass attempts, he completed 20 of them for 255 yards and THREE touchdowns. Most importantly, he threw ZERO interceptions. Contrast that with last week, where magnanimous Matt Moore threw three interceptions all in the red zone area.
Since we are talking about making splash plays on defense, having Giants' safety Michael Johnson in pass coverage engenders big plays for an opponent. What was Michael Johnson doing on Dallas Clark's 50 yard touchdown catch? Johnson, spelling for Kenny Phillips, bit BADLY on the play fake. With no safety help, Clark was able to breeze by Giants cornerback Aaron Ross. As a consequence, Johnson's mental lapse gave the Colts a two touchdown lead. The Giants could never recover. Undoubtedly, this play was the turning point of the game. Recall from last year, Johnson made the same mistake (biting on a play fake) against the Eagles on a 60 yard DeSean Jackson TD. Aaron Ross, Sunday Night, Michael Johnson biting badly on play action... deja blue. Johnson is a liability in coverage. Too bad Chad Jones severely injured himself. Otherwise, Johnson would not be on the team.
Giants red zone defense continues to be problematic. Since 2004, the Giants continue to be the worst red zone defense in the NFL. Last night was more of the same. In four red zone trips, the Colts scored THREE touchdowns.
On offense, Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis gave the Giants offensive line fits. For most of the game, because of the Colts pressure, Eli Manning did not have time to read the defense. The Colts sacked Manning four times. As a result of David Diehl's slow feet, Freeney had his way with Diehl. In fact, Freeney had two sacks and two forced fumbles. Clearly, Freeney's performance erases any doubt his play may be eroding. Additionally, Robert Mathis played a very good game. Like Freeney, Mathis had two sacks. The Giants offensive line was over matched by the Colts defensive ends.
Without stalwart tight end Kevin Boss, the Giants have a problem. TE Bear Pascoe had trouble blocking Mathis. He also appeared to be very slow. On his only reception, he looked like he was stuck in quick sand.
With the game out of reach, inexplicably, Eli Manning remained in the game. What was Coughlin thinking? The Colts' Linemen had their ears pinned back in pass rush. Thankfully, Eli did not get injured. Coughlin should have inserted Sage Rosenfels into the game when it was well out of reach.
Ahmad Bradshaw is amazing. Bradshaw has great vision. His ability to cut back runs makes him very dangerous. Especially against a Colts defense which moves very quickly to the football. If he did not collide with Steve Smith, he would have broken a long gain. Bradshaw gained 89 yards on 17 carries.
This current group of wide receivers are the best the Giants have ever assembled. When Eli was given time to throw, he hit Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks for touchdowns. Steve Smith runs crisp routes. He continues to be the best third down receiver in the NFL.
Jason Pierre-Paul is becoming a force on special teams. When he is rumbling down the field, opposing players are running in the opposite direction. This is reminiscent when LT played special teams. When LT played special teams, former Giants's defensive coordinator Bill Belichick admitted players were frightened by him. On film, Belichick noticed opposing players were running away from Taylor. Like Taylor, opposing players did not want to deal with JPP.
Special teams are getting better. Punter Matt Dodge picked up his game-consistency. Because of the improved special teams, the Giants did not give the Colts a short field. Even Tynes' kickoffs were much better too. Tynes had a touchback!
Going forward, the Giants have talent on this team. It is up to the coaching staff to find solutions to their problems(run defense and OL woes). Let us hope they can make adjustments because next Sunday the Giants play the Titans. The Titans can run the ball well and rush the passer.