The Colts squeaked out an ugly win in a game they absolutely had to have at home against the New York Giants. It was not a pretty effort, with both the offense and defense starting very flat before entering halftime down 17-7.
A rousing speech from Andrew Luck and better execution in the 2nd half got them off to a better start and they were able to work their way back from behind and take the lead late. Malik Hooker was able to get the pick to stop the Giants as they drove to attempt to get in range for a game winning field goal. All in all, not a game the Colts will feel fondly about, but one where the result was what they needed. Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from this game.
Yet again T.Y. Hilton showed up big and helped lead this offense to a win, however ugly. He had two of the prettiest catches I can remember on long passes from Andrew Luck, and made them look plain easy. His 138 yards on 7 receptions pushed him over 1200 yards for the season and makes his 3rd season eclipsing that mark. He has been an absolute warrior for this team, battling through injuries and making himself an indispensable part of the offense for the Colts.
As bit as Hilton was, Chester Rogers might have been just as instrumental in the Colts getting a win. His numbers were not nearly as impressive, but his 54 yards on 7 catches came at critical points in the game and helped them move the ball consistently when they seemed to struggle to get in a rhythm. Rogers has been an up and down receiver this season, unable to consistently make an impact with regularity. This game, however, he was perfect, catching everything that was thrown his way, and getting yards after the catch on them all. That was something the offense desperately needed from someone not named Hilton.
Malik Hooker has gotten a lot of grief this season from some who believed he has been less impactful than he should be. While that gripe has some merit, it also is worth noting that the guy is still not all that far removed from an ACL/MCL tear, and was originally drafted as a single high safety whose production is lessened by his use in the Colts’ scheme.
Gripes aside, Hooker had a big game today, because he did what the Colts needed someone, anyone, to do. He got a takeaway to close out the game. Sure, it was a gimme throw. Hooker didn’t have to make some crazy athletic play to get the ball, he just had to catch it. However, guys drop those all the time, and he did not. This was one the Colts needed in the worst way, and Hooker was the guy who did it. He also had a pass defended and 6 tackles on the day. Not a bad day’s work considering that most of the Giants’ passes went to the flat and relied on yards after the catch.
Hopefully we are seeing Hooker beginning to feel more comfortable and like himself, and that will continue to progress as he heals and grows in this scheme.
This game was a tale of two halves for Luck. He made one of the most mind-boggling interception throws I’ve seen him make in the first half. It didn’t take a schooled analyst to see him let the ball go and feel like it was a bad move. When it sailed deep and in bounds, my first thought was that maybe someone had sneaked open and I missed it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Luck said after the game that it had simply been a bad throw which he had been attempting to throw away. Had the game ended there, it would have been a truly depressing showing.
Fortunately, Andrew Luck came out in the second half and did what he is so often able to do. He shook off a bad half of play, pumped up his team with a halftime speech, and came out guns blazing. The result was that he finished 31 of 47 for 357 yards and 2 TDs with just that first interception working against him.
It is remarkable how Luck is able to simply shrug off his struggles and move forward, but he consistently does so, and it is what makes this team impossible to count out. Even when they get a bad half of football from Luck, you simply cannot help but think that he has what it takes to bring his team right back.
Matt Eberflus (the whole defense really)
One week after his defense pitched a shutout and had his name buzzing as a possible head coach, Eberflus’ defense came out looking unprepared and overmatched by a Giants team that abused them at the seams. Despite Eli Manning having had a season where his age has begun to show, it was clear that the Colts were facing a veteran quarterback.
Eberflus started the season rushing four and relying on them to get home without doing much in the way of blitzing. They have been blitzing more over the last several games and finding success that way, but that was not the case Sunday.
Manning seemed to be well prepared for the blitz, the protection held up well, and the Giants abused the Colts in the seams, dumping he ball to Sterling Shephard and Evan Engram who chewed up big yards after the catch.
If the defense went into the day with the goal of stopping Saquon Barkley, they did so. The problem was that they failed to limit Engram or Shephard, and both provided more than 100 yards from scrimmage apiece. The defense struggled to get off the field, and greatly missed Clayton Geathers and Anthony Walker.
It seemed very much like this defense overlooked the Giants and already had their eyes on the Titans. Eberflus can’t let that effort stand, and I don’t think it is likely that he will tolerate it.
This was one of the poorer performances by the offensive line in recent memory, although the stat line won’t necessarily validate that. Luck was sacked just once, and was hit just 7 times in the game. The reality however, was that this team let pressure dictate the flow of the offense for much of the game, and was unable to get consistent running lanes, with Marlon Mack rushing for just 34 yards.
While Ryan Kelly exited the game with a neck injury, that was not the primary reason for their struggles, as the unit was having a hard time across the board from early on. They were saved from an absolutely devastating strip sack that Anthony Castonzo gave up only because T.Y. Hilton was held down the field. This season the offensive line has been making largely a positive impact on the outcome of games. This one was not so great. Let’s hope this was more of an anomaly and that the unit will snap back next week.