by Jon Wagner / Big Blue Blitz contributor
The New York Giants figure to have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL this season. But if they can’t solve a problem that plagued them last season -- that of not only moving the ball into the red zone, but getting into the end zone -- they may not be able to score enough to be the NFC contenders they hope to be.
New York’s red zone issues inside their opponent’s 20 yard-line plagued them again on Sunday night at MetLfie Stadium, as the Giants (1-1) failed to score a touchdown despite having three red zone trips with the first-team offense, in a 20-12 preseason Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts (1-1).
Adding injury to insult, New York also saw three key starters suffer varying degrees of injuries, with star wide receiver Victor Cruz (bruised heel) and center David Baas (knee) leaving the game early, before defensive end Justin Tuck (hamstring) joined them with a visit to the trainer’s room.
The Giants started fast with second-year running back David Wilson (eight carries, 34 yards) rushing for 21 yards on the game’s second play, before Cruz drew a 39-yard pass interference call against double coverage, down the middle, on the next play.
But running back Andre Brown (eight carries, 36 yards) was stuffed on 4th-and-1 from the Indianapolis 7-yard line to end the drive.
The next New York possession got just as far, after a 56-yard Colts punt and a 42-yard trip in eight plays by the Giants. But wide receiver Kevin Hardy (no catches) dropped a would-be touchdown catch and New York had to settle for a 3-0 lead on a first-quarter field goal by newly acquired veteran kicker Josh Brown.
After quarterback Eli Manning (8-for-17, 91 yards, interception) tried to force a ball into wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (two catches of 20 yards each) and was picked off, leading to an Indianapolis field goal that made it 10-3, Manning later engineered a nice 15-play, 62-yard drive to the Indianapolis 5-yard line.
Wilson, however, lost four yards on a poorly designed run, and then Manning misfired on successive passes looking for wide receiver Ramses Barden (four catches, 28 yards) and newly signed tight end Brandon Myers (no catches), as New York could only manage another field goal, to get to within 17-6, late in the opening half.
Manning was outshined by last year’s NFL Rookie of the Year finalist, quarterback Andrew Luck (9-for-13, 107 yards, two touchdowns), who true to his surname, tossed one of the most fortunate and bizarre touchdown passes ever seen.
A Luck pass was badly underthrown up the right side, where cornerback Aaron Ross (three tackles) had an easy interception within his grasp, until he fell while trying to cradle the ball. The ball popped high in the air and behind him, where wide receiver Reggie Wayne (three catches, 37 yards, touchdown) alertly tipped it even higher, and then stayed with it for a 28-yard touchdown reception that gave the Colts a 7-3 lead with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
Following a Giants three-and-out, a face mask penalty on Ross began a seven-play, 54-yard march that ended with a beautifully thrown ball by Luck, on which wider receiver T.Y. Hilton (two catches, 36 yards, touchdown) made an equally nice catch to beat corner back Jayron Hosley (tackle, interception) in the far right corner of the end zone, to put Indianapolis up 17-3, on the Colts’ first possession of the second period.
Brown, who missed from 38 yards, but made two short kicks and drilled a 47-yarder in his first game as a Giant in Pittsburgh last week, went a perfect 4-for-4, including a 45-yard kick that got New York to within 17-9 as the first half ended, and a 47-yard boot that momentarily kept the Giants alive, down 20-12, with 8:43 left in the game.
Running back Michael Cox (two catches) led New York in receiving yards with 48, including a 28-yard grab, and reserve defensive end Adewale Ojomo continued to impress by leading the Giants with five tackles (all solo).
Head coach Tom Coughlin, who was very happy with his team committing just three penalties (and none until the final quarter) a week ago, will make sure he gets his team’s attention after it was flagged 10 times for 96 yards against Indianapolis.
Next up for the Giants will be the annual Snoopy Bowl against their MetLfife co-tenants, the New York Jets (1-1), in the usual preseason week that most resembles a regular season contest, with the starters getting the most time.
Of course, the Giants will be hoping that among those, will be Cruz, Baas, and Tuck.