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Good, bad and ugly: Giants 27, Colts 26

 

The good, bad and ugly from the second straight preseason game in which the Colts lost the war but won the battles that mattered most (and this won’t be the last militaristic metaphor) …

THE GOOD

>> For starters, the Colts are in good shape. Andrew Luck directed the first unit offense to scoring drives on four of five possessions, albeit just one touchdown. With Luck at the controls in the preseason, the Colts have outscored opponents 16-3, and the quarterback is 16 of 23 for 142 yards and a touchdown, a 100.3 passer rating.

>> The defense has been similarly impressive. The first unit has yet to allow a touchdown, surrendering a single field goal in six possessions, and was dominating against the Giants, yielding 53 net yards on 20 plays. Of the Giants’ meager five first downs in the first half, three were the result of penalties (more on that later).

>> The battle for roles and roster spots at wide receiver is compelling. With Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton both given the night off, Hakeem Nicks (five receptions, 53 yards) had a big game, Griff Whalen (five receptions, 32 yards and a touchdown) continued to look like a preseason Hall of Famer and Da’Rick Rogers also had a nice TD reception. Those three all look like keepers, as does rookie Donte Moncrief.

>> Luck said the fact Nicks was a primary target against the Giants was simply a matter of coincidence. “A couple of guys on the team asked me that too. ‘You were giving it to Hakeem on purpose.’ My response was, ‘Yeah, you give it to the open guy on purpose’,” Luck said. “It was just the way the game played out. There was no extra as were playing. If you get caught in that game, you get everybody on you. He did a great job though. He did a great job.”

>> They may have found a punt returner. Loucheiz Purifoy, an undrafted rookie from Florida, had 37 yards on two returns and showed electricity with his outside burst. A cornerback from Florida, Purifoy also has showed promise in coverage, so he solidified his case for not only a roster spot, but a place on the field.

>> Matt Hasselbeck and the second unit also looked solid and the Colts rolled up a 26-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.

>> Pat McAfee barely missed a game-winning 64-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds. He had the distance but pushed it just left. “Before this season’s over, he’s going to hit a game-winner from 60-plus yards,” Pagano said. “I guarantee it.”

THE BAD

>> Chuck Pagano calls it “friendly fire,” and the Colts spent much of the night with itchy trigger fingers. Penalties cost them consecutive takeaways in the first quarter, and a mild taunt of his old teammates by Nicks wiped out the Colts’ biggest play of the night, a 36-yard completion. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, and Hakeem knows,” Pagano said. “Right after it was over, he knew exactly what the discussion was going to be. He’s better than that, he knows that. Next time he’ll learn from that, and it won’t happen again.”

>> The reserves took the self-destruction to an entirely new level in the fourth quarter, fueling the Giants’ comeback with a series of costly penalties. One wiped out a third-and-eight sack, keeping alive a touchdown drive; another on a kickoff return backed up the offense to the 6, where Philip Tanner’s fumble on the first handoff was smothered in the end zone for a second TD; consecutive coverage penalties pushed along the Giants’ third TD drive; and then came the doozy, after allowing the Giants to convert a fourth-and-16, Qua Cox was called for interference, setting up first-and-goal at the four, and was then burned for the game-winning touchdown.

>> Pagano said he told the players the mistakes were “unacceptable” after the game. “It doesn’t matter who’s out there. First team, second team, third team, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We’re held to a high standard all of us, so the expectations are high for everybody. You’re up 26-nil, you’ve got to close those things out and finish games. I don’t care who’s out there, they’ve got to play and they’ve got to finish.”

>> The running game continued to generate little to nothing. Trent Richardson had 21 yards on nine carries, bringing his preseason totals to 34 yards on 14 attempts. Two of his runs have accounted for 16 of those yards, meaning the other 12 have produced just 18. Sound familiar? Boom Herron did not come to the rescue this time. In two preseason games, running backs have totaled 102 yards on 49 trues, a paltry 2.1 average.  “We’ve got to run the ball better, we all know that,” Pagano said. “We’re going to continue to work on that.”

THE UGLY

>> With the NFL’s emphasis on cutting back on pushing, shoving and grabbing by defensive backs beyond the five-yard limit being strictly enforced, he teams combined for 26 penalties for 109 yards. The league seems to believe this will open up the game even more; thus far, the result has been an unwatchable flag-fest, with teams averaging more than 22 penalties per game, nearly one-third on coverage calls.

>> As a former defensive backs coach, this naturally has attracted Pagano’s attention. “We have the NFL officials in (practice) so we’ve been harping on it in the whole offseason program, OTAs, minicamp, and all through training camp,” he said. “You can kind of see where the weekend’s going, including our game, as far as the emphasis on illegal contact, offensive P.I., D.P.I., holding, all those things in the back end. Guys are going to have to do a great job. You’re allowed five yards, and then after five yards you’ve got to get off guys and you can’t have contact. We’ve got to do a better job coaching it.”

>> Though no new injuries were added to the list, eight starters were among the 14 players held out of the game: Hilton, safety Delano Howell, fullback Stanley Havili, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, center Khaled Holmes, guard Jack Mewhort, Wayne, and outside linebacker Robert Mathis. Mewhort and Hilton were the only real surprises and Pagano described their absences as “precautionary,” so no alarm bells. Yet.

>> Others out were Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw, Josh McNary, Ulrick John, Xavier Nixon and Montori Hughes.

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