Last year, the Indianapolis Colts were 11-5 and made the playoffs, while the New York Giants went 9-7 and spent the postseason sitting on the couch. Despite their different records in 2012, I felt the Giants would be the better team from the first snap when the two met this week. The Giants came in with an established veteran quarterback, a talented running back corps and defense known for making opposing quarterbacks crack under pressure.
The Colts are a talented team lead by inspiring coach Chuck Pagano and budding star Andrew Luck. They are still young and in the process of finding themselves on both sides of the ball. Last year, the Colts had a wide open passing attack that often abandoned the run game. Pep Hamilton was brought in to bring balance back to the offense. Luck absorbed 118 hits last year, the most in the NFL, so protecting the franchise quarterback was at a premium.
I pretty much expected this game would consist of a first half where we’d see the Giants defensive line, sans Jason Pierre-Paul, slipping through the Colts offensive line to hit Luck so hard it’d knock his grandmother’s teeth out of her mouth.
Instead, what we saw was Luck deftly side-stepping pressure to buy time for his receivers, and even slipped loose for a 14-yard scamper. This guy has got the stuff of magic and circus catches by Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton go a long way towards making him look good.
Sadly, the offensive line still looks lost and confused half of the time, and both Vick Ballard and Donald Brown looked like they were stepping in pot holes while demonstrating a complete lack of vision. If Luck is going to be called on to be a leading rusher as well as the starting quarterback, I don’t think this team can find its way back to the playoffs.
On the Giants side of the ball, I expected this to be the game David Wilson proved that he could be a pass blocker as well as a playmaker. With Justin Pugh making his first start at tackle, it seemed the perfect opportunity for Wilson to be asked to stay in and help block on passing plays, and showing off his talent running the ball.
Wilson got the start and took his first handoff for a dynamic 21-yard scamper. I was sitting at the edge of my chair, waiting for him to chip a blitzing linebacker on the next play and for Tom Coughlin to let out a sigh of relief.
Instead, what we saw was a time share between him and Andre Brown, where Brown was slow to hit the hole and only made a competitive 36 yards because the line ripped open off-tackle chasms for him to run through. Brown was called on to be the lead back once the Giants got inside the 20. It was as if coach Coughlin was trying to hand the starting job to him. The end result of four trips inside the red zone was three field goals.
Clearly, Coughlin doesn’t trust Wilson or the run game to keep the Giants’ offense moving. He’d rather play it safe and hang the fate of the team on Eli Manning’s capable shoulders. This might sound good on paper had Victor Cruz not come up limping, leaving a candy cane-brittle Hakeen Nicks and Reuben Randle to catch Manning’s passes.
Wilson admittedly has lot of growing to do in his career. In order for him to develop into a complete back in the league, he needs to get the reps and he and coach Coughlin have to find a way to trust each other. If everything hangs again on Manning’s shoulders, I fear another year scratching and clawing out 9-7 finish is on tap. They will end up falling short on the season, just like they did tonight, falling to the Colts 20-12.