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Keidel: Andrew Luck And Poor Fourth Quarter Doom Giants In Indianapolis

Jason Keidel
December 24, 2018 - 11:58 am
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To show what little regard Las Vegas has for the Giants, they were up to 10-point underdogs on Sunday against the Colts. 

Yet despite the resounding sense of doom entering the game in Indianapolis - a game the Colts (9-6) had to have while the Giants (5-10) were only playing for pride - Big Blue jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and even carried a 17-7 lead into halftime. 

In fact, the G-Men were ahead for 59 of the 60 minutes played. Sadly, the one lost moment was the final minute of the game. Colts QB Andrew Luck threw a short TD pass with 55 seconds left, muscling the Colts to a 28-27 lead. Eli Manning tried to lead New York back for a final game-winning field goal, but he threw an interception to end the game. 

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It's all the more maddening that the only time the Colts led was after their final drive of the fourth quarter. It has become the sad refrain of the season to see the Giants compete only to then completely blow a football game. They led the Colts in time of possession and in rushing yards. They committed only six penalties, and averaged a robust 6.3 yards per play on offense. Even the offensive line came to play, keeping Eli from being sacked a single time. 

Eli Manning, the corporeal punching bag for this forlorn fan base, played perhaps his best game of the year. The Giants QB completed 25 of 33 passes (75.8%), finding eight different receivers, for 309 yards as he finished with a 112.3 passer rating. Manning even ran for a score, pushing the Giants out to a 24-14 bulge with 3:42 left in the third quarter.

All of this came without Manning's favorite weapon, the all-world wideout Odell Beckham Jr.,who missed the game with an injury. And while it's unfair to say dazzling RB Saquon Barkley has slammed into the rookie wall, he's clearly not the electric runner who had us so spellbound for the first three months of the NFL season. 

There's another yearlong stat that speaks to the Giants' lack of talent, temerity, or coaching. Big Blue is dead-last in fourth quarter defense, allowing 10.3 points in the final 15 minutes of every game, beating out two other teams that will be watching the playoffs from home (Oakland and Miami). Even more troubling, the Giants have averaged one - yes, 1 point - in the fourth quarter over their last three games. Which means that Sunday's FG by Aldrick Rosas counts for all the fourth-quarter points the Giants have scored in December. 

Even more galling was the fact that, on that drive, the Giants reached the Colts' seven-yard-line with a chance to pound the ball into the end zone and all but seal the game, but were unable to grind their way to the goal line, giving Luck one last shot to win. 

If you think this was a game between the princes and paupers of the NFL, consider both teams started the season 1-5 with a microscopic chance to make the playoffs. The Colts have gone 8-1 since, while the G-Men sputtered to a 1-7 record before they won four out of five cosmetic contests. Both clubs have a rookie coach, so if Indianapolis had an edge under the headset, it says a lot more about Pat Shurmur than Frank Reich. 

Of course, Reich has a future Hall-of-Famer under center in Andrew Luck, who's in his prime, while Shurmur has the geriatric Manning, who should also find his way to Canton though his best years are behind him. Still, the Giants lose whether Manning plays well or woefully bad. 

MORE: Keidel: Barkley Has Been Amazing, But Giants Still Need A QB

So do the Giants lose because Shurmur can't lead his men, or because he doesn't have the right men to lead? The Giants passed on Manning's successor in the last NFL Draft, taking the athletic splendor of Saquon Barkley over Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen. Maybe Shurmur should get a mulligan until the Giants find their next franchise quarterback. 

If you needed to know how helpful it is to have one, all you had to do was gaze across the sideline at the strapping Colts QB. When you have Andrew Luck you never feel like you're lost or going to lose as long as his skill and will are on the gridiron. Hopefully, the Giants will find their next great passer in 2019; you just hope they didn't already pass on him in 2018. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel