The Giants entered their second preseason game with hopes of shoring up some of the issues that plagued them in last week’s opener in Pittsburgh. But they left MetLife Stadium with just as many questions — and a couple of wounded starters — as they fell to the Colts, 20-12.
The score was inconsequential, as the more pressing issue were the injury statuses of wideout Victor Cruz (bruised heel) and center David Baas (sprained knee), as each went down in the opening quarter and didn’t return. The good news for Giants fans, though, is that both had X-rays and both results were negative. Baas is one of the toughest competitors in the league, so there may be hope for Big Blue that his injury won’t keep him out too long. And Cruz, who left the game and stood on the sidelines in street clothes for the remainder of the contest, would’ve likely returned to action had it been a regular-season game.
Head coach Tom Coughlin sounded cryptic, laced with a bit of sarcasm, when briefly discussing his wideout’s heel.
“I don't know any more than you guys do,” said Coughlin. “He runs to make his living and obviously has an issue with his heel.”
Cruz made himself scarce to the media and wasn’t available for comment.
Baas and Cruz weren’t the only stars to get banged up as defensive end Justin Tuck, who was already dealing with a back ailment, reportedly tweaked a hamstring during his limited work.
There was no further word on Tuck’s ice-wrapped hamstring, but the veteran defensive captain gave a terse “I’m fine” when asked about the injury.
Quarterback Eli Manning got out of the game unscathed as he worked most of the first half. He couldn’t generate much offense, as he went 8-of-17 for just 91 yards and an interception. The Giants offense as a whole struggled (just four field goals), particularly in the first half. They sputtered in the red zone, failing to score a touchdown in three of their four opportunities, including a failed fourth-and-short conversion in the opening quarter.
Manning said mishaps on third down need to be rectified.
“That’s something that we have to get better at. We had three opportunities with that [starting] group down there inside the 5-yard line and we’re not getting touchdowns. We have to get better and make sure when we have good drives, we need to get seven [points] and not settle [for field goals] — or not even get points at all, as we did when we were stopped on fourth down,” Manning said. “I don’t know if there’s one thing, but every third down is its own story. We just have to convert. We need to look at the game film and make sure guys are doing better jobs at getting conversions.”
It looked like the offense would get a reprieve when Andre Brown converted around right end on fourth-and-inches to extend the drive for the starters. Alas, the Colts defense stiffened and forced yet another field goal, as the 14-play drive ultimately ended up being a disappointment.
“We did some good things, and we did some things we need to do a lot better,” said Manning. “We had a couple opportunities to score touchdowns and we didn't, [but] we ran the ball better tonight. We just have to be more consistent. It's Week 2 of the preseason and we've got four practices this week to get better.”
Coughlin wasn’t as optimistic as his quarterback and hopes a week’s worth of practice gets Big Blue back on track.
“Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done. We’ll have four practices this week and maybe that will help us get ready for the Jets [next Saturday night],” said Coughlin. “Because what we really need to do now is come back in, stop reading the clippings, come back in here and go to work and get better over the course of this week, [because] there were just too many mistakes tonight.”
Big Blue notes ...
» Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks agreed with Manning that the first-team offense has to shore things up, but seemed more relieved he made it through his first preseason game unscathed.
“It felt great to be back out there,” Nicks said. “I’m just getting my feet back up under me. I’m working hard to get my timing back to where it needs to be with Eli. My body felt good and it’s just great to be back on the field with my team.”
» Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka noted some good things, too, including team’s effort.
“We definitely need to get a lot better,” Kiwanuka said. “There are a couple of areas we need to improve on. Individually, it’s good with the first unit, [and] you can see some guys out there making plays. With the second unit, where there are a lot of guys with jobs on the line, they’re making plays too, and that’s encouraging. It’s the preseason. We’ve got some work to do to get the defense as a whole where we want it to be.”
» Colts quarterback Andrew Luck played all but the final four minutes of the first half and looked like a veteran already in regular-season mode. Luck finished 9-of-13 for 107 yards and two touchdowns, and had total command of the Colts offense, not to mention command of the Giants defense. Luck connected with five different receivers, including touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton and the always-reliable Reggie Wayne. The latter’s scoring reception came at the expense of Giants cornerback Aaron Ross, who misplayed the ball in the end zone and meekly tipped it to the waiting Wayne.
» None of the hotly contested positional camp battles seemed to gain any separation in Sunday’s tilt. The running back competition between David Wilson and Brown was a stalemate, as Wilson tallied 34 yards on eight carries and Brown had 36 yards on eight totes. The middle linebacker battle between Mark Herzlich and Dan Connor was also a push, as the former registered four solo tackles and the latter had three. Neither player has been able to separate themselves during training camp or the two preseason games.
» Some good came from the Giants’ reserves though, as cornerback Jayron Hosley picked off Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and returned it 37 yards to the Colts’ 40-yard line. The play was made possible because backup defensive tackle Mike Patterson caused the hurried throw as the former Eagle destroyed the Colts’ interior pocket. Overall, the backup Big Blue defense can boast to their superiors they held the Colts to just three points in the second half.
» Cruz and Baas didn’t return for action, but for tight end Larry Donnell, who is fighting for his livelihood, there was no choice but to play hurt. The former Grambling State star got into the game in the fourth quarter after almost being a game-time scratch due to a knee injury. Donnell sprained his knee and was forced to leave early after landing awkwardly while attempting to catch a pass during Friday’s practice. He participated in the team’s walkthrough on Saturday morning, but wasn’t expected to play.
» Giants on the inactive list included wide receivers Brandon Collins (hamstring) and Jerrel Jernigan (hamstring), cornerbacks Corey Webster (soreness) and Terrell Thomas (knee), safeties Antrel Rolle (ankle) and Cooper Taylor (hamstring), running back Da’Rel Scott (shoulder), fullback Henry Hynoski (PUP/knee), offensive lineman Chris DeGeare (ankle), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (PUP/knee) and defensive ends Damontre Moore (shoulder) and Jason Pierre-Paul (PUP/back).
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.