Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2002 Giants @ Colts

Week 16

The Setup

When you look back at the Jim Fassel era, it is marked generally by inconsistency and lost opportunity, particularly in the post season.  Fassel coached the Giants for 7 seasons, from 1997 - 2003.  In those 7 years, his Giants' teams won the NFC East title twice, made the playoffs 3 times, and made the Super Bowl in 2000, the only one the Giants have lost in 5 tries.  Not bad on the surface.  However, Fassel never had back-to-back winning seasons, let alone playoff appearances during this tenure.  His teams were also known for slow starts, maddening losses due to sloppy play against lesser teams, and just when they seemed out of the hunt, a huge December comeback that would get them back into the playoff picture.  Well the 2002 season more or less summed up all of what Jim Fassel was about, slow starts, midseason inconsistency and controversy, and a late mad dash by his team that got them into the playoffs, only to suffer a historic collapse at the worst time.

The 2002 team still had most of the core left over from the 2000 NFC Championship squad.  On offense they had Kerry Collins, Tiki Barber, Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, and Ron Dayne.  They added a brash young TE from "the U", a rookie named Jeremy Shockey.  Shockey brought a level of excitement and cockiness that the Giants had not seen around these parts in many years, and certainly not of offense.  Productivity wise, Shockey put up numbers at TE not seen in over 15 years, when Mark Bavaro was in his prime and healthy.  Meanwhile on defense, the Giants still had their leaders, Jesse Armstead, Keith Hamilton, Michael Strahan, Mike Barrow, Shaun Williams, and Jason Sehorn.  Though a big difference was in coaching on defense.  The 2000 coordinator, John Fox left to coach the Carolina Panthers and his assistant coach who oversaw the defensive backfield, Johnnie Lynn, took over as the coordinator.  Lynn, a former cornerback for the NY Jets in the 1980s, was thought to be an up and coming defensive mind at the time.

The Giants entered 2002 after a trying 2001 season, both on and off the field.  They started with a loss in Denver on a Monday Night and the following morning, literally, the world changed.  The 9/11 attacks hit NY and Washington just after the Giants plane had landed at Newark.  With a heavy heart, the Giants would find a way to rebound from the loss and win their next 3 to go to 3-1.  Back to back 1 point losses at St. Louis and vs. the Eagles brought them to 3-3.  The Giants would go on and play in 6 more games in which the final score was a difference of a TD or less and end the season at 7-9.  In 2002, again the Giants would start off inconsistent, going 3-3 in the first 6 games.  After a bye week, the Giants would take on the Eagles, now more or less the established top dog in the NFC East as the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb era had taken flight and lose a Monday Night game at Philly 17-3 to drop to 3-4 and 2 games behind the Eagles.  It was the 4th game so far in the young season in which the Giants had scored 10 or fewer points.  Jim Fassel decided to take action, and in this case it would be to "demote" Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton as Fassel took over the play calling duties.  It was said that Fassel "simplified" the offense.  Reading between the lines, this really was a veiled shot at Kerry Collins.  In several games broadcast, Troy Aikman, the Hall of Fame Cowboys QB, would say that Collins was great "when he knew where the ball was going to go".  Later, in interviews by Toomer, it was said that Fassel removed Collins' ability to audible at the line and just run the play called.  Collins was a protypical pocket passer.  Great size, very strong arm to zip the ball into a tight spot or throw a deep pass that few others in the NFL at the time could match.  But as was seen in the Super Bowl vs. the Ravens, when he was confused, he was awful.  In looking at Sean Payton as the New Orleans head coach, with the record breaking numbers his offense has put up with Drew Brees at QB, it's tough to really pin this one on Payton's abilities.  Whatever the case, the move spurred on the Giants. They would go on and beat Jacksonville, Minnesota, and Washington to sit at 6-4 and get right back in the playoff hunt.

Just when you started to feel good about the Giants, again the Fassel inconsistency would set in.  They would drop 2 straight to AFC opponents.  They lost on the road to a 2-8 expansion Houston Texans team by the score of 16-14 on a 50 yard FG by kicker Kris Brown.  Highlighted in this game was long snapper Bob Jones air mail a snap over punter Matt Allen's head for a safety, which was a recurring theme all year, problems on special teams, particularly with the long snap.  Next, they would play at home against the 6-5 Tennessee Titans, in a game that would turn out to be a gut wrenching loss.  The Giants would take a 26-14 lead in the 4th quarter on a Tiki Barber TD.  Fassel decided to go for 2 points and make it a 2 TD game, but failed to convert.  Steve McNair would then lead a furious comeback and the Giants would blow the lead on a late TD from McNair to Frank Wychek and a 2 point conversion to tie the game up at 29 all.  It should be noted, if Fassel had gone for the extra point, the Giants win the game 30-29.  In OT, Joe Nedney of the Titans would hit a 38 yard FG to win the game 32-29 and drop the Giants to 6-6.

It seemed like a death knell for the Giants.  With the Eagles running away with the division, the Giants only hope for the playoffs was the Wild Card route.  And that didn't seem too good either.  The Falcons were 8-3-1 and the Saints were 8-4.  A 2.5 and 2 game lead with 4 to play was a huge hurdle.  The Giants had to hope to right their ship and cross their fingers for a collapse of either of those teams.  The Giants, miraculously would do their part.  Taking on a 5-7 Redskins team, who were only 1 game back in the standings, the Giants would jump out to a 17-0 lead and hold off a Patrick Ramsey comeback off the bench to win the game 27-21.  The Giants would blow out the Cowboys at Giants Stadium the week after that by the score of 37-7 as rumors swirled about Bill Parcells coming out of retirement to coach the Boys when he met Jerry Jones on his private jet at Teteboro Airport, just a few short miles from the Meadowlands (those rumors would prove true, as he got the job in 2003, though at the time it seemed as though the Tuna was more motivated by money than a real desire to coach, thanks to an expensive divorce).

So a 2 game win streak in hand, the Giants had gotten back on track heading into their showdown in Indianapolis.  How about the New Orleans and Atlanta?  The Saints would beat the Ravens to go to 9-4.  They would host the 3-10 Vikings, needing just a win to clinch a playoff spot.  What we got was the start of an epic collapse by the Saints.  Leading by a TD late in the game, the Vikings' Dante Culpepper would hit Randy Moss with a 13 yard TD with just :05 to play in the game.  Rather than kick the extra point and go to OT, the Vikings decided to go for 2 and the win.  Culpepper would fumble the snap, but pick it up and lunge forward and across the goal line to get the 2 points and give the Vikings an improbable 32-31 win.  Meanwhile, the Falcons would get blown out by the eventual Super Bowl champs in Tampa Bay 34-10 to drop to 8-4-1.  The following week they figured that they would easily handle a 4-9 Seahawks team at the Georgia Dome.  The Seahawks would lead for most of the game, until a late 12 yard Mike Vick to Trevor Gaylor TD would tie the game at 24-24 and send it to OT.  In the extra session, Vick would drive the Falcons to the Seattle 18 yard line and bring on kicker (and future Giant) Jay Feeley for the game winning chip shot...which he missed.  The Seahawks responded by driving the ball back the other way, and foregoing a field goal, Shaun Alexander took care of business himself, chugging into the end zone on a 27 yard TD to win the game.

All of a sudden, the Giants had hope.  At 8-6, they were right on the heels of Atlanta (8-5-1) and New Orleans (9-5) thanks to their collapses.  The Giants needed to go into Indianapolis and beat the Colts, and then beat the Eagles at Giants Stadium the following Saturday, plus would need a loss by either the Falcons or Saints.  For the Falcons and Saints going into Week 16, the Giants didn't figure to have very high hopes.  The Falcons were playing the 2-12 Lions at the Georgia Dome.  Meanwhile things were even more bleak looking for help from the Saints, as they were playing on the road at the 1-13 Bengals.

The Giants immediate challenge was facing the 9-5 Colts, with Peyton Manning at QB and putting up historic passing numbers, particularly to his Pro Bowl WR Marvin Harrison.  The Colts had something at stake in this game as well.  A win over the Giants would put them in the playoffs.  The previous week the Colts had come back on the road in Cleveland, after falling behind 16-0 at halftime, they ralled on 2 Manning TD passes and 2 TD runs by James Mungro to win the game 28-23.  Furthermore, a win vs. the Giants would give them a chance at winning the division in case the Titans slipped up.

So the stage was set, the surging Giants looking to win and get help to make the playoffs, vs. the Colts, on the verge of the playoffs themselves, playing at home in front of their loud crowd at the RCA Dome.

The Game Highlights

With both teams in the playoff hunt, the stakes were high entering this game.  The Colts would win the toss and elect to put their high powered offense on the field first.  Matt Bryant's kickoff was taken by Troy Walters at the 5 yard line and returned to the 28 yard line, where he was stopped by Johnnie Harris.  While the Colts passing game was on the mark, their running game was struggling as Edgerrin James was slowed by a high ankle sprain coming into the contest.  James looked slow on the first play, a run for no gain as he was swallowed up by Lance Legree and Kevin Lewis.  On 2nd down, Manning would go to his favorite target and hit Harrison for a 22 yard gain, as linebacker Brandon Short was late getting over into his zone and the Colts would have a first down near midfield.  Tony Dungy would get cute on the next play, attempting a flea flicker as James flipped the ball back to Manning.  However, the Giants were not fooled at all and Manning had Strahan and Dhani Jones all over him, while Sehorn stayed stride for stride with Quadry Ismail deep, and forced an incomplete pass.  On 2nd down, a James sweep was strung out by the defense and safety Omar Stoutmire forced him out of bounds for no gain.  The drive would officially stall out on 3rd and 10 as a planned screen pass to James was blown up thanks to pressure almost immediately on Manning by Kenny Holmes, forced the throw to be made earlier than they wanted, and James was dropped for a 5 yard loss by Barrow and Cornelius Griffin.  Now 4th and 15, the Colts would come on to punt

The much maligned Giants' special teams unit would step up with a big play.  Marcellus Rivers, a former QB who was converted to TE in training camp , * was able to break through the line up the middle and block Hunter Smith's punt.  The ball would go back to the 25 yard line and after a pile up of players, the Giants would get the ball in great field position.
* Correction on the Rivers point. As mentioned in the comments, I was thinking of Darnell Dinkins who was moved to TE from QB by the Giants. Rivers was always a TE, coming out of Oklahoma State.

The Giants offense came out on the field and their first play was a pass from Collins to Shockey, who was split out wide, and got the ball inside the 10 yard line for a first and goal.  Tiki would get nailed in the backfield by Mike Peterson on a sweep for a 2 yard loss.  Now 2nd and 12, Collins would dump a pass off to Tiki, who would maneuver his way to the 7 yard line, where would be hit and cough the ball up, however the refs ruled that he was down by contact.  The Giants would get some extra yards on 3rd down, as former Giant DE Chad Bratzke jumped offsides, to set up 3rd and goal at the 4.  With weapons all over the field, Fassel made the curious call to spread the defense and try a QB draw with a slow footed Collins.  The play was slow to develop, and hurt even more when Collins bumped into center Chris Bober and was converged upon by four Colts defenders at the 2 yard line.  The Giants decided to take the points, and Bryant would nail the 20 yarder to give the Giants a 3-0 lead with 9:42 to go in the first quarter.

Bryant would kickoff to Walters, who took the shorter kick from the 10 and was able to race out to the 37 yard line before he was forced out of bounds.  The Colts would start with a sweep to James, who was dropped for a short loss by Barrow.  On 2nd down, Manning would come to the line and change the play, this time to a draw to James, but he was nailed by Griffin for another loss.  The Colts, now facing 3rd and long, and the only open receiver for Manning was his TE safety valve in Joe Davenport and was a short gain over the middle where he was tackled by Brandon Short and the 3 and out brought on Smith for another punt.  This time he was able to get it off and the ball sailed over Devin Joyce's head and into the end zone for a touchback.

The Giants, on the 20, would start with a play action fake to Tiki, and then a dump off to Tiki for a 1 yard gain.  On 2nd down, the Giants would run a fake screen to one side and then throw to the opposite side to Tiki, with 2 blockers out in front, but the ball was just out of his reach for an incomplete pass.  On 3rd and 9, Collins would hit Shockey over the middle, but he was stopped short of the first down by Rob Morris at the 29.  Matt Allen would come on and get off a high kick that was fair caught at the Colts 40 yard line by Walters.

The Colts, deciding the run wasn't working, began with a quick pass to Harrison for a first down across mid field.  The next play was a run by James up the middle for 3 yards to the 45 yard line where he was stopped by Short.  On 2nd and 7, a quick pass to Harrison went for only 3 yards as Short tackled him immediately.  A false start on the Colts set them back to 3rd and 9, where Manning would be hit by Strahan on his pass attempt and the ball sailed over Harrison's head incomplete.  Again Smith came on for a 32 yard punt, fair caught by Joyce at the 15 yard line.

The Giants offense wouldn't fair much better.  A hold on Rich Seubert set them back to a 1st and 17.  Collins would start with a 7 yard pass to Toomer to gain those 7 yards back.  However, an incomplete pass intended for Toomer and a dropped pass by Daryl Jones, who was the hot receiver on a Colts blitz (which was picked up beautifully by the Giants OL and RBs) brought on Allen for another punt.  In yet another mediocre effort, the punt was fair caught by Walters at the 50.

It looked like the Colts were in great shape, at midfield with 2:14 to go in the first quarter, but the Giants defense would make a play

Manning's play action gave him plenty of time to throw the ball, but he didn't see linebacker Dhani Jones come over in coverage and pick the ball off at the 35.  Jones, known more of his air guitar celebrations and current work on TV (plus tweeting photos of huge storms over NYC from his plane), cut in front of Harrison's crossing route and jumped up to snare the ball and get it back to the Giants 37 yard line.

The offense would start out with a burst by Tiki across midfield to the Colts 47.  After a timeout by the Colts as they tried to regroup on defense, Tiki was stopped after a 3 yard gain by Bratzke.  Collins would go deep on the next play, a pass down the middle to an open Shockey, who attempted to make an acrobatic one handed catch, but he dropped the ball.  Collins would convert on 3rd and 7, hitting Toomer who was left open at the 35 yard line for a first down.  The Giants would give back 5 yards on a false start penalty called on Luke Pettitgout (big surprise).  A first and 15 draw up the middle was read by the Colts defense and Tiki was stuffed by Morris for a 1 yard loss to end the first quarter.  To start the 2nd quarter, the Giants rookie TE would make an impact play, in more ways than one

Collins' play action screen to Shockey out in the left flat seemed innocuous at first.  But it began with a decleating block by Chris Bober on DT Brad Scioli who was in pursuit and never saw the hit coming.  Shockey got up a head of steam and proceeded to truck Colts safety David Gibson, lowering his shoulder and knocking Gibson over, before finally being stopped at the 13 yard line after a 24 yard gain, and get up screaming at any and everyone.  Tiki would get hit for a short gain by Larry Tripplett on first down.  The Giants would go back to Shockey again, this time hitting him between Colts defenders and Shockey bouncing off them for another first down to the 4 yard line.  The Giants would continue to keep after the Colts

With the Colts concerned about the mismatch that Shockey was presenting their defense, Tiki was able to take the handoff, make one cut and have an easy romp into the end zone for his 10th rushing TD of the season.  Bryant's extra point would make the score 10-0 with 12:42 to go in the 2nd quarter.

Walters returned the ensuing kickoff to the 29 yard line, where he was cut down by Wesley Mallard.  The Colts decided to try to pass again, and this time Manning had time, but his first read was covered.  Rather than a quick pass to his secondary receiver, Manning rolled backwards to try to set up for a bigger play.  However, all that allowed was for Strahan and Holmes to get past their blockers and Manning decided to just eat the ball at the 20, taking a 9 yard sack when he easily could have thrown the ball away, a rare mental mistake by Peyton.  Manning would get 14 back on 2nd down, with a pass to Marcus Pollard, as Shaun Williams would get hurt on the tackle.  Now 3rd and 5, with Manning in the gun, he again threw to his 5th or 6th option in Davenport, and he dropped the ball.  A three and out, and Smith's tough day would continue, shanking the ball out at the Giants 30.

The Giants though, wouldn't take advantage.  After an 8 yard pass to Toomer, the Giants would try 2 hand offs to their 250 pound running back Ron Dayne.  Dayne would gain about a yard or so on 2nd down, and on 3rd and inches, with his line stacked up, Dayne tiptoed into the line and literally stopped moving his feet once he hit his lineman and went down.  Short of a first down.  This was really the problem with Ron Dayne throughout his Giants career.  For a big running back, he'd run like he was some scatback, incapable of dropping his shoulder and pushing a pile.  Tiki Barber, who gave up about 50 or so pounds to Dayne, was a better short yardage back.  Anyway, Allen was forced back on to the field and his punt was fair caught by Walters at the 13 yard line.

The Colts again tried to establish the run, this time with James gaining 4 yards on a stretch play, as he broke a couple of tackles along the way.  Manning would hit Pollard in the seam on the next play for a big gainer across the 50 yard line as he beat Jones at the line and then got past Will Allen for the catch.  However, after that good gain, the Colts offense would again bog down.  Manning was pressured on a delayed blitz on first down and lobbed the ball out of bounds on a hot route intended for Harrison.  A draw to James was stuffed for no gain by Barrow.  On 3rd and 10, Manning hit James in the flat, who took a big hit from Sehorn, but stayed on his feet.  As he tried to come back across the field, his center, Jeff Saturday tried to set up a block for him, but ended up actually hitting James and knocking him down about 5 yards short of a first down.  Smith's punt was fair caught by Joyce at the Giants' 10 yard line.

On first down, Dayne would make some ammends for his weak effort on 3rd and short, ripping off a 13 yard run around the corner before he was stopped by Gibson.  Collins would follow that up with a play action fake to Dayne and hit Toomer over the middle for a 17 yard gain out to the 41.  Collins would stick to the air, hitting 2nd TE Dan Campbell for a 6 yard gain.  Dayne would continue his new found aggressive running, this time pushing the pile for a 4 yard gain and a first down.  Collins would back to pass on first down, and dump off a pass to Dayne, who absorbed a big hit and stayed on his feet for a 4 yard gain.  Tiki would come in to the game and take a draw around left end for and get stopped just short of a first down by Marcus Washington.  Now 3rd and short, with 2 TEs in the game, plus Dayne and Stackhouse, Collins took a time out to think it over.  The Giants would come back and hand off to Dayne, who hit the pile and just spun forward enough to get the first down.  As the Giants continued to march, they made their first mistake

The downside of Shockey, as he was trying to make another big play, after running over Colts defenders all first half, had made another catch for another good gain.  This time he tried to keep powering towards the end zone.  As he was breaking tackles, he had the ball stripped by Morris at the 11 and Walt Harris would scoop up the fumble and return it back to the 24 yard line with 2:24 to go in the half.

The Colts tried to build on the momentum.  Manning hit Ismail for a first down out to the 38.  And then, just before the 2 minute warning, a little controversy

Manning would hit Harrison with a pass wide open over the middle.  As Harrison was making his moves up field, he started to go down to the turf.  While he was on the ground, Jones came over and hit Harrison and the ball popped out.  Shaun Williams picked up the fumble and it looked like another Colts turnover.  However, upon looking at the replay, it showed that Harrison went down on his own, and as he was on the ground, Jones made contact with his hand first and that caused the fumble.  Harrison was ruled down by contact and the Colts kept the ball at the 48 yard line with 1:50 to go in the half.  Coming out of the stoppage in play, Manning would throw 3 straight incomplete passes, intended for Harrison, Pollard and Ismail respectively.  Smith would get off a beauty of a punt, hitting the ball at the 1 yard line and had it bounce backwards, nearly hitting the Giants' Ralph Brown who had the ball go through his legs, and was downed by the Colts at the 5 yard line.

All the Giants needed to do was to run out the clock deep in their own end.  Should be simple...right?

Wrong.  Tiki, in the time before Coughlin got to him and changed his style to running "high and tight", was known as a fumbler.  With 1:25 to go in the 2nd quarter, Barber took the carry and was met just beyond the line of scrimmage by Dwight Freeney.  Freeney, known mainly as a pass rusher, grabbed hold of Barber and started ripping at the ball as they were going to the ground.  The ball came loose, Freeney fell on it on the 6 yard line, as a disgusted Fassel looked on from the sidelines, staring daggers at Tiki.

The Colts, given an early Christmas present, started out with a handoff to James Mungro, as Dungy realized that James was too ineffective with his bum ankle.  Mungro would get the ball to the 3 yard line, where he was stopped by Jones and Strahan.  Mungro would gain 1 yard on 2nd down, getting cut down by Strahan first and then Short, forcing a Colts timeout.  On 3rd and goal at the 2, Manning would change the call at the line, and hand off to Mungro, however he was hit in the backfield by Holmes and finished off by Williams at the 1 yard line.  Indy would let the clock run down to :08 to go before calling their final timeout.  Dungy decided to go conservative and make it a 1 score game, he brought on Mike Vanderjagt for a 20 yard chip shot to cut the lead to 10-3.

The clock would run out on the kickoff, as Vanderjagt squibbed it down the middle and it was picked up by Daryl Jones, who got it to the the 29 before he was swallowed up and the clock showed all zeros.  The Colts, seemingly dominated all game, and they could have easily been down 21-0, were thrilled to only be down by a touchdown at home.

So the second half would begin with the Giants getting the ball first.  Vanderjagt's kickoff was returned by Jones out to the 18 yard line.  So would the Giants continue to look to pound the ball with the run, or hang their hat on the mid range passing attack that had worked so well?

Well...didn't see that one coming.  Tiki took the ball and headed to his right a few steps, stopped and threw backwards to Collins on a lateral at the 5 yard line.  Collins would uncork a 65+ yard heave to Toomer, who had sprinted right past the Colts defensive backs and hit him in stride at the Colts 40 yard line.  A desperation dive by Gibson couldn't bring Toomer down, who raced in the the rest of the way for an 82 yard stunner.  This was strange for a couple of reasons.  First, it was the second flea flicker of the game, after the Colts aborted attempt in the first quarter.  Secondly, most flea flickers are run closer to mid field or in the opponent's territory. Rarely do you see a flea flicker executed inside your own 20 yard line, and even rarer to see it work.  After a false start on the extra point, Bryant would convert anyway, making the score 17-3 Giants with 14:41 go to in front of  stunned RCA Dome crowd.

The Colts were looking for a spark and it seemed as though Walters might have given it to them, as he took Bryant's kickoff at the 3 and made his way all the way out to the 49 yard line.  However, a holding penalty on the return negated the big gain and moved the Colts all the way back to their own 28.  Manning started with a play action fake to James, and then a dump off to James, however the play was read perfectly by Short and he tackled James after just a 1 yard gain, and the Giants would decline an ineligible man downfield penalty on Tarik Glenn.  Manning would hit Harrison for a first down to the 39 to get the Colts a fresh set of downs. The Colts continued to struggle running the ball, with James only gaining 2 yards as he was hit by Strahan and Short.  On second down, Manning again went to his favorite target, hitting Harrison, who caught the ball near first down yardage, but he lost his forward progress and ended up missing the favorable spot.  The Colts, 0-7 on 3rd down conversions to the point, had only inches to go and handed the ball to Mungro.  Mungro would be hit in the backfield by Barrow, and Williams and Legree would come in to clean up and hold the Colts short.  Now 4th down and inches near midfield, Dungy decided that he really needed to wake his team up and chose to go for it

Again, the Colts would go to Mungro, and again the Giants defense would rise up.  Brandon Short, playing the game of his life, shot in the gap and hit Mungro just after he got the ball.  Short's helmet would come off on the hit and Mungro would be held short.  The refs initially threw a flag on Short for taking his helmet off (a taunting penalty started thanks to the Cowboys of the mid 1990s), but picked it up when they realized it just came off during play.

The Giants happily took possession of the ball at the Colts 47 yard line.  They would start their drive with a 1 yard gain on a run by Tiki.  On 2nd and 9, a play action fake to Tiki bought time for Shockey to get open, and Collins drilled the ball in to him for a first down at the 28 where he was tackled by Peterson.  On first down, Collins would get away with one of his few bad throws on the day, an overthrow intended for Tiki which went right into the hands of Gibson, who dropped the easy interception.  On 2nd and 10, Tiki would take a draw play and stiff arm Washington along the way for a 9 yard gain.  On 3rd and 1, the Giants left Tiki on the field rather than Dayne and looked like they were going to power forward for a first down.

Well, that was probably what the Colts thought, but what they got was a great play call by Fassel on a play action fake to Tiki and then a flare out to rookie fullback Charles Stackhouse, who got behind Rob Morris, and he would haul in the pass and rumble up the sidelines and bash his way into the end zone for a 19 yard TD catch.  Thanks to a bad snap by Bober, Bryant's timing was all off and the Giants missed the extra point, making the score 23-3, Giants in the lead.

Walters, who was getting plenty of practice returning kicks, got off another good return, bringing the ball out to the 43 yard line.  Manning, now down 20, would start off with a play action fake and his out pass to Harrison was nearly picked off by a diving Sehorn.  On 2nd and 10 and Manning in the gun, he would complete a pass to Ismail over the middle and a bang-bang nasty helmet to helmet hit by Ralph Brown on Ismail left them both motionless on the field.  It was a clear double concussion play as both were out for a while, and if the game was played today, Brown would have gotten a flag and hefty fine.  Play would resume on a 3rd and 4 at the 48, and James would get the ball to the 50.  4th and 2, the Colts kept their offense on the field and forced Barrow to call time out.  After the time out, Manning would trot to the line, change the play call (and Barrow would change the defensive alignment right after), and hand off to James.  This time Edge got enough momentum going and got the ball to the 44 before he was stopped by Frank Ferarra but it was good for a first down.  With a new set of downs, Manning started out with a pass towards Walters, however it was nearly intercepted by Reggie Stephens, however the refs would deem his coverage too good and called a pass interference on Stephens.  Now with a first down at the 35, Manning would change the play at the line and hit Wayne on a quick out for 4 yards to the 31.  On 2nd and 6, the Giants would call an all out blitz on Peyton, forcing a quick throw to Pollard that was incomplete.  On 3rd and 6, another Giants blitz would be picked up by the Colts and allow Manning time to hit Wayne for a first down, as he beat Sehorn in coverage and gave the Colts their first third down conversion of the night.  The Colts would stay in the air, attempting another screen pass, however Ferarra broke through the line and forced an incompletion.  Manning would see James drop a swing pass out of the backfield as he had Barrow lining him up for a big hit.  On 3rd and 10, Manning would hit a wide open Wayne on a sliding catch for a 12 yard gain and a first down as it looked like Stephens, in the game for an injured Brown, blew the coverage.  The Colts looked like they were in good position to score, however on first down Holmes came in unblocked to nail Manning for an 8 yard sack.  On 2nd and 18, Manning would go to Pollard in the end zone, who was well covered by Short and Williams and the ball was knocked loose.  On 3rd and 18, Manning would throw underneath to Pollard, who was dropped by Short after a 9 yard gain.  Dungy decided he was better off taking the points here again, and settled for a Vanderjagt 27 yard FG to cut the lead to 23-6 with 5:18 to go in the 3rd quarter.

Delvin Joyce would return the kickoff to the 31 yard line, as the refs ignored a clear offsides penalty on the Colts.  Tiki would be dropped for no gain on first down.  On 2nd down, Collins hit Toomer for an 8 yard gain.  Now 3rd and 2, Tiki took a pitch to the outside for a first down, and tacked on 15 more yards as DT Josh Williams threw him down out of bounds and was hit with a personal foul and put the ball all the way to the Colts 38 yard line.  Tiki would gain 3 yards on a sweep on the next play.  On 2nd and 7, Collins would throw a dart to Shockey, who caught it at the 17 yard line for a first down, and put him over 100 yards receiving on the day.  Another sweep to Tiki would get it to the 15.  Collins would go to the end zone in the direction of Toomer, but it was knocked away by the Colts' Macklin.  On 3rd and about 8, Collins would again drill the ball in to Toomer on a slant and Amani would fall forward to the 5 yard line and a first down.  After Tiki got the ball to the 2 yard line on a run up the middle, Fassel would continue to feed him the ball

With Campbell in motion, Tiki took the quick hitter up the middle and plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out for his 2nd TD on the day.  Again, unlike Dayne, Tiki seemed to have the knack for running between the tackles.  Bryant this time would convert the extra point and suddenly this game was back in blowout territory, with the Giants up 30-6 with :11 to go in the quarter.

Bryant's kickoff was short and taken at the 15 by Walters, who got the ball back to the 38 yard line.  The 3rd quarter would end on a reverse to Walters as he got up a good head of steam and chugged out to the Giants' 46 yard line where he was finally stopped by Will Allen.  With the Giants already in the prevent, Manning had time and drilled a pass to Walters out to the 33 and another first down.  Peyton kept on throwing, hitting Harrison for 8 yards and a pass for a first down to Pollard to the Giants 21.  Now in the hurry up, Manning would cash in

In typical Johnnie Lynn prevent defense awfulness, the Giants seemed to be in some other world, as Manning had plenty of time to throw and after a pump fake, hit Wayne in the end zone for an easy 21 yard TD catch as Stoutmire was late getting over.  Dungy would go for two, but the handoff to Mungro was stopped short of the goal line by Short and Sehorn, keeping the score at 30-12 with 13:34 to go in the game.

On the kickoff, the Colts would line up as if they were getting ready for an onsides, however Vanderjagt pooched the ball over the Giants blocking line and tried to put the ball in No Man's Land.  However, that didn't work out well as Joyce ran up and fielded the ball at the 18 and burst back up to the 43 yard line.  The Giants started with a handoff to Dayne who was stopped for a loss by Freeney on first down.  On 2nd and 11, Collins had pressure in his face and dumped the ball off to Campbell, and the big TE would drag Washington for a good 8 yards and across the first down marker.  On the Colts 47, an offsides call on Freeney would give the Giants a free 5 yards set up a 1st and 5.  The Giants decided to eat some clock and 4 straight carries to Dayne would eventually set up a 3rd and 8.  Collins, again with plenty of time, hit Toomer for a 12 yard gain and a first down out to the 23 yard line and put the Giants over 400 yards in offense.  Two more carries to Dayne would net just 2 yards and confront the Giants with a 3rd and 8 at the 21.  Fassel decided to stay aggressive

In a case of just a too easy pitch and catch, Collins hit Toomer on a corner pattern wide open in end zone for 21 yard score.  Toomer decided to rub it in a little and mugged for the cameras as he celebrated for good measure.  The Giants increased their lead to 37-12 with 6:45 to go in the game as their thoughts started to move towards the Eagles game.

Walters, seemingly returning kicks all game, got the ball out to the 22 where he was stopped by Mallard.  Manning in the gun, would throw to an open Harrison, who uncharacteristically dropped the ball.  Mungro would take a draw play and run it out to the 28 where he was tracked down by Barrow.  Now on 3rd and 5, Manning had time to hit Harrison up the sidelines for a good gain out to the Giants' 48 yard line.  A draw to Mungro got the Colts to the 44 where he was stopped by Griffin.  Manning hit Wayne, wide open against the prevent defense for a first down to the 25 yard line.  The Giants continued to look soft on the next play

Peyton had plenty of time to throw and Harrison worked his way open right down the middle of the field, beating Sehorn and Allen for an easy 25 yard TD.  The Colts would again go for 2, and this time convert with Manning hitting Pollard in the end zone to close the gap to 37-20 with 4:51 to go.

Everyone in the building knew that the Colts would try an onside kick.  The first attempt was actually recovered by the Colts' Jefferson, however the ball didn't go 10 yards, so it was a penalty and then a re-kick.  And wouldn't you know it....

Vanderjagt's misdirection kick was sent to the other side of the field, away from the unbalanced line of Giants.  Stackhouse, setting up to block, wasn't aware the ball was about a yard behind him.  Joyce rushed in to get the recovery but botched it as he dove in on the ball.  Kevin Lewis also missed his shot at the ball and eventually it would be recovered by the Colts Cliff Crosby.  Just as Giants fans were getting uneasy, thinking bad thoughts about the 1997 Wild Card collapse when Chris Calloway and Percy Ellsworth blew a chance to recover the kick and win the game, this happened.

Only the Giants can turn what was a laugher for 3 quarters and a 17 point lead with 4:50 to go into nail biting time.  Manning, again with time to throw, hit Wayne who again got open right down the middle of the Giants defense.  This time Wayne easily beat Sehorn in coverage and Stoutmire was late getting over and missed the tackle.  A 40 yard TD and you suddenly blink and the score is now 37-27 with 4:44 to go in the game and the unmistakable sense of dread was moving in that the Giants were going to choke this away.

Again the Colts lined up for an onside kick.  This time Vanderjagt again attempted his pooch kick over the Giants line of blockers.  This time he got it over them, but Joyce was ready and he grabbed it at the 42 yard line.  To make matters worse for Indy, a personal foul call on Joe Walker, who decked Daryl Jones after the play, tacked on 15 more yards, giving the Giants the ball at the Colts' 42.  Dayne started with a nice run, gaining 15 yards out to the 26 and forcing the Colts to take their first time out.  Tiki would lose yardage on the next run, but force another time out.  Tiki took a toss on 2nd down, and gained 2 yards, but more importantly forced the Colts final time out with 4:05 to go and the ball on the 26.  Now 3rd and 11, Fassel had a choice.  Run the ball and look to kill the clock and end up going for about a 40 yard FG to make the score 40-27 with about 3:20 to go in the game, or go aggressive

Damn, balsy call by Gentleman Jim.  Rather than hand off and go for the safe play, Fassel decided to go for it.  That was one thing about Fassel, he was a much more aggressive offensive coach than Parcells and Reeves before him.  Granted, Parcells as a defensive coach was very conservative in his approach (and could afford to be when you have LT in his prime playing for you).  Reeves was also a very conservative coach, and also only had Rodney Hampton as any kind of offensive weapon.  But Fassel had some real skill position talent to work with.  So he choose to attack and Toomer got open behind the Colts defense for a 28 yard TD, his 3rd score on the day as he burned Nick Harper in coverage, and also put him over 200 yards receiving on the day.  After a high snap by Bober on the extra point, but Allen got the ball down and Bryant drilled it through to give the Giants a 44-27 lead with 4:00 to go in the game and successfully took back momentum in the game.

Bryant to Walters, one of the most common connections in the game, occurred again, with Walters getting the ball out to the 32 yard line where he was tackled by Kevin Lewis with 3:52 to go in the game.  Going against a 3 man rush, Manning started off with a dunk pass to Pollard who was tackled by Short for no gain.  On 2nd and 10, Manning hit Walters at mid field for a first down.  Sehorn would break up the pass to Harrison on the next play.  Manning would keep throwing, completing quick slants to Harrison and Walters getting the ball down to the 39 and a first down.  With Manning looking to pad his stats, Brandon Short got involved again

Brandon Short, playing the game of his life, dropped back into his zone and Manning tried to force the ball in his area.   Short jumped up to pick off the ball at the 26 and rumble back to the Colts 43 yard line with 2:25 to go in the game as Peyton walked off in disgust.

The Giants would drop back in the victory formation and take 4 kneel downs, eventually turning the ball over to the Colts with :38 to go in the game at the 45 yard line.  To the Colts credit, rather than try to pad any stats late, Dungy called for a draw play to Mungro up the middle to kill the rest of the clock and the Giants would come away with a surprising 44-27 win that kept them very much alive in the playoff hunt for 2002.

Interesting Tidbits/ Post Mortem

  • The Giants would be more alive than they could have hoped.  Remember, they needed a loss by either Falcons or Saints to get control of their own destiny.  The Falcons wouldn't help the Giants, they would blow out the Lions 36-15.  The Saints however would end up taking a 13-7 lead into the 4th quarter on the road at the 1-13 Bengals.  The Bengals would get a TD from Nick Luchey...but being the Bengals miss the extra point and keep the score tied at 13-13.  However, a late drive by the Bengals would be finished off by Luchey's 2nd TD of the game to give them a 20-13 lead and hold on to win.  With that loss in the books, the Giants would control their own destiny going into the final weekend of the season, a home game against the Eagles on a Saturday afternoon.  A win and the Giants were in.
  • Of all the big offensive numbers put up in this game, perhaps the most impressive performance was that of Kerry Collins.  Collins would go 23-29, 366 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs.  That would give him the little understood but somewhat celebrated "perfect QB rating game" of 158.3.  
  • Eli Manning actually also achieved a perfect rating game, doing it in the Giants 44-7 blow out win over the Raiders in 2009.  In that game he went 8-10, 173 yards and 2 TDs.  The Giants went up 31-7 at halftime and the game was never a contest.  The previous week, Manning hurt his foot in a win at Kansas City, and rather than risk further aggravation of it against and overmatched Raiders team, Coughlin decided to give Eli the rest of the game off and had backup QB David Carr play the second half.  So I guess you could look at his accomplishment similar to a pitcher in baseball who gets a no hitter, however it was done in a rain shortened game (which used to count as a no hitter until the rules were changed a few years ago).
  • The most recent perfect rating game was from Robert Griffin III in 2012.  RG III did it in a 31-6 win over the Redskins at Washington when we went 14-15, 200 yards and 4 TDs.
  • The first QB to accomplish it multiple times?  Craig Morton.  The former Giant first hit the mark in 1969, going 14-18, 261 yards and 3 TDs in Dallas 38-7 win at Philly.  12 years later, as a member of the Denver Broncos, Morton went 17-18, 308 yards and 4 TDs in a 42-24 win over San Diego.
  • Other QBs who have gotten a perfect rating multiple times, in addition to Morton: 
    • Ken O'Brien (Jets)
    • Dave Krieg (Seahawks, Lions)
    • Kurt Warner (Rams, Cardinals)
    • Ben Rothlesberger (Steelers)
    • Peyton Manning (Colts)
    • Tom Brady (Patriots)
  • Peyton holds the record for the most times with a perfect rating: 4
  • The first to get a perfect rating? Ray Malouf of the Chicago Cardinals.  Malouf went 14-18, 252 yards and 4 TDs in a 63-35 rout of the Giants in 1948.  No truth to the rumor Johnnie Lynn was the defensive coordinator of that 1948 Giants' squad.
  • Two other Giants QBs got perfect ratings in games:
    • YA Tittle: 16-20, 261 yards, 3 TDs in a 42-14 win over the Eagles in 1962
    • Fran Tarkenton: 15-18, 280 yards and 5 TDs in a 35-17 win over the Cardinals in 1970
  • All the QBs who would post a perfect rating won their games.  Except for one:  Chad Pennington went 11-14 for 209 yards and 3 TDs in a 38-31 loss to the Colts in 2003.  LOLJets
  • On the flip side, two semi recent QBs got the "other" perfect rating in a game.  0.0.
    • Eli Manning in his rookie season of 2004 at Baltimore: 4-18, 27 yards and 2 INTs in a brutal 37-14 loss.  Coughlin would pull Eli in favor of Kurt Warner to let him collect himself.
    • Tommy Maddox:  In one of the worst games ever played in 1995, Maddox went 6-23, 49 yards and 3 INTs in a 17-14 loss to the Eagles at Giants Stadium.  The Giants lone TD that day (with a 2 point conversion) came on an Omar Douglas blocked punt return.
  • Shockey's 116 receiving yards was a season high for him in his rookie Pro Bowl season.  It would remain his best day receiving wise as a Giant until 2005, when he caught 5 balls for 129 yards in a loss at Dallas.  Shockey would match that 129 yard total in 2007, again in a loss to the Cowboys.  Shockey would only have one other 100 yard receiving game in his career, going for 105 yards in a win at Miami as a member of the Saints in 2009.
  • Shockey's rookie season would also be his best statistically of his 10 year career, finishing with 74 catches for 894 yards.  It was not a surprise that he would be the first Giants TE to be named to the Pro Bowl since Mark Bavaro in 1987.  His 74 catches were the most by a Giants TE (beating out Bavaro's record of 66 catches in 1986).  His 894 yards were the second most by a TE, sandwiched between Bavaro's 1001 in 1986 and 867 yards in 1987.  Keep in mind, Bavaro missed 4 games in 1987, thanks to the Player's Strike and replacement players, else he likely would still own all the TE receiving records for the Giants.
  • Shockey and Bavaro are the only Giants TEs to register over 800 yards in a season, both doing it twice (Shockey gained 891 yards in 2005).  The next best output was by Zeke Mowatt in 1984, when he gained 698 yards on 48 catches.
  • Discussing TE production, or lack thereof, look no further than the 2000 and 2001 seasons.  In their Super Bowl run in 2000, the Giants TEs (Howard Cross, Dan Campbell, and Pete Mitchell) combined for 37 catches for 321 yards (Mitchell contributing 25 catches).  In 2001, with Cross, Campbell and Marcellus Rivers: 17 catches, 164 yards.  Ugh!  No wonder Ernie Accorsi was so hot to draft Shockey in 2002.
  • Toomer had a career day, 10 catches, 204 yards, 3 TDs and an 82 yard TD.  It was not the first time he had 3 TDs in a game.  Toomer first made that happen in a 1999 win over the Jets, grabbing 3 TDs as part of his 6 catch, 181 yard effort.
  • Toomer would have another 3 TD catch game 2 weeks after the Colts contest, in the Wild Card loss to the 49ers, catching 8 passes for 136 yards.
  • Rookie FB Charles Stackhouse would catch his 3rd TD of the season in the Colts game.  That was the highest number of TDs by a Giants fullback since the BT Express, Billy Taylor caught 4 in 1979.
  • A Giants fullback wouldn't catch another TD pass until Madison Hedgecock did in 2008 in a win at Arizona, when he famously celebrated his score by pretending to row his way to Hawaii, insinuating that he was going to the Pro Bowl (he didn't).
  • Dhani Jones' INT was his first of the 2002 season.  However, it wasn't the first of his career.  That would come in his rookie season of 2001, when he collected one of 4 interceptions of Cowboys QB Clint Stoerner in a 27-24 win at Giants Stadium.
  • Dhani Jones and Daryl Jones had their full names spelled out on the backs of their jerseys.  
  • The Giants would roll up 469 total yards on offense in this game against a Colts defense ranked #5 overall in the NFL, a season high for 2002.  They would actually go over 400 yards on offense 3 other times in 2002
    • 460 yards @ Minnesota
    • 461 yards vs. Eagles in Week 17
    • 446 yards @ San Francisco in the Wild Card
  • The Giants would also end up gaining 394 yards twice: at St. Louis and also vs. the Jaguars, in Fassel's first game taking over playcalling duties from Sean Payton.  The Giants also gained 377 yards in their blowout of Dallas.  They were up 37-0 and called off the dogs in the 4th quarter, else they easily roll up 400+ yards in that game as well.
  • The 469 yards gained was the most by the Giants since they rolled up 524 yards in the season finale against the Packers in 2001, which ended in a 34-25 loss.  This game was known for 2 things:
    • It was the rescheduled game that was the previous Week 2 contest but was forced to be moved to the end of the season after 9/11
    • Brett Favre decided to intervene in the sack record.  With Strahan sitting on 21.5 sacks, looking to beat Mark Gastineau's record of 22 sacks, the Packers pretty much kept him away from Favre throughout the afternoon.  Late in the game with the Packers in full control, unbeknownst to his teammates, Favre called his own number on a bootleg and rolled right into Strahan and slid down under him to give up the sack and give Strahan the record at 22.5.
  • The Giants wouldn't top this number of 469 total yards until 2005, when they would gain 490 yards in an overtime loss at Seattle in 2005.  This was a game made famous by Giants' kicker Jay Feeley missing 3 late FGs that could have won the game, including falling short on a 45 yarder.  The kicker who did win the game that day?  Josh Brown nailed a 36 yarder to make the final score 24-21.  Brown was signed in 2013 to replace Lawrence Tynes as the Giants field goal kicker.  And in no small reason was Tynes inconsistency to hit long field goals, including the 54 yarder that fell short in Philadelphia which cost the Giants a win (and ultimately a playoff spot)....and also money.  Tynes recently signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the veteran minimum.
  • This game was the first time the Giants played in Indianapolis since 1990, when the Giants won a very ho-hum Monday Night game 24-7 over an outclassed Colts team led by Jeff George.  That game featured 2 OJ Anderson TDs and the late Dave Duerson would score the first TD in his career, as he returned a George fumble on a Pepper Johnson sack for the score.  That win moved the Giants to 8-0.
  • The Colts were led by Tony Dungy, in his first season at Indianapolis after years in Tampa Bay where he helped build them up as winners.  Dungy replaced Jim Mora, another defensive minded coach, who similar to Dungy, helped build up a perennial loser in the Saints into a playoff contender in the NFL in the late 1980s to early 1990s.  
  • Peyton Manning would overcome a slow start to throw 3 TDs in the 4th quarter.  Peyton has thrown 3 or more TDs in a game an amazing 73 times in his career thus far, with a career high of 6 in a game done twice (in a 2003 win at New Orleans by the score of 55-21, and in 2004 Thanksgiving Day at Detroit, 41-9).  
  • Just for the hell of it, though he hasn't played as long as his big brother, Eli has thrown 3 or more TDs in a game 29 times.  As for the rest of the Giants QBs since since Phil Simms (as members of the Giants:)
    • Simms- 18 times
    • Hostetler- 0 as a Giants (9 in career)
    • Dave Brown- 0 times in his career
    • Danny Kanell- 2 times
    • Kerry Collins- 10 times as a Giant (23 times in career)
    • Kurt Warner- 0 times as a Giant (34 times in career)
  • Marvin Harrison would catch 10 balls for 128 yards and 1 TD.  He had a monsterous year in 2002, posting career highs with 143 catches for 1722 yards and 11 TDs, averaging 107.6 yards per game.  His 143 catches remains the highest single season total in NFL history, 20 catches more than the next best mark of 123 catches, shared by Wes Welker of the Patriots and Herman Moore on the Lions.
  • Ultimately this game foreshadowed an ugly end to the Giants 2002 season.  After the Giants beat the Eagles, 10-7 in OT, they would take their show to San Francisco, riding the wave of a 4 game winning streak.  The Giants would have all their weapons on display, with big offensive performances by their main skill position players: Collins, Tiki, Toomer, and Shockey.  They would build up a 38-14 lead and looked on track to play the next week at Tampa Bay.  However, just like the Colts game, the Giants defense collapsed, unable to generate a pass rush and unable to cover the Niners receivers, Jeff Garcia tore the Giants apart and took the lead 39-38.  Also, similar to problems seen all season, and also in the Colts game, long snapping would kill the Giants.  Poor Trey Junkin, called out of retirement, botched the snap to holder Matt Allen as the Giants were set up for the winning Matt Bryant field goal.  Allen would heave a pass to Rich Suebert, who should have drawn a pass interference penalty, but the refs blew the call and the Giants lost their chance to make noise in the playoffs.  
  • 2002 also set up 2 poor decisions that would cost them in 2003, and cost Fassel his job.  They were related to Special Teams and the offensive line.  
    • Special Teams- it was easy to see that long snapping was a problem.  It was also clear the Giants needed upgrades at punter, kicker, and return man.  So the Giants spent money on former Brown Ryan Kuehl to replace Junkin and Bober at long snapper.  They also signed Jeff Feagles at punter and Jay Feeley at kicker.  Last they brought in former Eagle Brian Mitchell at return man.  Well, pretty much all those moves didn't bring the promise the Giants needed.  Feagles was a great signing.  But Mitchell was toast and Kuehl eventually suffered an injury that cut short his time in NY.  In a salary cap era, to spend that money on special teams means they neglected somewhere else and that somewhere was....
    • Offensive Line-  The Giants looked at their 2002 offensive line and it was made up of a first rounder (Pettitgout), a fifth rounder (Mike Rosenthal), and 3 undrafted free agents (Rich Suebert, Chris Bober, Jason Whittle).  A great deal of credit was given to offensive line coach Jim McNalley, and rightly so.  If he could take this group and turn them into a line that was rolling up 400 yards a game, then he can work wonders with everyone.  Well, rather than look for better upgrades at depth for him to work with, the Giants gave him a bunch of stiffs, such as Ian Allen (who famously fell over for a false start once), Wayne Lucier, Jeff Roehl, and Scott Peters.  While they did get a gem in David Diehl, the rest of the line suffered, and the Giants did as well.  The team would start 4-4 and then the roof caved in, they lost their last 8 games, the team quit on Jim Fassel and he actually quit on the Giants before they could fire him.  I guess the best thing about 2003, the Giants 4-12 record brought on the Coughlin regime and their record was bad enough to give them a low enough draft pick to engineer the draft day trade for Eli Manning.


  1. Two corrections:

    1) Keith Hamilton was not on this team, he was lost for the year early in the season against Atlanta.

    2) Marcellus Rivers was not a converted QB, that was Darnell Dinkins.

    1. GeniusGuy,

      Thanks for the update. You are right, I got Dinkins confused with Rivers. I'll make that change.

      As for the Hamilton point, yes, you are right, he wasn't playing in this game at the time. I was looking to show that he was part of the team entering 2002. I was corrected about Armstead, who had left to sign in Washington, so I struck that out.

      thanks for reading though, I appreciate any corrections.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. One correction: the Giants didn't sign Feely after the 2002 season. It was Mike Hollis, but he injured his back in the off-season and never actually played for them.

  4. Do you post any games on youtube? If you're looking for a suggestion for your next review, how about the Giants vs Bengals from '97? Great Job!