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Giants-Colts analysis: In the end, Giants showed that Pat Shurmur was right all along

In costing themselves a victory over Indianapolis, Giants proved they are still learning how to win

NFL: New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts IndyStar-USA TODAY NETWORK

New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur emphasized over and over in the week leading up to Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts that the game was important because his developing team is still learning how to win games.

Sunday’s 28-27 loss to the Colts was a hard lesson. The Giants led from the time Eli Manning ended their first drive with a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown until there were 55 seconds left, but ended up on the short end of a tough-to-take 28-27 loss.

From the time the Giants went ahead 14-0 late in the first quarter on a 3-yard Manning pass to tight end Scott Simonson it felt like the Colts had finally awakened and the Giants were hanging on.

In the end, the Giants lost their grip. That’s the third time this season the Giants have lost a game they appeared to have won, including the 33-31 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Graham Gano’s 63-yard field goal and a 25-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles after taking a 19-3 lead.

When this one ended Chris Pflum messaged me, throwing blame at Shurmur for the Giants’ second-to-last drive. That’s the drive that began at the Giants’ 4-yard line with 6:34 left and the Giants clinging desperately to a 27-21 lead.

Here’s what Chris sent to me:

“Jackrabbit is going to get killed after this game ... But it’s on Shurmur.”

When I asked him what he was talking about, Chris explained:

“The Giants’ second to last possession. They’ve barely run blocked all day, the Colts knew it was coming, and Shurmur gave it to them. He went away from the game plan that was moving the ball all day and wound up giving the Colts the ball with great field position and plenty of time.

“He called an awesome game (save the first possession after the half) up until then, but went away from what was working. It was the perfect place for one of those quick PA passes which had been carving the Colts up until then. They were still in position to win when Jackrabbit screwed up.”

I’m not buying that for a second

This loss came simply because the Giants weren’t good enough, or complete enough, to close the deal. It didn’t happen because of a single series of poorly called plays by Shurmur. A series, incidentally, I don’t believe was poorly called at all.

“Right is right. You win or you lose and we didn’t win,” Shurmur said.

It happened because the Giants, outstanding on third down and in the red zone all day, couldn’t finish a critical drive in the fourth quarter. Leading 24-21 and with a chance to extend their lead to two scores with less than 10 minutes to play, the Giants ended up setting for a field goal after reaching the Colts’ 7-yard line, keeping the game within one score, 27-21, instead of the 10-point lead a touchdown would have provided.

It happened because a pair of penalties on backup players short-circuited their effort to grind out first downs and run some clock when they took over at their own 4-yard line still protecting that 27-21 lead with 6:34 to go.

A false start on Scott Simonson on second-and-7 at the 7-yard line negated what was going to be a sprint out pass by Eli Manning, something that worked well all day. A block in the back penalty on John Greco, the Giants’ third center, negated a 9-yard pass to Saquon Barkley that would have put the Giants in third-and-1 at their 13 and given them a good shot at a much-needed first down. Facing second-and-12 at their 2-yard line instead, they chose to run the ball twice with Barkley.

Shurmur explained the choice to run this way:

“We ran the last one because we were on the one-yard line. I thought we could pop a run against two deep, we hit two deep and we almost did pop it so that was the reason for it. Tactically that could be a good move.”

I can’t find fault with that decision.

It happened because Janoris Jenkins was called for an obvious holding penalty that negated an sack/fumble caused by Olivier Vernon and recovered by B .J. Hill. As much as I hate penalty calls that are far away from the real action of a play, that was an easy one. The flag kept an Indianapolis drive alive and led to a touchdown two plays later.

It happened because the Giants committed two costly penalties on the Colts’ game-winning drive. Linebacker Tae Davis, picked on all day in coverage by Indianapolis, committed a third-down pass interference penalty that negated an incompletion and gave the Colts a first down at the Giants’ 46. Later, B.W. Webb set Indianapolis up with a pass interference call in the end zone that led to the game-winning play.

Five of the six Giants’ penalties, incidentally, came in the second half.

It happened because the Giants had only one timeout remaining with 55 seconds left after unfortunately being forced to spend two timeouts earlier in the half. That, and Barkley not getting out of bounds on the first play of the final drive, led Manning to force a pass down the middle while looking for a chunk play to set up a field goal try. That ended badly, intercepted by Malik Hooker to seal the Giants’ doom.

This wasn’t caused by play-calling

It was caused by the Giants hurting themselves again and again in the second half with self-inflicted mistakes that cost them both points and time. This loss was about players not getting the job done in the end, not play calls limiting their chance.

It was caused because the Giants simply haven’t learned how to execute well enough yet to hang on and win games like this.

Which is exactly why Shurmur has been pounding away on the idea that games like this are important.