Andrew Luck took one peek at the New York Giants’ defense and changed the call.
Instead of trying to force the late run coach Frank Reich wanted, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback asked T.Y. Hilton to go up the field with the defenders and Chester Rogers to slide underneath into the flat. It worked brilliantly.
Rogers’ 1-yard TD reception with 55 seconds left gave the Colts their first lead of the day, a 28-27 victory over the Giants and a shot to end a three-year playoff drought next week.
“I just can’t say how clutch Andrew was on that last drive,” Reich said. “He made a check on that last play. I called a run, he checked to a pass because he saw the pressure.”
Actually, Luck faced the same alignment earlier in the game and asked his receivers if they could make the audible work with the game — and perhaps Indy’s season — potentially on the line.
When they said yes, Luck swung the ball out to a wide-open Rogers, who turned up the field and scooted into the end zone untouched for Indy’s eight win in nine games. The Colts (9-6) won their last six home games after starting 0-2 and now, after starting 1-5, could even win the AFC South if Houston loses next week’s regular-season finale. They could also earn a wild card by beating Tennessee if Baltimore loses.
Still, Luck, Reich and everybody else in the Colts’ locker room downplayed the playoff talk and instead tried to focus on a remarkable comeback in a game that looked lost.
Luck led the Colts to touchdowns on three of their first four second-half possessions, capitalizing on just about every opportunity. He finished 31 of 47 for 357 yards with one interception and two touchdowns, including the audible.
“When he called the run, I looked at Chester and T.Y. and said, ‘How about running the pass pattern on top?’ and they said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it,'” Luck said. “Glad they picked up on it.”
The Giants (5-10) had themselves to blame for their second straight loss.
After leading the entire game and having a chance to make it a two-possession lead after reaching the Colts 7, New York settled for a 27-yard field goal that made it 27-21 in the fourth quarter.
The unraveling began after Indy pinned the Giants back at the 4. The Giants were called for two offensive penalties and then watched Saquon Barkley lose the ball on a third-down run. Darius Leonard scooped it up and ran into the end zone, but the officials ruled Barkley’s forward progress had been stopped, forcing a punt.
On the ensuing possession, linebacker Tae Davis was called for pass interference on third-and-3 and six plays later, cornerback B.W. Webb drew the same infraction in the end zone, giving Luck the ball at the 1. He found Rogers on the next play, and the Giants’ last gasp ended when Eli Manning was picked off by Malik Hooker.
Manning was 25 of 33 for 309 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Barkley rushed 21 times for 43 yards and one score while catching five passes for 113 yards.
“They made the plays at the end to get the ball in the end zone,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “They made enough plays to win and we didn’t at the end.”
Giants: Odell Beckham Jr. (quad) missed his third straight game and linebacker Alec Ogletree sat out with a concussion. … Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. left on the first series of the game with an injured calf and did not return. … Tight end Rhett Ellison left in the third quarter with a concussion and also did not return.
Colts: Center Ryan Kelly (neck) and Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron (concussion) left in the first half. Neither returned. … Cornerbacks Kenny Moore III and Quincy Wilson departed on successive plays in the third quarter with undisclosed injuries.
Giants: Barkley needs two receptions to break the NFL’s single-season franchise record for most receptions by a rookie running back. Reggie Bush had 88 in 2006. … Sterling Shepard had six catches for 113 yards but only one catch for three yards in the second half. … Evan Engram caught six passes for 87 yards.
Colts: Hilton had seven catches for 138 yards while Rogers caught seven for 54 yards. … Dontrelle Inman caught a 2-yard TD pass from Luck in the third quarter and Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack each rushed for TDs. … Kicker Adam Vinatieri tied Jeff Feagles for No. 3 on the league’s career list for games played (352). … John Unitas Jr. and John Unitas III served as honorary captains as the 60th anniversary of the 1958 championship between these teams nears.
Giants: Host NFC East champion Dallas’ regular-season finale next Sunday.
Colts: Put their playoff hopes on the line next Sunday at Tennessee.