The battle of quarterbacks was decided in favor of the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck, handling the blitzing and pressure quite well, unlike Eli Manning and the New York Giants, losing 40-24 and that looked this “close” thanks to some garbage time points, and quickly falling out of contention for a playoff spot.
It seemed like the difference between the two teams was exemplified in the way both quarterbacks handled the extreme amount of pressure thrown at them. Luck was blitzed 29 times by the Giants’ pass rush. Eli Manning was blitzed 31 times, the most a quarterback has seen while dropping back in a single game since week 16 of the 2011 season. Manning didn’t throw any interceptions, but he was sacked three times and fumbled the ball twice, once turning it over.
And it’s not just the turnovers – Manning was only 13-of-29 when facing the blitz, and managed to complete just 2-of-8 passes when he was under duress. He overthrew his receivers 11 times, and failed to complete a single pass for over 20 yards, finishing with 0-for-7 on that distance. The whole idea of Manning’s evolution this season was keeping things simple, but not being able to get the ball downfield in a shot time seems to be a price they weren’t expecting to pay.
Andrew Luck was blitzed 29 times in the game, but handled it very differently than Manning. He didn’t turn the ball over, he was sacked just once and usually kept his cool, even when his offensive line struggled handling the pressure. Luck was 6-of-9 for 102 yards and a touchdown when the Giants blitzed with a defensive back, and overall Luck was 17-of-29 against the blitz, throwing two of his four touchdown passes, throwing for over 350 yards on the road for a fifth consecutive time, the first in NFL history to do so.
Part of his success can be attributed to the improved play of the tight ends, and especially Coby Fleener. Fleener caught four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Fleener has caught four touchdown passes this season, but overall Luck has very well with Dwayne Allen as well, who caught a touchdown pass and made it to seven scores this season. Luck has thrown 26 touchdown passes this season, 12 of them to tight ends. Peyton Manning leads the NFL along with Luck in that category.
That seemed to be the whole difference. Another good game for Manning, but not very accurate. He threw for 359 yards and two touchdowns, but that came out of sheer volume, completing 27-of-52 passes. The Giants seemed to be unable to keep up with the pace of making the plays the Colts currently have, and a lot of other NFL teams are trying to produce as well. Luck kept on throwing, completing 25-of-46 passes while the running backs carried the ball only 24 times, which is rare for a team that was comfortably in the lead for so long.
The Colts haven’t been that consistent this season, but they’ve won six of their last seven games and overall putting the ball in the air has worked well for them, opening a comfortable two-game lead in the very weak AFC South. The New York Giants are headed in the opposite direction, losing three games in a row, despite Manning playing reasonably well most of the time. Right now, the only thing going for the Giants is Tony Romo possibly out for the season with his back injury.