Following a pair of losses to their biggest rivals, the bye week seemed to come at just the right time for the New York Giants.
The Indianapolis Colts get no such break after a dreadful performance in Pittsburgh.
Andrew Luck and the AFC South-leading Colts look to bounce back when they visit MetLife Stadium on Monday night to face a Giants team that remains confident it can still contend for the NFC East crown.
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Indianapolis (5-3) rode a five-game winning streak into Heinz Field last Sunday before Ben Roethlisberger carved the Colts’ secondary up and set franchise records with 522 passing yards and six touchdowns to lead the Steelers to a 51-34 victory.
The Colts lead the NFL in average time of possession, but it was a different story against Pittsburgh, which held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and never punted. A big factor was Indianapolis running the ball only ten times after playing keep-away with an average of 33.8 carries during the winning streak.
"It’s bad football," coach Chuck Pagano said. "It’s not intentional, but it’s bad football and you’re not going to win games playing like that."
Indianapolis may get a boost with safety LaRon Landry’s return from a four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Landry, though, was a no-show Monday – the first day he could return to the team’s facilities – and the Colts have until 4 p.m. on game day to activate him.
Luck could use a crisp performance after two interceptions and several miscues helped the Steelers stay in command. While some of his numbers were nothing to scoff at – 400 passing yards and three TDs – his 57.8 completion percentage was a season low.
He also literally stumbled into a bit of farce on a sequence being dubbed "the butt safety." Two plays after the Colts recovered a fumble at their own 5, Luck tripped over the feet of his center and fell at the goal line. He tried to throw into the flat from the seat of his pants, but was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
"Take it as a learning situation. What can you do differently? Try to inch forward and take a sack on the half-yard line or spin around, try and get up and get the ball in the vicinity of a receiver to throw it away," he said. "But yeah, bonehead play by me."
Now the third-year quarterback gets his first career shot at the Giants and will try to take advantage of a defense that is allowing the sixth-most yards per game in the NFL at 384.4, including 262.4 through the air.
A victory would certainly give the Colts a shot in the arm entering their bye week, which precedes a three-game homestand beginning Nov. 16 against New England.
New York (3-4) rebounded from an 0-2 start with three consecutive wins before losing to Philadelphia and Dallas prior to its bye. After the Giants laid an egg in a 27-0 road loss to the Eagles, they lost 31-21 to the Cowboys in Dallas.
A bright spot in the defeats was that Eli Manning did not throw any interceptions, extending his streak without a pick to three games – something he hadn’t done since early in the 2008 season. He has never logged four straight contests without one.
The bye week may have broken it up, but New York is currently playing a brutal slate of six games that began against Philadelphia. After facing the Colts, the Giants visit defending champion Seattle before hosting San Francisco and Dallas.
"That’s a tough stretch, but we seem to play better when it’s like that," general manager Jerry Reese said. "When odds are against us like that, we seem to play better and I expect us to play better, regardless of who we’re playing."
Manning threw for 248 yards and three scores with a 116.7 rating against the Cowboys partially thanks to some better protection in front of him. The offensive line didn’t allow a sack after the Eagles dropped Manning six times and backup Ryan Nassib twice.
"We’ve got nine games to play as well as we can possibly play," coach Tom Coughlin said. "I think anybody in that locker room can do that. They just have to realize the amount of the season and the schedule that’s gone by and yet we have nine opportunities.
"Let’s go. One at a time."
After losing star receiver Victor Cruz for the year to a knee injury, the Giants announced that middle linebacker Jon Beason will need season-ending surgery to repair a torn tendon and broken bone in his right foot. Beason had been inactive in four of the last five games and re-aggravated the injury at Philadelphia.