EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It was lightning-quick, the drive of Monday night's game. It delivered the first touchdown in a game that, to that point, had offered little evidence that any were coming. It happened early in the second quarter and gave the Colts a 10-point lead. And while many more points would be scored by both teams, this mini-drive was the one on which the game -- and the New York Giants' season -- likely turned.
The Colts got the ball on their own 32-yard line after a monster 58-yard punt by the Giants' Steve Weatherford. They almost didn't get it at all, as Griff Whalen fumbled the return, but he fell on the ball, and quarterback Andrew Luck was in business. Former Giant Ahmad Bradshaw lost two yards on first down, but a face mask penalty against Giants linebacker Devon Kennard gave the Colts 15 yards and a first down at their 47.
On the next play, Luck hit tight end Coby Fleener for a 21-yard gain that looked, for a moment, as though it came with a question about whether it was complete or incomplete. Knowing this, Luck and the Colts hurried to the line of scrimmage to run their next play. Giants coach Tom Coughlin reached into his sock for the red replay challenge flag but struggled to get it out. The players on the Giants' defense, anticipating Coughlin's challenge, simply milled around while Luck got his crew set and snapped the ball. Coughlin didn't get the flag thrown until after the snap, which meant there was no challenge, and Luck hit Fleener for a 32-yard touchdown against a defense that didn't expect there to be a play.
"It's always tough to let an offense get something free," linebacker Jacquian Williams said. "That's a big teacher for us. A big teacher game."
Coughlin said he and his coaching staff preached all week about the Colts' ability to line up quickly and catch the defense napping. He also said (a) yes, he normally keeps the flag in his sock, (b) no, he didn't think he'd win the challenge and (c) he was just looking for a way to slow Luck down.
"Obviously, that didn't work," Coughlin said. "They were able to take advantage of us in that one circumstance. It's something they've done in the past after big plays, and we have worked on it. We just didn't line up as fast as we should have lined up."