Even On An Off Day, Colts Beat Giants

Posted: November 15, 1999

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Skeptics who believe the Indianapolis Colts are anything but one of the new elite of the NFL should give up that argument before it becomes embarrassing.

Led by their young, terrific triplets - Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison - the Colts beat the New York Giants, 27-19, yesterday at Giants Stadium. And the Colts didn't even play particularly well.

"We'll take them all day," Manning said of victories like this one. "The tough part is that the secret is out now. We're not really sneaking up on teams anymore. I think early on we might have, and we may have caught some teams off guard. But we feel like teams are going to be ready for us now, and we have to play even better."

This game was supposed to be some kind of barometer. The AFC Central-leading Colts came into the stadium at 6-2 to take on the NFC East coleading Giants, who had managed a 5-3 record.

It was the sixth game in which the Colts faced a team that was either in first place or tied for first place in its division. After handling the Giants with some ease, the Colts are 5-1 in those situations. Their 7-2 record represents their best start since 1977, when they came out of the gate 9-1.

Harrison, who caught six passes for 109 yards, burned Giants cornerback Phillippi Sparks twice for touchdowns in a hotly contested matchup.

During the Colts' fourth offensive possession, Sparks was talking enough trash to displace that which has been dumped in the vast marshland near Giants Stadium.

On what would have been the ninth play of the drive, Sparks was called for pass interference after making contact with Harrison downfield.

After the 27-yard penalty was marked off, putting the ball at the New York 19-yard line, Sparks and Harrison began a shoving contest that officials quickly broke up.

"It cost him the very next play," said Harrison, who starred at Roman Catholic High in Philadelphia before becoming Syracuse's all-time career receiving-yards record holder. "You see what he got."

On that next play, Harrison left Sparks in his wake and caught a TD pass from Manning, who finished the day with 20 completions, 35 attempts, two touchdowns and an interception.

The Giants, their offense sputtering, managed field goals of 33 and 42 yards by Cary Blanchard. The score was 7-6 at halftime.

That, perhaps, emboldened Sparks, who continued to flap his gums.

With 9:06 left in the third period, Harrison ran away from Sparks. The Colts wideout - who has 64 catches, 11 TDs, and is just seven yards short of 1,000 with seven games left in the regular season - took a pass from Manning and scored on a 57-yard play.

"I don't talk," Harrison said. "I just play the game. He talked himself out of his game."

The other Colts wide receiver, Terrence Wilkins, added insult to injury nearly five minutes later, returning a punt 39 yards for a touchdown.

James, who got off to a slow start but helped the Colts eat up valuable time late in the game, rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries, including a brilliant 72-yard jaunt, and caught five passes for another 72 yards.

After the game, the Giants chose to search for some kind of silver lining in their outburst of 13 points in the fourth quarter. After falling behind, 24-6, late in the third quarter, they mounted something of a comeback, scoring on touchdown passes from Kent Graham to wide receiver Amani Toomer and tight end Pete Mitchell. The resurgence ended when Mitchell fumbled with a minute and 37 seconds left at the Indy 18-yard line.

"It's tough to lose this one after we played so well in the fourth quarter," said Giants running back Tiki Barber. "Even though we played sloppy in the second half, we were able to play right through it and came right back at them."

If the Colts, an incendiary offensive team when they are on stride, had played just a normal game yesterday, New York would have needed far more than 13 points (a two-point conversion failed) in the final quarter for consolation.

"We can't give up big plays against an offense like that," said Giants linebacker Marcus Buckley. "We gave up 21 points. We gave up some big plays. We let some things happen that shouldn't have happened."

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