I'm Chris Mascaro and I'll be bringing you all of tonight's live game action, as the Giants (1-0, 0-0 road) take on Peyton Manning and the defending AFC champion Indianapolis Colts (0-1, 0-0 home) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The obvious storyline revolves around the two Super Bowl MVP-winning quarterbacks pictured together above this post. But a deeper look at the two teams offers a more intriguing view.
Last week, the Giants were sloppy with the football, but they rode their defense in the second half to a 31-18 win over Carolina in the first game at their new stadium.
"It's always good when you open a new place, the new Giants Stadium, and get a win," said guard Rich Seubert after the game. "It is going to be remembered for a long time."
Indianapolis, which won its first 14 games of last season before resting its starters the final two weeks (Jets fans should remember well), finds itself in an unfamiliar position -- last place. Yes, the Colts were the only AFC South team to lose Week 1, falling to division rival Houston, 34-24.
In doing so, they made Texans running back Arian Foster look like the second coming of Walter Payton, as he rushed for 231 yards (the second most ever in a season-opener) and three touchdowns. Can you say vulnerable run defense?
It certainly looks that way, so the Giants are expecting a big game out of Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for 70 of his 76 yards and a touchdown in the second half against the Panthers.
The Giants' rushing attack is just one of the keys to tonight's game. Here are three more, and if you don't like them, there's always this stuff.
1. The Giants need a safety net. The last line of the Giants defense needs to step up big time against a quarterback who can tear even the best defenses apart. Last week, Manning threw for 433 yards and three touchdowns, completing 40 passes to seven different receivers. Austin Collie and Dallas Clark each had 11 receptions, and neither of them is the Colts' best receiver (though Clark is one of the best tight ends in the league). That title belongs to Reggie Wayne, who caught seven passes for 99 yards and a score.
Kenny Phillips had a triumphant return from last year's season-ending injury with four tackles and a nifty-looking interception last week. He, new addition Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant (who also had an INT last Sunday) looked like a cohesive unit against Carolina. But Peyton will provide a far greater challenge tonight. Can they hold up?
*It was not a great night for the secondary, as Peyton threw just six incomplete passes, averaged 9.6 yards per pass and had a passer rating of 145.5. He completed passes to six different receivers, and the Giants couldn't cover any of them particularly well.
2. See Nicks run? Receiver Hakeem Nicks had a breakout game last week, with three of his four receptions going for touchdowns. But Nicks has been hampered by an ankle injury all week. He'll play, but he's not 100 percent. That could be a problem for the Giants because, if they get their running game going, Nicks could be an asset in the play-action passing game to stretch the field. WIll he be able to do that? Remains to be seen.
Also on the mend is Osi Umenyiora, who missed the majority of practice for the second time in three days on Friday with swelling in his right knee (more on the walking wounded below).
*Nicks was able to play, but he didn't make an impact on the game until his 31-yard TD catch in garbage time. He finished with two catches for 38 yards, and was targeted five times by Eli. Osi was mostly ineffective when he was able to get on the field — he made just one tackle.
3. Dodging a blow? Rookie punter Matt Dodge had an atrocious NFL debut last week, with his two punts netting an average of 24 yards per kick. His low line-drive punts allowed for big returns, and he also had a punt blocked. The Giants can ill afford to lose the field position battle to Peyton and friends, so Dodge's performance tonight could swing the outcome.
*Oddly enough, Dodge was one of the few Giants that had an O.K. game. His first punt netted only 32 yards, but he finished up with a 45.2-yard average on six punts and downed one at the 2. The Colts drove 98 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, but hey, can't fault Dodge for that.
Finally, here are a few notes on tonight's game:
-The Colts, who finished last season 16-3 (including playoffs), were 7-1 on the road in 2009, with the only loss coming in a 30-7 decision to the Bills in Week 17 when they were resting their starters.
-Indianapolis and the Giants have split their two meetings since 2002. The Giants won 44-27 in the '02 season, while the Colts won 26-21 in New York in Manning Bowl I in 2006.
-The Giants are tied for first in the NFC in points scored with 31 (Seattle also put up 31 in Week 1). They allowed 18, which is 11th best in the conference. Only Carolina (31), San Francisco (31), Philly (27), Green Bay (20) and Detroit (19) allowed more last week. Last year, the Giants allowed 30+ points seven times, including three of the last four games.
-The Colts scored 416 points last season (behind only San Diego and New England in the AFC) and allowed 307 (fifth best in the conference). They were a perfect 4-0 against NFC teams in 2009 (they played the NFC West). The Giants were 2-2 against AFC opponents (they played the AFC West).
-Peyton Manning threw three touchdowns with no interceptions last week and was sacked twice. He completed 70.2 percent of his 57 passes for 433 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. His 109.8 passer rating is fourth in the NFL. His 99.9 rating last season was sixth in the league.
-The Colts are even in turnover margin (they lost a fumble and had an interception last week), while the Giants are +1 (they picked off three passes and recovered two fumbles, while throwing three INTs and losing one fumble).
-Joseph Addai rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries last week, and caught six passes for 29 yards. The 44 yards are the exact total Brandon Jacobs finished with last week, but Addai was the only Colt to run the ball last week.
-The Colts are looking to avoid their first 0-2 start since 1998, Peyton Manning's rookie season.
-Tonight is also the triumphant return of Giants' backup Jim Sorgi, who was Peyton's understudy for the last six seasons.
Okay, that's all for now. But we've got plenty more to talk about tonight, so keep it locked here throughout the evening!
I'll be back after each quarter with updates.
We're about 15 minutes from Sunday night football on NBC!
End of the 1st Quarter: Colts 7, Giants 0
Colts' first scoring drive: 12 plays, 80 yards, 6:44
Key play: Addai 2-yard run off-tackle left on third-and-1 from the Giants' 47.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Terrell Thomas tackled Addai for a gain of one yard on first down — it led to Indy's first punt of the game.
-Deon Grant's tight coverage on Dallas Clark on a third-and-4 forced an Indianapolis punt.
-Nicks couldn't haul in a third-and-7 pass, but the refs flagged Kelvin Hayden for pass interference to give the Giants a first down.
Players who struggled:
-Peyton carved up the Giants on the first scoring drive, with five completions on his first five throws for 52 yards.
-Dodge's first punt traveled just 42 yards and was returned 10 for a net of 32 yards.
What to watch for in the second quarter: Can the Giants thwart the Colts' passing game?
End of the 2nd Quarter: Colts 24, Giants 0
Colts' second scoring drive: 8 plays, 98 yards, 4:24
Scoring play: Clark 50-yard pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick) ... it is their second TD hookup in as many week.
Key play: Addai 12-yard run on first-and-10 from the Colts' 24.
Colts' third scoring drive: 8 plays, 42 yards, 4:26
Scoring play: Vinatieri 38-yard FG.
Key play: Addai 16-yard run off left tackle on second-and-7 from their own 41.
Colts' fourth scoring drive: 8 plays, 45 yards, 0:58
Scoring play: Collie 3-yard pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick)
Key play: Collie 9-yard pass from Peyton on third-and-1 from the Giants' 25.
*Phillips was shaken up tackling Addai. He was replaced by Michael Johnson, but returned on the following drive.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-All this talk about Dodge, but the rookie did a nice job on his second punt of the night, pinning Indy back on its own 2-yard line. D.J. Johnson was the first man to the ball.
-Barry Cofield tackled Brown in the backfield on third-and-1 from the Giants 16 to bring up a field-goal opportunity.
-Smith converted a third-and-8 with a nine-yard catch from Eli.
Players who struggled:
-Mathias Kiwanuka missed a tackle on Brown in the backfield, and the play went for a gain of five instead of a loss of three.
-Johnson blew his coverage on Clark's TD grab, and Aaron Ross was beat deep for the score.
-Eli Manning's deep pass to Steve Smith knocked out of the receiver's hands and was picked off by Jerraud Powers.
-Jacobs was flagged for a late hit on Powers' interception return.
-Eli is 3 for 8 for 17 yards and an INT in the first half. At one point, he was 1 for 5 for 1 yard. The Giants have just 69 total yards. The Colts have 124 yards rushing and another 154 passing.
What to watch for in the second half: Can the Giants get their passing game going?
Manning: 3 for 8 passing for 17 yards, INT; 1 carry, 6 yards
Bradshaw: 8 carries, 42 yards
Jacobs: 3 carries, 8 yards
Smith: 1 catch, 9 yards
Pascoe: 1 catch, 7 yards
Boley: 6 tackles, 3 assists
Manning: 13 of 18 passing, 154 yards, two TDs
Addai: 13 carries, 80 yards; 2 receptions, 21 yards
Brown: 10 carries, 44 yards, TD
Clark: 3 catches, 63 yards, TD
Wayne: 4 receptions, 40 yards
Collie: 3 catches, 19 yards, TD
Vinatieri: 1 for 1 on FGs; 3 for 3 on XPs
Mathis: sack, forced fumble
End of the 3rd Quarter: Colts 31, Giants 7
Giants' first scoring drive: 8 plays, 87 yards, 4:16
Scoring play: Manningham 54-yard pass from Manning on third-and-8 from their own 46 (Tynes kick) ... it was the longest reception of Manningham's career.
Key play: Smith eight-yard pass from Manning on third-and-7 from their own 16.
Colts' fifth scoring play: Fili Moala 1-yard fumble return (Vinatieri kick)
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Kiwanuka sacked Peyton for a loss of five yards on a first-and-10 from the Giants' 47. It was New York's first sack of the evening.
Players who struggled:
-Jacobs rushed for no gain on a second-down play and then threw his helmet into the stands. He meant to throw it into the bench, but it slipped out of his hands and a fan caught it. The fan didn't want to give it up, but a security guard came in and snatched it away.
What to watch for in the fourth quarter: Can the Giants pull themselves back into this game?
That's the end of game, as the Colts defeat the Giants, 38-14.
Colts: 1-1 (1-0 home)
Giants: 1-1 (0-1 road)
Scores by quarter for the Colts: 7,17, 7, 7
Scores by quarter for the Giants: 0, 0, 7, 7
Colts' sixth scoring drive: 8 plays, 55 yards, 4:02
Scoring play: Wayne 10-yard pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick)
Key play: Wayne 34-yard pass from Manning on third-and-10 from their own 45.
Giants' second scoring drive: 1 play, 31 yards, :06
Scoring play: Nicks 31-yard pass from Manning (Tynes kick) ... it was Manning's second TD pass of the night.
Key play: Terrell Thomas recovered a Devin Moore fumble on the Colts' 31 to setup the touchdown throw on the next play.
Here are your three stars for tonight's game:
1. (Peyton) Manning: 20 of 26 passing for 255 yards and three TDs.
2. Wayne: 7 catches for 96 yards and a TD.
3. Addai: 20 carries for 92 yards; 2 catches, 21 yards.
*The Colts had a 34:29-24:54 advantage in time of possession and a 410-257 advantage in total yards.
(Eli) Manning: 13 of 24 for 161 yards, two TDs, INT
Manningham: 4 catches, 75 yards, TD
Bradshaw: 17 carries, 89 yards
Smith: 4 catches, 35 yards
Jacobs: 4 carries, 8 yards
Nicks: 2 catches, 38 yards, TD
Tynes: 1 for 1 on XP
Boley: 11 tackles; Kiwanuka: sack
Brown: 16 carries, 69 yards, TD
Clark: 5 catches, 83 yards, TD
Collie: 4 receptions, 25 yards, TD
Vinatieri: 5 of 5 on XPs; 1 for 1 on FGs
Mathis: two sacks, forced fumble
Freeney: sack, forced fumble
*The attendance at Lucas Oil Field was 67,275.
Okay, that's all for tonight's game. Please check back above for updates on my pregame keys to the game. Thanks to all for coming out!
As always, it was my honor and pleasure to bring everyone all of tonight's live game action.
See ya'll back here in next Sunday, as the Giants play host to the Tennessee Titans at 1 p.m. Have a great night!