The last time Perry Fewell drew up a game plan to stop Peyton Manning from gouging his Giants defense with high volumes of passing yardage and touchdowns, it worked. But it worked too well.
Fewell went with a light lineup. He dressed only two defensive tackles. He started three safeties. He put only six players in the box. He basically dared the Colts to run the football.
"And they did," the defensive coordinator said Thursdaywith an obvious regret that lingers still, nearly three years later. "They ran the football."
Manning said after that 2010 game between the Giants and Colts in Indianapolis that he didn't think he'd ever handed the ball off as many times as he did that night.
The Colts ran the ball 43 times and threw only 26 passes in that 38-14 victory. By halftime the Colts had run 23 times for 124 yards. And their one touchdown pass in the first half as they built a 24-0 lead was on a perfectly timed play-action fake that drew the frustrated defense in before hitting tight end Dallas Clark down the middle for a 50-yarder.
Fewell didn't characterize it as his worst game plan during his tenure with the Giants -- he was in his first year with the team that season -- but he made it clear it is not the one he is most proud of.
He also stressed that he has learned from that mistake.
"There were some things that we prepared for and we did that I wouldn't do again," Fewell said. "It was not the best plan I could have come up with. Without trying to reveal a lot of the things I learned, I would say that we're doing it differently. We're doing it much differently."
A week after proudly describing the added run-stopping power of his defensive line as having "big butts," it would be silly for Fewell to turn away from that kind of beefy goodness, even when facing a quarterback coming off a seven-touchdown performance.
"We went in with a smaller lineup from a defensive standpoint and said we're going to try to get pressure on you and do some things because you won't run the football, and he took advantage of that," Fewell said. "The mind-set then was to stop the pass, not the run. That's not my mindset this time."
Many of the Giants remember that game plan, and not fondly.
"We're not doing that again," said Linval Joseph, one of the defensive tackles who stayed on the bench in that game. "We made a big mistake that year . . . That's not happening again. I promise you, we won't do that again."
Mathias Kiwanuka noted that one of the keys to winning on Sunday will be stopping the run, an aspect that he acknowledged was missing in 2010.
"We understand that," he said with a smile. "We've already talked about that."
And Fewell, apparently, has learned from it.
"When you go into a contest and you have a plan against a guy like that and you come out, you make some notes and you try to improve on those notes that you made," Fewell said. "When you take that test again you have your cheat sheet. And you hope you are much better."