The Broncos put a beating on the Giants like only a big brother can.
Peyton Manning beat his younger sibling Eli for the third time in three tries Sunday, this time taunting him by keeping it close before blowing the game open midway through the second half in Denver's 41-23 win at MetLife Stadium.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Olivia Manning probably was yelling at Peyton to stop scoring points or she will pull this car over right now, mister!
More significant than any bragging rights within football's first family, though, was the second straight loss by the Giants to open the season and the second game in which the offense posted big numbers but gave the ball away at an alarming rate.
For the second straight week, the Giants played well enough to point to a handful of plays that doomed them. No one was hanging on to that in the postgame locker room, though. Chris Snee said the team is "beyond" moral victories and special-teams captain Zak DeOssie said the team "detests" losing.
Justin Tuck was asked if staying close to such a powerful team for three quarters was encouraging. "It's a loss," he said. "Nobody cares about good enough, close . . . This was a game that we needed to win."
The Giants usually experience second-half swoons. At this rate, they may have to deal with second-half irrelevance. That's a long way away, of course, but they saw how fast a game can spiral out of control Sunday.
They were within a point and about to recover a fumble with about three minutes left in the third quarter. But they didn't recover it, and not long after that, fans were exiting. After Eli Manning's third interception of the game, a fourth-and-10 heave into the end zone with about eight minutes left, the game was beyond reach and they were leaving en masse.
The same kind of quick descent can happen to a season.
"We're one back in our division, which is amazing," Tuck said. "The season is still a long one. A lot of great things can happen if we approach it the right way, and a lot of bad things can happen if we don't. But this team is a better team than 0-2."
Two plays at roughly the same part of the field allowed the Broncos to pull away in the second half. Peyton Manning hit Demaryius Thomas with a quick pass at the Denver 36 and Prince Amukamara poked the ball out for a fumble. The ball bounced toward the Giants' Ryan Mundy, who had recovered an earlier fumble in the end zone, but Mark Herzlich tried to cut it off. He wound up juggling it and fumbling it back to the Broncos.
Knowshon Moreno recovered it, and seven plays later, it was Moreno who ran around the unprotected left flank of the Giants' defense for a 25-yard touchdown. That made it 24-16, and the TD came on the same play in which he scored on a 20-yard run in the first half.
The Giants still were within one score of the lead, but Eli Manning's pass to Rueben Randle over the middle was broken up by Tony Carter. The ball clipped Carter's heel and bounced in the air, where Chris Harris was able to catch it for an interception. That gave the Broncos the ball at the Giants' 36, and on third-and-8 from the 11, Peyton Manning hit Julius Thomas for a touchdown pass and a 31-16 lead with 12:19 left.
"That was, in my opinion, a huge, huge turning point in the game," Tom Coughlin said of the interception.
After a three-and-out, Trindon Holliday returned a punt 81 yards for a TD that made it 38-16. Twenty-one points in a span of 5:12, and the game went from a brawl to a blowout. "I thought it was a very good football game," Coughlin said. "A highly competitive game turned into the kind of sloppy finish with a couple of interceptions at the end, and the punt return."
Peyton Manning was 30-for-43 for 307 yards and two TDs. Eli Manning was 28-for-49 for 362 and a TD but had the four interceptions.
Peyton Manning said it was "a strange feeling" to beat his brother's team and said it was "not quite as enjoyable as it would be if you were beating someone else." But Eli Manning deflected any idea that the loss hurt more because of the opposing QB. "It's all team-related," he said.
And right now, that stings plenty.