EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The mantra throughout the NFL each week is to look ahead. Considering how ugly the previous week was for Indianapolis, the Colts needed tunnel vision toward Nov. 3.
Following an awful performance in a loss to Pittsburgh, the Colts beat the New York Giants 40-24 behind Andrew Luck’s four touchdown passes and an improved performance by a defense that kept Eli Manning off balance.
With his franchise-record seventh consecutive 300-yard game, Luck led the Colts (6-3) to a lopsided win one week after a 51-34 loss to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
Unlike the way Roethlisberger toyed with their defense in that game, the Colts didn’t let Manning get going in handing New York (3-5) its third straight defeat. “It was great to get back in the win column after a tough one last week,” Luck said.
Luck hit Coby Fleener for a 32-yard TD in the first half. He had scoring throws of 31 yards to T.Y. Hilton, 40 yards to Reggie Wayne and 2 yards to Dwayne Allen in the third period.
Adam Vinatieri added four field goals and is perfect on 20 tries this year.
It was the eighth time this season that Luck had thrown for more than 300 yards and the 17th time in his three pro seasons. He was 25 for 46 for 354 yards, helping the Colts head into their bye with a two-game lead on Houston on the AFC South.
“Reggie spoke to it last night,” Luck said. “He’s had only one or two, but he said losses before bye weeks stink.”
So do defeats like the one the Steelers laid on Indy. The quick remedy: Win the next time out. “We got that bad taste out of our mouths, the way we lost that last game,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “It’s awesome.”
Wayne, who broke down in tears during the national anthem, surpassed James Lofton for career yards receiving and has 14,070 in his 14-season career.
“I’m just blessed to be out there,” Wayne said. “It’s an emotional game, man, and sometimes it comes out. It was a prime-time game, and an opportunity to turn things around a little bit. “An old wise guy once told me you shouldn’t hold back your tears. Tonight was a night with the tears.”
Giants first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. had 156 yards on eight receptions, by far his best game. Manning threw for 359 yards and two TDs, but most of that came with the game decided.
Luck seemed to look for Fleener on every pass in the first half. That well-established combination — they played together at Stanford before joining the Colts in 2012 — paid off on consecutive passes for the game’s first touchdown.
But the Colts probably caught a break on one of those plays. Fleener was awarded a 21-yard gain to the New York 32, although video replays showed he dropped the ball. Giants coach Tom Coughlin threw the challenge flag too late, seconds before Fleener was uncovered down the right side for the touchdown.
“We saw the coaches gathering on the sideline and we didn’t know if he was trying to challenge it or not,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “And you know as a defense we have to get lined up and get a call. No one got lined up … we failed to do so as an entire unit. It was one of those plays that costs you.”
Also costly for the Giants were drops by receivers, an inability to sustain a ground game, and enough pressure against Manning to force long or high throws that had no chance to be caught. Indy led 16-3 at the half thanks to Fleener’s TD and field goals of 48, 31 and 48 yards by Vinatieri, who added a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The Colts held the Giants to 143 yards in the opening half, and then staged an 84-yard drive to Hilton’s TD on the first series of the third quarter.
New York matched that drive to finally get into the end zone. Beckham got loose for a 59-yard gain on a pass from Manning, and then Andre Williams broke two tackles for a 24-yard reception. Williams surged in from the 1 to make it 23-10.
Luck simply picked New York apart on the next series to go over 300 yards in the air once again. He beat a blitz to hit former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw for 22 yards, did the same to hit Fleener for 11 on third down, and then connected with Wayne on a 40-yard play down the left sideline.
Rookie Jonathan Newsome’s sack of Manning three plays later knocked the ball loose and safety Sergio Brown returned it 28 yards to the Giants 4. Luck got his fourth TD pass on a 2-yarder to an uncovered Allen.
That score sent many of the fans to the exits, about the only satisfaction they received being a halftime ceremony when former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan received his Hall of Fame ring.
New York got a pair of late scores on Larry Donnell’s 5-yard reception and rookie Corey Washington’s 1-yard catch for his first career TD.
(BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer)