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How the Giants’ defense is still having issues closing out games

INDIANAPOLIS — The first half was quite good. Surprisingly good. The end was bad. Predictably bad. Closing out games is a huge problem for the Giants on defense and the 27-21 lead they were clinging to on Sunday ended up as a 28-27 loss to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Sure, the Giants were playing without injured starters and leaders Alec Ogletree and Landon Collins and had to rely too heavily on inexperienced players such as Tae Davis, a fill-in starter who had some good moments — the only sack of the game on Andrew Luck — and some rough ones, especially in coverage in the middle of the field.

Davis and cornerback B.W. Webb were called for pass-interference penalties on the final drive that culminated with Luck’s 1-yard touchdown flip to Chester Rogers with 55 seconds remaining. The penalty on Davis was not debatable. The call on Webb was much closer.

“It’s always hard to watch them throw flags,’’ Webb said. “I can’t really get into the officiating. It’s tough, it hurts, can’t really do anything about it after they throw it, though.
“Finishing the game out. We have a team losing and it’s kind of stepping on their necks. That’s something we have to get better at. We know we’re not going to the playoffs win or lose today but it was just for us, for pride, man, kind of what we want to be going into next year. It would have been big for us.’’

The Giants had a 27-21 lead and were pinned back on their 6-yard line, forcing Riley Dixon to punt from the back of the end zone. He got it out past midfield with a 52-yard kick and Cody Latimer limited the return to only 5 yards, setting the Colts up on their 47-yard line with 3:43 remaining. It was a well-executed special teams play.

“Our guys protected me, I had plenty of time to get the ball off, they covered like maniacs, that’s all you can ask for from a punt team,’’ Dixon said. “I think they handled it very well.’’

Did Pat Shurmur mess up by not going with a decision he considered and then rejected late in Sunday’s loss?

With the Giants leading 27-21 and backed up on their own 6-yard line with 3:53 remaining, Shurmur admitted “at one point I thought of maybe taking a safety there.’’ Instead, Shurmur went the more conventional route.

“We had been punting the ball well so they still had to go the better part of the field to score a touchdown,’’ Shurmur said. “I just let the punt team handle it and they did a good job with it.’’

Opting to take an intentional safety by instructing Dixon to step out of the back of the end zone might have been the more prudent move. It would have cut the Giants lead to 27-23, forcing the Colts to go for a touchdown. After the safety, Dixon would have had a free kick from the Giants’ 20-yard line, potentially driving the Colts back to their own 30- or 40-yard line.

Dixon punted from out of his own end zone and drilled a 52-yard kick that was returned 5 yards to the Colts 47-yard line. Andrew Luck led a 53-yard scoring drive and the Colts won by one point.

“They made enough plays to win and we didn’t at the end,’’ Shurmur said. “Hard-fought game and we came out on the losing end.’’

Guard Will Hernandez spiked the ball after Eli Manning’s third quarter rushing touchdown, only the seventh of Manning’s career. It was a 1-yard quarterback sneak.

“Figured let someone spike it and let one of the linemen get after it,’’ Manning said. “I had to redeem myself after a couple others during the season.’’

Once again, rookie QB Kyle Lauletta was inactive and thus not in uniform. Lauletta was inactive for the first 11 games but then was given a promotion, moved ahead of Alex Tanney and into the backup role for the victories over the Bears and Redskins, Lauletta made his NFL debut in the fourth quarter of the 40-16 trouncing of the Redskins, but did not complete any of his five passes and threw an interception. He has been inactive the past two games.

TE Rhett Ellison caught a 16-yard pass in the third quarter and then came off the field with a concussion and did not return. … The Giants lost DL Mario Edwards early in the first quarter to a calf injury. … The Colts lost two starters: TE Eric Ebron (concussion) and C Ryan Kelly (neck). Neither played in the second half.

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