In 1 minute 50 seconds, the Baltimore Colts tonight reversed more than a trend set in the previous 58:10.
They reversed the trend of the previous 365 days 58 minutes 10 seconds.
Trailing, 14-12, with 1:40 left in this NFL preseason game, Baltimore linebacker Ricky Jones intercepted a pass by quarterback Mark Reed on the New York 47-yard line and returned it to the two.
Three plays later, free agent rookie running back Howard Jackson ran one yard to score the touchdown with 17 seconds left that gave the Colts a 19-14 victory at Memorial Stadium.
Jones is listed third on the Colts' depth chart at left inside linebacker. With a smile 45 yards wide, he went three-deep in explanation, saying, "The QB didn't see me. When I saw the ball coming my eyes just popped out. I knew I couldn't drop that. The guys would get on me too much."
Frank Kush, in his first game here as Colts head coach, is aware of Baltimore's 2-14 kerplunk last year. His team lost, 30-14, to Minnesota last week in the Hall of Fame game. And he knows this is just a preseason game.
But he also knows an amazing finish when he sees one. "This will bring us together in many respects," he said. "Psychologically, as well as physically, it could really be the proper medicine."
Kush was asked if he would enjoy tonight's ride home. The man known for rattling facemasks and egos said, "I only live 10 miles from here."
Then he left smiling, just as most of the 31,905 in Memorial Stadium had before him. Even in the four-game preseason last year, the Colts didn't win as many games as they won tonight.
New York's Ray Perkins, coaching his first game since the Giants lost, 38-24, to San Francisco in an NFC playoff game last January, protected Reed, his second-year, third-string quarterback, from taking the blame for throwing the ball, instead of running out the clock.
Perkins said it was his decision.
"It was probably a bad call on my part," he said. "I'll take the blame for it. I certainly don't want Mark to.".
Kush admitted he would have done the same thing on third and seven from his 41. "In a game like this, you try to go for it," he said.
New York linebacker Harry Carson, in his seventh season, is the Giants' man of experience. He said, "Better this happens now than in the first game of the season."
The Giants led, 14-10, at the half, despite some marvelous scrambling by Baltimore quarterback Mike Pagel, the rookie from Arizona State. Pagel played most of the first half, completing 11 of 18 passes for 140 yards.
After players from both teams met at midfield to shake hands before the coin toss, showing their NFL Players Association unity, Pagel threw a nonunion strike of his own: a 23-yard touchdown pass to Ray Butler, giving the Colts a 7-0 edge 3:34 into the game.
"The way he runs reminds me of Joe Montana," Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor said of Pagel, who usually was two steps in front of the not-so-Giant defenders.
Meanwhile, Phil Simms (three of nine, 53 yards) was struggling as the Giants' starting quarterback. He did lead New York to a quaint 46-yard scoring drive, ended by Leon Perry's five-yard touchdown run, tying the score at 7-7 eight seconds into the second quarter.
Then, Mike Wood kicked a 22-yard field goal with 6:48 left in the half and the Colts led, 10-7.
Quarterback Scott Brunner then came in for the Giants and had more luck than the Colts' second-string quarterback. Rookie Art Schlichter was two for 10 and was booed. Brunner completed five of six passes for 45 yards in one drive, including a 10-yard slant-in to John Mistler to give the Giants a 14-10 halftime edge.
Reed, from Moorehead (Minn.) State,came on to play the second half for the Giants. When James Williams planted him in the end zone for a safety, making the score 14-12 with 11:48 left in the third quarter, it seemed the Giants' lead was no longer safe.
Twenty-six minutes and one interception later, the trend was reversed and the lead was gone.