It was one thing when it appeared that the Giants’ merely brainfarted 40 extra seconds to the Cowboys for a game-winning drive that needed 33 of them. Now as players discuss the calls in the huddle and from the sideline, it’s so, so much worse: the Giants a) did not realize how many timeouts the Cowboys had, and b) told RB Rashad Jennings not to score a touchdown that would have put the game out of reach.
The confusion started a few plays earlier. The Cowboys attempted to call their second timeout with 2:17 remaining, but because of an unnecessary roughness call on Jeremy Mincey, the clock stopped and the Cowboys were given their timeout back.
Three plays later, Eli Manning completed a first-down pass to Odell Beckham Jr. There was a defensive offside call on Dallas DE DeMarcus Lawrence, a penalty that was declined, but resulted in a stopped clock anyway, sparing the Cowboys from having to call time.
It appears, from Manning’s comments today, that the Giants understood the Cowboys had two timeouts remaining after the flag on Mincey—but got thrown off by the stopped clock after the declined penalty on Lawrence.
“I thought they had used their last timeout on that play to Odell when we got the first down,” Manning said. “I thought that they only had one timeout left after that. I guess since there was a penalty, even though we declined it, for some reason that stops the clock.”
(The NFL’s rules on stopping the clock after penalties and declined penalties late in the half are confusing and not entirely logical, but the officials on the field last night applied them correctly.)
So the Giants, with the ball on the four, first down, and a three point lead, assumed the Cowboys had one timeout remaining; Dallas had two. The discrepancy resulted in a fatal instruction from the sideline.
“They told me not to score,” running back Rashad Jennings said.
On first down, believing all he had to do was not fumble but also not make it into the end zone, Jennings ran for two yards. The Cowboys called their second timeout; what the Giants thought was their third and final.
On second down, Jennings ran for one yard. To the Giants’ surprise, the referee announced that the Cowboys called their third and final timeout.
That’s when the Giants braintrust apparently panicked, realizing they wouldn’t be able to run the clock down to about 15 seconds by fourth down. So offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo called the fateful pass play, and neither he, nor Tom Coughlin, nor Eli Manning realized that if a receiver didn’t materialize, Manning should have taken the sack to keep the clock running. They had the full 40 seconds to figure this out and convey it to the QB; but no one thought of it.
This puts the Giants’ late-game follies in a new light. Perhaps things go very differently, perhaps it doesn’t come down to leaving too much time for Tony Romo, if the Giants merely tried to score from first-and-goal from the four.
We had a really good drive,” center Weston Richburg said after the contest. “We could have easily put it in. I don’t make any of those decisions.”
This is a pretty unforgivable mental meltdown from a team headed by a coach who’s supposed to specialize in discipline (and the importance of time management; if you’re not 15 minutes early to a Tom Coughlin meeting, you’re fined for being late), and a very bad start for a coach who might finally be on the hot seat.