The Giants blew an important game against Dallas with a series of baffling late-game plays

The Dallas Cowboys came roaring back late in the 4th quarter last night to beat the New York Giants 27-26 and open their season 1-0. In an ugly game marred by turnovers, injuries, and inopportune penalties, perhaps the worst, most head-scratching moment of all came when the Giants, leading 23-20 with 1:43 left, decided to throw the ball on 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line despite the fact that the Cowboys had no remaining timeouts.

Here’s the play:

Eli horrendous


But the poor decision-making began well before this 3rd down play.

On 1st- and 2nd-and-goal, Rashad Jennings was handed the ball and explicitly instructed by Manning to go down at the 1-yard line to not score.

“As a running back, it’s really tough when they tell you not to score,” Jennings said.

According to, this instruction came from within the huddle, not from Coughlin or the Giants’ sideline, because Manning simply didn’t realize the Cowboys still had timeouts.

“I thought they had used their last timeout on that play to Odell [Beckham Jr.] when we got the first down,” Manning said afterwards. “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.”

In other words: Manning miscalculated the number of remaining timeouts the Cowboys had, and thus told Jennings to milk the clock by not scoring because scoring would have stopped the clock and given the ball back to Dallas.

This is all horrible! Manning needs to know how many timeouts his opponents have in a situation like this – that’s Pop Warner stuff, as they say. He also just should not have told Jennings to intentionally not score, regardless of how many timeouts he thought Cowboys may or may not have had: if Jennings had scored, New York would have led by 10 points with about 100 seconds of football left. If he scores, the Giants win.

All of this, on its own, is atrocious late-game football. But then there’s the mind-boggling 3rd-and-goal play, too. If Tom Coughlin had called a run play on 3rd-and-goal, precious seconds would have continued to tick from the clock regardless of whether or not Jennings had actually scored because the Cowboys had no timeouts.

But even calling a pass play could have worked out fine if Manning, upon realizing he had no open receivers, had simply fallen to the ground for a 10-yard loss. Had he done this, the clock would have continued running. Instead, he threw the ball out the back of the end zone, effectively giving the Cowboys an extra timeout, and more time on the clock for Romo and the offense.

And then there was 4th down, on which the Giants decided kicked a field goal to go up 26-20 with 1:43 left. There’s an argument to be made for going for it on 4th-and-goal in this situation, as it would have both run the clock down more, in the best case resulted in a touchdown, and in the worst case (a turnover on downs), would have put Romo on his own goal line, with no timeouts, in need of a field goal just to send the game to overtime. It’s hard to imagine a situation there where the Giants don’t at least go to overtime.

Instead, Romo got the ball on his own 20 with 1:29 left, led a scarily efficient 6-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in a game-winning touchdown to the ageless Jason Witten:

Romo TD


Of course, all of the Giants botched red zone plays from earlier don’t take away the fact that the defense allowed Romo to march 72 yards with 1:43 on the clock and no timeouts.

After the game, Coughlin aptly called the Cowboys’ final drive against the Giants “like a knife through butter.”

It could be a long season for the Giants, and they really should be 1-0 after last night.