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:

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

Rashad Jennings was handed the ball on 1st- and 2nd-and-goal and apparently instructed not to score the ball.

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

It’s puzzling why the Giants would have instructed Jennings not to score, as a touchdown — were he to have converted on the play — would have given the Giants a 10-point lead with less than two minutes left. And, the Cowboys still had timeouts remaining on these two plays, meaning that the decision to intentionally not score was ultimately useless because it didn’t even allow the clock to run down. (Letting the clock run out is the primary reason this strategy is employed in late-game situations like this.)

So, why did the Giants not want to score when the Cowboys still had timeouts? For one thing, Manning said he didn’t realise 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 simply miscalculated the number of timeouts the Cowboys had left. That’s not ideal!

But none of this explains the mind-boggling 3rd-and-goal play call. 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 would have actually scored. With no timeouts left on 3rd down, the Cowboys wouldn’t have been able to do anything but watch the clock wind down.

Similarly, had Manning simply fallen to the ground for a 10-yard loss, the clock would have continued running. By throwing the ball out the back of the end zone, the Giants effectively gave the Cowboys an extra timeout, and more time on the clock for Romo and the offence.

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, 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.

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:

Of course, all of the Giants botched red zone plays from earlier don’t take away the fact that the defence 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.

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