USA TODAY US Edition
Confused Giants left dazed in defeat
Manning’s mistake, iffy play-calling lead to debacle vs. Dallas
Though New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin continues to take responsibility for a catastrophic collapse in Sunday night’s 27-26 loss to the divisionrival Dallas Cowboys, he made it clear that someone else was to blame: quarterback Eli Manning.
During a conference call with reporters, the Giants confirmed that running back Rashad Jennings had been instructed not to score late in the game when the Giants held the ball near Dallas’ goal line with a three-point lead.
“That was not instructed from the sidelines,” Coughlin said Monday. “In talking with Eli today, I think he was confused by the number of (Cowboys) timeouts that were remaining. His intention was, with one timeout, that we would milk the clock as best we could. However, they had two timeouts left.”
Coughlin later added, “My intent was to be up 10.”
With the ball on the 4-yard line and fewer than two minutes to play, the Giants handed the ball to Jennings on first and second down. Jennings told ESPN in an interview that on one of the plays he “cut the wrong way (on purpose) and found somewhere soft to fall” in order to follow Manning ’s directions.
“I thought they only had one timeout,” Manning said during the call. “I told Rashad, ‘If they let you score, go down at the 1-inch line.’ ”
Before the second-down play just seconds later, Manning went to the sideline and informed the Giants coaches of what he told Jennings. When he returned to the huddle, the instructions were the same.
“I thought we were on the
same page, and I was wrong,” said Manning, 34. “That was my mistake.” It wasn’t his only one. On the next play, a crucial third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Manning took a play-action snap and retreated to avoid Dallas’ pass rush before throwing the ball out of bounds. The clock stopped with 1:43 left. Rather than take a sack, Manning ’s incompletion saved Dallas about 40 seconds.
“I have to do a better job managing the game and managing the clock,” Manning said.
After the Giants kicked a field goal to give them a six-point lead, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo led a charge down the field on a game-winning drive, capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten with seven seconds to go.
Though it was a devastating defeat against an NFC East opponent, Coughlin said he wouldn’t alter the way New York runs its offense despite Sunday’s blunder.
This wasn’t the first time Manning issued such a command to one of his teammates, either. He told former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw not to score late in Super Bowl XLVI, when the New England Patriots left a gaping hole to run through near the goal line. Though Bradshaw’s touchdown ended up winning the game, it gave New England a chance to win in a last-minute drive, where as draining the clock to kick a chip-shot field goal would’ve kept quarterback Tom Brady on the sideline until time had virtually expired.
“It has never happened before,” Coughlin said of Manning’s confusion regarding the timeouts.
“I completely trust Eli. I always have. He’s extremely into the game. He’s aware of all the circumstances. To be honest with you, nothing like that has ever happened. His mind was in the right place here. He just didn’t have all the facts right, and unfortunately we didn’t get it corrected.”
Manning signed a four-year contract extension worth $84 million Friday that likely will keep him with the Giants for the rest of his career.
Manning completed 20 of 36 passes for 193 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in Sunday’s loss.
“I stand by my comments from last night,” Coughlin said. “The responsibility for the play-calling and time management are mine, and, therefore, the responsibility goes to me. We were in position to win the game, and we didn’t. I’m very disappointed and upset by this.”