The New York Giants horribly mismanaged the play clock on their final possession Sunday night, leading to their 27-26 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The botched third-and-goal play at the 1:43 mark is getting all the attention, but the mystifyingly bad attention to milking the clock began long before that.
If you can't stomach reviewing all of the ways the Giants fouled this up, stop reading now. Otherwise, let's go through the final four minutes and look at just how many ways the Giants messed this up. It's not pretty.
This is where the clock mismanagement began. The Giants faced third-and-two at their own 28-yard line. After Odell Beckham had sprinted all the way to the end zone for nothing with what he thought might be a loose ball, the officials reset the game clock to 4:30 and gave the Giants a new 40-second clock. They could have run the clock down close to 3:40 before snapping the ball. Instead, Eli Manning had the ball snapped at 3:57, with a full 17 seconds still on the play clock. The Giants got a first down on a 5-yard pass from Manning to Beckham, but still handed Dallas an extra 17 seconds.
It's as if the Giants and Manning had no idea they were winning and should be milking the clock. The 3:18 mark is when the next snap came, with a full nine seconds still on the play clock. This was an excellent 27-yard run by Rashad Jennings, but still a failure to use the play clock to their advantage. So far, that's roughly 26 seconds the Giants should have killed but did not. So, at this point we should be at about 2:50 remaining.
This is when Jerome Mincey of the Cowboys was penalized for unnecessary roughness against Ereck Flowers, and where Manning apparently became confused about the timeout situation. The Cowboys called a timeout, but got it back because of the penalty. When referee Bill Vinovich was explaining the situation to Tom Coughlin Manning was there, and he can clearly be seen discussing it with Vinovich before the announcement. So, how Manning was confused by the timeout situation I don't understand.
The Giants are penalized for an illegal formation when Ereck Flowers was uncovered on the left side of the line. This caused a clock stoppage that saved the Cowboys from having to use a timeout.
The mystery deepens. After a pass to Beckham gave the Giants first-and-goal at the 4-yard line things got really bizarre. The Giants declined a Dallas penalty and had the game in hand with 1:54 to play Running back Rashad Jennings said that at this point he was mystifyingly told NOT to try and score.
Just spoke with Giants RB Rashad Jennings, who confirms that he was told in the huddle before first and second down, "Rashad, don't score."— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) September 14, 2015
A run by Jennings netted three yards (he did not appear to try to stay out of the end zone) and Dallas called timeout with 1:50 left.
Jennings runs left behind Flowers and Justin Pugh. It appears he might be able to score if he breaks to the outside and tries to win a foot race, although that isn't a certainty. Instead, he runs to contact and Dallas calls its final timeout with 1:43 left.
"On the first-down play, I was told, 'Rashad, don't score,'" Jennings said. "On second down, 'Rashad, don't score.' I was tempted to say, 'Forget it,' and go score because I could. But I didn't want to be that guy. But definitely, I was asked not to score."
This is the play that ultimately. The Giants choose to go play-action and Mannings wants Daniel Fells in the end zone. Fells is blanketed and Manning pressured. All Manning has to do here is fall down and the clock winds to under 1:00 before the Giants have to kick a field goal. Instead, it stops and Josh Brown kicks a field at the 1:37 mark.
Now, the big question
Forgetting all the other why not just try to score by running the ball twice? If you score on the first run, 10-point lead and game over. If you don't, you run the clock down below a minute and hand the ball to Jennings again. Again, if you score it's game over. If you don't? Dallas gets the ball at its own 1-yard line with probably less than 50 seconds to play, no timeouts and need to travel probably 65 yards to have a chance at a game-tying field goal.
The field goal the Giants kicked didn't help them in any way, shape or form. A touchdown was still going to beat them. If Dallas somehow managed the field goal the game was going to overtime.
By my count, adding up the various plays where the Giants could have run clock and did not they probably gave the Cowboys in the neighborhood of 65-70 seconds they should not have had to work with. That, in the NFL, is an eternity.
The Giants left the door open and the Cowboys charged through it the way a good team is supposed to. The Giants, as we have established, have no one to blame. Coughlin will try to explain this later on during his conference call, but I'm not sure I will ever understand how the Giants messed this up so badly.