Tom Coughlin blamed himself.
“It’s my fault at the end of the game,” the Giants head coach said after his team’s 27-26 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night. “There’s nobody else to blame but me. The decision to throw the ball there on third down was not a good decision. It should have been a run, whether we scored or not.”
Coughlin was speaking of a third-down play with 1:43 left on the clock. The Giants led, 23-20, and had the ball on Dallas’ 1-yard line. The Cowboys didn’t have any timeouts left. Anyone who’s ever played a game of Madden knows the strategy here: Run the ball. Get a touchdown, and you’re up two scores with less than two minutes left. Don’t, and you take 40 seconds off the clock. Then you can go for it on fourth or kick a field goal (the former is likely the stronger strategy).
Eli Manning dropped back to pass on third down, saw some pressure and threw the ball away. The Cowboys got the ball back down six with 1:34 left instead of under a minute. Wouldn’t you know it: The Giants left too much time on the clock, even though the Cowboys had lost Dez Bryant to a broken foot. Tony Romo completed five passes on a six-play drive, hitting Jason Witten for his second score of the night with seven seconds left. Romo’s throw to Witten was the latest game-winning touchdown pass in Cowboys history, according to NBC. The Cowboys had delivered a dramatic ending to a wild nightcap to the first Sunday of football this season.
The Giants led by 10 with eight minutes left. Dallas’ offense moved the ball all game, but New York’s D had forced three turnovers (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned a fumble for a TD) and put itself in a position to win. Then it gave up consecutive 70+ yard drives to Romo and the Cowboys in the final eight minutes. The whole team gave dispirited quotes afterward. “I’m sick right now,” Justin Pugh said postgame. Coughlin rambled at his press conference.
“The clock would have at least given us the opportunity to take a few more seconds off,” he said. “We could have run the ball, the clock would have run, run, run, take a timeout, kick a field goal. So, that was a bad decision, nobody to blame but me.
“The game should have been handled in a different way there at the end. In all of those situations, I am very, very reluctant to do anything but score. Sometimes people go out of the way I am very reluctant to do anything but score. Obviously a touchdown puts you back up 10.”
It was as if Coughlin were saying the Giants had zero chance to score there on a run. They’d already scored on a Rashad Jennings one-yard run after a Trumaine McBride interception and return earlier in the game. You don’t need to study game theory to know a run there is the correct call. Coughlin is a veteran coach who knows what he’s doing. What happened?
Of course, the Giants’ defense allow the Cowboys to come to down the field in 90 seconds and Coughlin’s playcall went from forgettable to infamous. And it’s not quite Joe Pisarcik fumbling a handoff on what should have been the last snap of the game. And it definitely didn’t cost them a Super Bowl. But giving away a game to a division rival isn’t something fans are going to soon forget. This could be an all-timer.
Quote of the week
Everybody is looking for these summaries of our offense and our team after Week 1 and I just don’t think we’re going to be able to do that. It’s Week 1. We’re a work in progress. If you need a catchy headline for your little article or whatever it is you might be doing, ‘We’re trying to get better every single week.’ What’s another cliche I can think of? ‘We’re chipping away.’ Something along those lines —Peyton Manning, after the Broncos beat the Ravens 19-13.
Manning completed 24 of 40 passes for 175 yards and a pick-six; the Broncos offense didn’t score a touchdown. He didn’t look great. But after the Broncos defense took the lead on an Aqib Talib interception return for a score, Manning went five-for-five on a 10-minute drive that produced a field goal and left just three minutes on the clock. Even more reason Manning should keep that day job: Those headlines are terrible! If a Denver Post editor used “We’re trying to get better every single week” as a banner headline, he’d be fired.
Stat of the week
297. That’s how many yards Nick Foles threw for (on 18-of-27 passing) for in his first start for the St. Louis Rams, a 34-31 overtime win over the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. Foles threw for 224 of those yards in the second half and overtime, and his lone touchdown came on a play where Lance Kendricks beat Dion Bailey. That’s who replaced Kam Chancellor, holding out in Seattle. The Super Bowl contending Seahawks already have a season storyline.
Fantasy player of the week
Keenan Allen, Chargers. Allen disappointed fantasy players who drafted him in 2014. After a 1,084-yard, eight-touchdown season in his rookie year, he had 263 fewer yards and half the scores. People who nabbed him in 2015 are happy after his week 1 performance: 15 catches, 166 yards against a secondary Sports Illustrated tabbed the seventh-best in the NFL.
How the Patriots cheated this week
After New England’s opening night win last week, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers website accused the Patriots of causing Steelers headsets to malfunction. Officially, the league cleared the Patriots from any involvement, blaming weather. So, let’s go with the Patriots cheating their own fans with parking rates from $40 to $150.
Elsewhere around the league
• It was No1 v No2 as the last two Heisman winners squared off — and No2 overall draft pick Marcus Mariota outplayed No1 pick Jameis Winston by a college mile. Mariota went 13-for-16 for 209 yards and four touchdowns. Winston threw for a yard more — but went 16-for-33 and had two interceptions to go along with his 2 scores. The Titans beat the Buccaneers, 42-14. Jameis Winston also became the first quarterback since 1991 to throw a pick-six with his first NFL pass. Still, before we consign Winston’s career to the scrapheap we may what to consider that the QB back in 1991 was Brett Favre.
• James Jones, waived by the Giants on 5 September and signed by the Packers a day later, caught four passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers’ 31-23 win over the Bears. He caught just six scores last year in Oakland.
• The Jets had just 13 takeaways all of last season. New head coach Todd Bowles’ defense forced five Cleveland turnovers in a 31-10 rout of the Browns. Johnny Manziel, filling in after Josh McCown was knocked out of the game with a concussion, lost two fumbles and threw a pick.
• The Indianapolis Colts came into the season with a slightly-revamped offense and a lot of success. But TY Hilton hurt his knee, new acquisitions Frank Gore and Andre Johnson had just 51 yards combined and Andrew Luck threw three picks. Rex Ryan was a winner in his first game. And it was Tyrod Taylor, who completed 74% of his passes and ran for 41 yards, who looked like the Pro Bowl quarterback in this one.
• This was the first week where extra points were with the line of scrimmage at the 15-yard line, making them equivalent to a 33-yard field goal. Percentages for short field goals and extra points aren’t that different. Still, kickers missed four XPs Sunday. Fans of multiples of seven have to be angry at this new rule
Gif of the week
Travis Kelce’s Popeye-style windup didn’t really give him any momentum on his punch of the football, but no matter. Maybe Travis Kelce is the Homer Jones of 2015, and the football punch will replace the spike as the standard touchdown celebration.