Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin took the blame for the New York Giants’ season opening gag against the Dallas Cowboys, as well they should.
Instead, the Super Bowl winning duo of Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, which has owned the New England Patriots in two Super Bowls, showed why they aren’t Bill Belichik and Tom Brady, and that simple is never as easy as it looks.
From the stands, the couch or the press box it is such an easy decision. Under duress with 93,000 people screaming and a couple of large men chasing you, the same decision is not so simple.
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Both of these head coaches are from the Bill Parcells’ tree, but of this trio no one has been any better at managing a game late than Belichik.
With the Giants leading 23-20 with 1:43 remaining in the game, they faced a 3rd-and-1 at the Cowboys’ 1-yard line. The Cowboys had no timeouts.
The Giants actually had the right idea; with the ball inside the 5-yard line, running back Rashad Jennings, according to a report from ESPN.com, said he was told not to try to score a touchdown in an effort to kill the clock.
Coughlin pulled a Belichik and went for the win; he called a play that should have caught the Cowboys for a surprise - they called a pass, which should have resulted in an open receiver in the end zone for the game-sealing touchdown. The Cowboys didn’t bite, and the receiver was not only covered but Manning was under heavy pressure on his retreat. He threw it away.
He threw it away because that is what quarterbacks are taught to do, with one tiny caveat. He should have never thrown it away in that one exact instance.
The brain, the arm and years of practice tell the QB to toss it away, except under this one particular set of circumstances. It is what makes Belichick/Brady just so good - they never seem to be unaware of any of it.
Had Manning just slid down, the clock continues to run and the Giants would have erased another 35-plus seconds off the game clock. The Giants don’t even have to kick a field goal and risk having it blocked and returned for a touchdown. If they simply run the ball on fourth down, the Cowboys would have regained possession with well under one minute remaining and needing to go the 95 yards to try to score the winning touchdown.
Manning threw it away, the clock stopped, the Giants kicked the field goal, and the Cowboys raced 72 yards in six plays in 1 minute and 27 seconds to win the game.
All of it was avoidable, and the reason why both Manning and Couglin were blaming themselves for the Giants’ 0-1 start.