New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning admitted taking strategic matters into his own hands late in Sunday night’s season-opening loss to the Cowboys, confirming that he told running back Rashad Jennings not to score if he got close to the goal line. The purpose of the move was to run more time off the clock and deprive Dallas a chance at a comeback.
It did not work. Manning ended up throwing a clock-stopping incomplete pass on third down, the Giants settled for a field goal, and the Cowboys marched down the field to score the winning touchdown with seven seconds left.
What led up to that sequence was bizarre. Manning said he lost track of the number of timeouts the Cowboys had left and told Jennings to stay out of the end zone on consecutive plays in case Dallas decided to let him score.
“I thought they had one timeout left and they might let us score to get the ball back,” Manning said on a conference call Monday. “So I told Rashad, ‘Go down at the 1-inch line and don’t score.’
“This did not come from the sideline. It was me, and I was wrong. I cannot be the one in that situation to inform a back. That’s not my decision, in that scenario. I made a mistake.”
Manning spoke to Jennings about the situation after the game. He also spoke to the team Monday to take responsibility for those two plays and the third-down play on which he threw the ball out of the back of the end zone when he should have taken a sack to keep the clock running.
“I’m not mad,” Jennings said. “We’re doing this as a team, and we thought it was best for us not to score at that point. Of course I wanted to, but that’s just the football player in you.”
Jennings said this was the first time he had been given such an order since he was in college, and that the reason back then was that his team had a lead and a chance to run out the clock. That wasn’t the case Sunday, but it still was odd to ask Jennings not to score.
Had Jennings scored a touchdown on first down and Josh Brown hit the 33-yard extra point, the Giants would have led by 10 points with 1 minute, 50 seconds left. Had Jennings scored on second down, there would have been 1:43 left.
Part of the problem was that the Giants were confused about the timeout situation. Jennings said Monday that the team believed the Cowboys had called their final timeout after the first-down play. That was based on the belief that the Cowboys had called their second timeout after Odell Beckham Jr.‘s third-down catch the play before.
But Dallas had not been charged with a timeout there. The clock had stopped because the Cowboys were called for an offside penalty on Beckham’s catch. Even though the Giants declined the penalty, the rules say the clock stops after such a penalty in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.
“I thought they only had one timeout after the play to Odell,” Manning said. “I guess after a declined penalty, the clock stopped.”
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