The Giants had a 1-0 record in their hand before Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin decided to throw it away. But can they rebound from it in time for their Week 2 matchup against Atlanta?
Big Blue had their first opening night win since 2010 in their hands until Eli Manning decided to throw the ball out of the end zone on a third down-and-short play with 1:43 left, stopping the clock while giving Dallas a chance at a game-winning drive with no timeouts – which, as scripted, they did.
Tony Romo led his team 76 yards in about 90 seconds, throwing the game-tying touchdown to tight end Jason Witten with seven seconds left. The extra-point gave Dallas the 27-26 win. The game-winning drive was Romo’s 28th of his career.
The mistake by Eli was just one of his many big mistakes he’s made throughout his Giants career.
By the way, Eli also just signed a four-year, $84 million extension with $65 guaranteed just a few days ago.
“It’s my fault at the end of the game,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said afterward. “There is 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.”
Eli took his share of the blame after the game as well.
“It’s on me right there,” he said. “That’s clock management. Obviously just take the sack, take the 40 seconds off the clock and given them less time. That’s 100% on me … Can’t afford to throw it away. Got to sit in there and take the sack.”
While this third-down play is the highlight of the Giants loss, they also showed a lot more negatives than positives in their loss at Dallas – things they have to fix going into their Week 2 home opener against the Falcons.
For starters, the Giants offense looked pathetic. Eli was just 20-for-36 passing for 193 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and the running game as a whole combined for just less than 100 yards. Rashad Jennings ran for just 52 yards on 13 carries and had the Giants only offensive touchdown on the night, while both Shane Vereen and Andre Williams combined to run for just 28 yards on nine total carries.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Odell Beckham Jr. was contained to just 44 yards on five catches while Vereen led the Giants with 46 receiving yards on four catches.
Preston Parker, who took over the No. 3 wideout spot for recently released James Jones, was a bust in his season debut, catching just two balls for 26 yards while dropping at least two key passes that could’ve helped change the outcome of the game.
Defensively, the Giants were surprisingly decent and opportunistic, except on the final drive. Big Blue forced five turnovers (three fumbles and two picks), giving the Giants offense opportunities to take over the game.
But they weren’t perfect either. The Giants had no pass rush whatsoever on Romo all night, especially on the final drive which allowed Romo to pick apart the Giants defense easily in 90 seconds. They didn’t allow the big 30-plus-yard plays, forcing Romo to stick to the short-to-medium range passing game, however, the Giants allowed the Cowboys to make plays after the catch and after first contact.
The Giants held the Cowboys to just 80 yards on the ground as Joseph Randle’s longest run only went for 15 yards. That is a huge improvement from the run defense that finished 30th in the NFL last year.
The linebackers group, for the most part, held their own, especially rookie linebacker Uani’ Unga, who started in place of Jon Beason. Unga racked 12 tackles (10 solo) and came up with the huge interception of Romo in the final minute of the first half on the tip by Witten. Had Cullen Jenkins not been called for unnecessary roughness, the Giants get the ball at the Cowboys’ 21 instead of their 36-yard-line, which led to a Giants field goal to end the half.
But in the final minute, Romo picked on Unga’s lack of coverage skills as he allowed 68 yards in the final drive on the four targets by Romo over the middle, including the game-tying touchdown pass to Witten.
The Giants 0-1 record will be known most for their third-down blunder. However, if the defense can continue to improve on the mostly solid night they had, Big Blue could be in better shape than everyone thinks. Offensively, they have to be more consistent and have to make the key third down plays, even if it includes taking a sack to run down the clock with the lead.
It’s a long season ahead. But the Giants should be 1-0, instead of 0-1.
[su_button url=”https://elitesportsny.com/2015/09/14/new-york-giants-lose-heartbreaker-on-jason-witten-td/” target=”blank” background=”#000080″ size=”10″ wide=”yes” radius=”0″]NEXT: New York Giants Lose Heartbreaker On Jason Witten TD[/su_button]