The excuses keep getting dumber and dumber. All anyone could talk about after the New York Giants blew a six point lead in the final 94 seconds of their opener in Dallas against the Cowboys was the incredibly insane decision to throw the ball on 3rd down when the Giants were at the goal line. Why was it stupid? Three reasons:
1. Eli Manning, rather than take a sack or give himself up to keep the clock running, threw the ball out of bounds. It stopped the clock and prevented another 40 seconds from running off of it. With less than a minute to play and no time outs, the Cowboys surely would have lost.
2. The Giants could’ve just called a running play. Score or not, there was no more danger in a run play than a pass play, with the added bonus of keeping the clock running no matter how successful it was. Even if there had been a turnover, the Cowboys would’ve had to drive really far just for a field goal.
3. Eli Manning instructed Rashad Jennings not to score on the first and second plays from the goal line.
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
This is stupid because the game wasn’t tied. This strategy only makes sense if the game is tied and the Giants want to run as much clock as possible so the Cowboys don’t get a chance to tie or win if the Giants score a touchdown. BUT THEY WERE ALREADY UP BY THREE POINTS! A TOUCHDOWN SEALS THE GAME! The game had many possible goats and heroes. Jeremy Mincey was almost one of them. The Cowboys defensive end trended on social media following a personal foul call that granted the Giants a first down (rather than face a crucial 3rd and 1 with more than two minutes remaining). Mincey says he needs to bake Tony Romo a cake as a thank you. And yes, Romo enjoyed his own moment of glory for the comeback effort. It was a wonder to watch it unfold. In 89 seconds, Romo led the Cowboys down the field going 5-6 for 72 yards and the winning touchdown. It was the perfect drive.
But what is lost on the most entertaining game of Week 1 of the NFL season is how brilliant Tony Romo was the rest of the game.
Remember, Tony Romo doesn’t have a go-to, No. 1, best in the league, running back to hand the ball off to anymore. DeMarco Murray is playing for the Eagles now. Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden combined for 82 yards on 22 carries, even with an impressive offensive line against a young Giants defense.
He also lost Dez Bryant for much of the game, including the final drive. Early in the game, it was reported that Bryant was suffering from dehydration. Whether that was the case or not, it was later revealed that Bryant suffered a broken foot and will now miss anywhere from four to 12 weeks of action.
Still, Romo pressed on. And, to be honest, this is the best Tony Romo I’ve ever seen.
Here was his final line: 36-45, 365 yards (7.9 ypa), 3 TDs, and 2 INTs.
The story goes further than a pretty solid game. If you get a chance to watch this game again on NFL Network, then do it and pay attention to what Romo does before the snap. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about his clock management, bleeding the play clock down and constantly risking delay of game penalties on the offense. But upon further review, he’s actually quite methodical.
What he does most often is fake the snap and call out adjustments. He’ll get the defense to bite, getting them to think the play is about to happen and reveal how their rushing and coverage strategy. He’ll proceed to adjust routes, blocking, and sometimes even switches the play from pass to run or vice versa. Occasionally, Romo will catch the defense off guard. If Dallas already has the play that he wants based on what he sees on the other side of the ball, he’ll quick snap and suddenly the defense is scrambling to catch up.
Give Jason Garrett and the Cowboys coaching staff a lot of credit. They knew that the offense’s strength this season was going to be the line. Given his protection, with all the experience and muscle he has in front of him, Dallas is showing that they earned their spot among the best combinations of quarterback and line coming into this NFL season.
Photos courtesy Ronald Martinez/Getty Images; Tom Pennington/Getty Images