ARLINGTON, Texas -- There's a lot I can't figure out about the New York Giants' 27-26 loss to the Cowboys here Sunday night, but let's start with what running back Rashad Jennings said about his role in the horribly botched final offensive sequence.
"As a running back, it's really tough when they tell you not to score," Jennings said.
Which is weird, because if Jennings had scored on first down from the 4-yard line or second down from the 2-yard line after the two-minute warning, as he insists he could have, the Giants would have had a 10-point lead with about 100 seconds left in the game. No amount of Tony Romo magic could have overcome that.
So who was telling him not to score and why? This from Eli Manning may help explain:
"I thought they had used their last timeout on that play to Odell when we got the first down," Manning said. "I thought that they only had one timeout left after that. I guess since there was a penalty, even though we declined it, for some reason that stops the clock."
That is true. By rule, the clock stops on a penalty in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter whether the penalty is declined or accepted. Manning didn't know this, and so he assumed Dallas had called timeout and that the clock would keep running after Jennings' second-down run.
"Bad clock management there," Manning said.
But not as bad as throwing an incomplete pass on third down. Manning knew he should have taken the sack instead and let the clock keep running.
"Yeah, I should have," Manning said. "One hundred percent on me right there. Bad clock management for that whole deal. I had an option. Just take the sack and run those 40 seconds off the clock, give them less time. That's 100 percent on me and that can't happen."
Manning insisted on shouldering the blame even though coach Tom Coughlin told the team and the media that he would take it all.
"There is nobody else to blame but me," Coughlin said. "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."
I also think they should have gone for it on fourth down from the 1, partly because I think everyone should. Fourth-and-goal is one of football's great untapped scoring resources. Coughlin said he didn't want to risk requiring the Cowboys to traverse only half the field to tie the game. And the way Tony Romo had picked apart the defense on his previous drive, he had to be thinking 1:37 was enough time for Romo to go 99 yards and win it, too.
"The drives toward the end of the game were, quite frankly, knives through butter," Coughlin said. "It was too easy. But that's not the reason we lost. They shouldn't have had the time to even do that, had we done it properly."
A fair point by a seasoned leader taking the blame for his team's loss. But the bigger picture here is that the Giants' defense gave up 436 yards in the game and Romo was 11-for-12 for 147 yards on his final two possessions. The Giants' defense was overmatched.
But because of three turnovers, they were in a position to win this game on the road against a division rival they haven't beaten since 2012. And they didn't. And Coughlin and Manning are right that they could have spared their defense the apparently impossible task of stopping Romo in the two-minute drill. Most weeks with this defense, they're not likely to be in a position to win. To miss a chance this good is a crusher.