New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings confirmed Monday that he was ordered not to score on two run plays inside the Dallas Cowboys' 5-yard line with less than two minutes left in Sunday night's game and the Giants leading by three.
"On the first-down play, I was told, 'Rashad, don't score,'" Jennings said. "On second down, 'Rashad, don't score.' I was tempted to say, 'Forget it,' and go score because I could. But I didn't want to be that guy. But definitely, I was asked not to score."
Jennings said his orders came in the huddle from quarterback Eli Manning, who spoke with him after the game and took responsibility for the way things turned out -- a 27-26 loss. Jennings said he was under the impression that Manning was relaying orders he got from the sideline.
Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is the Giants' offensive playcaller, but coach Tom Coughlin has the power to overrule him. Coughlin took responsibility for the late-game play calling Sunday night. McAdoo is permitted to speak to the media only once a week, and not after games.
After the game, Jennings told ESPN, "As a running back, it's really tough when they tell you not to score," but didn't elaborate.
Jennings said this was the first time he has been given such an order since he was in college, and back then the reason was that his team had a lead and a chance to run out the clock with the ball still in its hands. That wasn't the case Sunday, but it still was odd to ask Jennings not to score.
Had he scored a touchdown on first down and Josh Brown hit the 33-yard extra point, the Giants would have led by 10 with 1:50 left. Had he 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 he and the rest of 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 called 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.
When Jennings was told not to score on second down, the Giants believed they would be able to churn 40 seconds off the clock and run their third-down play with a little more than a minute to go. When the Cowboys stopped the clock with 1:43 to go after the second-down run, the Giants were surprised.
As for the runs themselves, Jennings insists he could have scored on either one.
"On one of them it would've been a grind," Jennings said. "But on the other, I cut the wrong way [on purpose] and found somewhere soft to fall."
Jennings and the Giants were obviously disappointed to lose a game they led by three with the ball on the opponent's 1-yard line and less than two minutes to go. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went down the field "like a knife through butter," in the words of Coughlin, for the game-winning score after Manning threw an incomplete pass on third down and the Giants settled for a field goal.
But while the instructions surprised him, Jennings wanted to make it clear that he wasn't second-guessing whoever told him not to score.
"I'm not mad," he 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."
The night didn't get a lot better for the Giants, whose departure from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was held up until 4 a.m. CT, delaying their arrival in Newark, New Jersey, to 9 a.m. ET.
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