Leading 28-24 with three minutes remaining, the Giants allowed the Cowboys to march 80 yards down the field with relative ease for the game-winning score.
The Giants stayed away from the blitz on that final drive, choosing instead to rush just four linemen and try to beat Romo that way. It backfired, and Coughlin was asked Monday if he would have preferred more aggressive defensive play-calling down the stretch.
"Those things have been discussed long and hard in the meeting rooms today," Coughlin said, on a conference call with reporters. "I hear ya, and on paper theoretically I agree with you. We all feel that there should have been more done, more accomplished, perhaps even throughout the entire game but definitely on that last drive. You’d love to be able to do it over."
The drive began with short completions to Bryant and Jason Witten, followed by a nine-yard run by DeMarco Murray. Then, following the two-minute warning, on 1st-and-10 from the Cowboys' own 38-yard line, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was flagged for a neutral zone infraction. Coughlin revealed Monday that the Giants did have a blitz dialed up on that play.
"If you remember the play in which we jumped, there was a pressure called there," he said. "Quite frankly I think that we kind of scared ourselves out of [blitzing] because of the penalty."
Romo made the rest look easy, hooking up with Cole Beasley for 21 yards, Witten for 15, and then Bryant in the back of the end zone. On the touchdown play, Romo had a full six seconds in the pocket to wait for Bryant to break free -- an eternity by NFL standards.
"That is about as tough as it gets," Kiwanuka said Monday, of watching that play on tape. "Especially being out there and feeling personally responsible for the outcome of the game. That is a tough one to swallow."
On further review, Kiwanuka and the Giants' other three defensive linemen weren't even close to getting to Romo. And it's worth noting that Robert Ayers was not in the game at that point. In fact, Ayers played only 20 of a possible 54 defensive snaps Sunday, even though he's been the Giants' best pass-rusher this season, and leads the team with five sacks.
"I can just tell you there were reasons why perhaps Robert wasn’t in there," Coughlin said. "There was sound thinking behind that."
That's debatable. What isn't debatable is that the Giants' defensive line simply hasn't been good enough this season.
The team is ranked 26th in the NFL in sacks, with just 19 in 11 games. Not to mention that they are second-to-last against the run, giving up 142.6 yards per game.
"Obviously there's a lot that goes into it," Kiwanuka said, when asked about the team's lack of sacks. "The opportunities when they're there, we're not taking advantage of them. When they're not, we have to find a way to create them. We just have to find a way to make plays."
Jason Pierre-Paul has just 3.5 sacks, Kiwanuka has only 2.5, and you have to think the Giants will be looking to upgrade at defensive end this coming offseason.
"On a positive note," Kiwanuka added, "there is a lot of football left to be played and we could still change the story of this season before it is over."
That's highly debatable, too. At 3-8 and virtually eliminated from playoff contention before Thanksgiving, this Giants season can already be labeled a major disappointment.
"He's a little bit different type of receiver than we have had," Manning said on a conference call Monday, the day after Beckham dazzled the football-watching world with his one-handed touchdown catch in the Giants' loss to the Dallas Cowboys. "He has that explosiveness coming out of breaks, that speed. Getting down the field, the catch ability -- he catches the ball very naturally. Obviously, the big hands. He is a pretty rare combination of speed and explosiveness, with also really good route-running and being able to stop on a dime as well out of his breaks."
Not bad for a rookie who's made only seven NFL starts. But the catch on national TV turned Beckham into an overnight sensation. And while his teammates watch him make crazy one-handed catches in practice every day, the consensus in the stadium Sunday night was that this was unlike anything anyone had ever seen.
But when Manning spoke of his young teammate Monday, he sounded more impressed with his ability to do the nitty-gritty work of a wide receiver at such a young age.
"He comes out of his breaks very sharply. He doesn't drift," Manning said. "You're able to see right when he's making that cut and he's coming out of his breaks very smoothly. His breaks are very precise. It's much easier for the quarterback to know where he's going to be out of the break."
The Giants had hoped to have Beckham and star veteran wide receiver Victor Cruz
As the accolades continue to pour in regarding New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr.'s highlight-reel catch, here's something you might not have thought about: That catch couldn't have happened a generation ago, because players 20 or 30 years ago didn't wear gloves, and there's absolutely no way Beckham makes that catch bare-handed. In fact, if you look at other examples of players making one-handed catches, you'll find they're all from the gloved era.
That's no knock on Beckham, or on gloves; it's simply an acknowledgment that the rise of gloves constitutes one of the biggest and most unheralded changes in the sport over the past few decades. If you look at an NFL game from, say, the 1980s -- or, for that matter, highlights of famous receptions from that time period, like The Catch by Dwight Clark -- you'll find very few players wearing gloves.
Mincey finished with five tackles, one tackle for loss and a sack. He also hit quarterback Eli Manning twice, forcing a key intentional grounding penalty at the end of the first half. Mincey has been around long enough to know the future is second-round draft pick DeMarcus Lawrence.
The veteran knows he must perform or the youngster will start cutting into his playing time.
Normally, safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox don’t come off the field much. But Church left the game in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Jeff Heath, who injured his right thumb. Heath, who played 10 snaps, took over Tyler Patmon’s responsibilities in the Cowboys’ dime defense.
At the end of the game, the Cowboys were using C.J. Spillman at free safety and Wilcox at strong safety.
Here's a look at the snap counts played for each of the Cowboys' defensive players Sunday night:
J.J. Wilcox 75
Brandon Carr 73
Orlando Scandrick 70
Anthony Hitchens 69
Barry Church 60
Rolando McClain 59
Sterling Moore 57
Nick Hayden 51
Jeremy Mincey 50
Tyrone Crawford 48
George Selvie 41
Bruce Carter 36
Anthony Spencer 31
Henry Melton 31
DeMarcus Lawrence 26
Terrell McClain 25
Jack Crawford 23
Tyler Patmon 14
Jeff Heath 10
C.J. Spillman 9
Kyle Wilber 6
So far this season, the Giants have played three games against teams that currently have losing records. They won all three of those games -- at Washington, and at home against the Texans and the Falcons. Their other eight games have been against teams that currently have winning records, and they have lost all eight of those games.
Therefore, if your hope is to see the Giants start winning games again, you should welcome the coming four-game stretch of their schedule:
at Jacksonville (1-10)
at Tennessee (2-9)
vs. Washington (3-8)
at St. Louis (4-7)
We have a pretty good handle on what the 2014 New York Giants are. When they play a good team, they're not good enough to beat them. When they play a bad team, they can win. That's not to say they are about to tear off on a four-game winning streak. They are not a good enough team for us to assume that about them. Three of these games are on the road, and the Rams in particular do not look like a very fun team to play right now. But the Giants are emerging from a stretch of their schedule that GM Jerry Reese described as "Murderer's Row." From a results standpoint, that stretch could not have gone any worse. There's a chance the Giants could have some relief coming.
Editor's note: Still bedazzled by New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr.'s amazing touchdown catch Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, ESPN.com taps senior writer John Clayton to put the feat into historical perspective.
Super Bowl XLII, Glendale, Arizona, Feb. 3, 2008: Tyree extended both arms and outleaped New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison to make perhaps the biggest catch in the history of the NFL's biggest game. The 32-yard completion was only possible because Eli Manning escaped the grasp of defensive end Jarvis Green before chucking the ball downfield to Tyree. Four plays later, Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown.
We're still in shock over that catch. Everything about the play worked against Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. making the catch -- the interference, the weird angle, the fact that he got only three fingers on it -- and yet he somehow pulled it off. It instantly became an iconic moment, with Photoshopped versions of it flooding the Internet within minutes. Here are some of our favorites:
The Bartman Redemption
The Sistine Chapel
The 50 Cent Save
The one Beckham likes best (h/t SB Nation)
MORE AWESOME STORIES
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If by some chance you haven't seen it by now, please do go watch. If you have seen it, it's worth seeing again. Odell Beckham Jr.'s leaping, one-handed touchdown catch in the New York Giants' loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night was pure sporting joy -- a flickering oasis of brilliance in a two-year desert of Big Blue mediocrity.
The story of this Giants season has been -- and continues to be -- that they're just not good enough. Their opponents consistently have better players who can make plays the Giants cannot. But for that one breathtaking moment Sunday night when that ball was stuck to Beckham's hand as he plunged to the blue end zone turf, there was no one in the world who was any better.
This is how the hyper-talented rookie saves this Giants season. And no, I'm not talking "save the season" in the sense of turning things around and making a playoff run, because the Giants aren't going to do that. A full appreciation of Beckham's impact requires a recalibration of expectations and a refresher course in why we watch sports in the first place.
"I hope the fact that we lost won't keep people from talking about that catch," Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said early Monday morning.
But amid that misery, faces lit up in the locker room when the questions turned to Beckham and his catch. Giants players and coaches talked eagerly about having never seen one better and about the brightness of Beckham's future given his eye-popping athletic ability. To stand out like that on a field of NFL players is a noteworthy accomplishment. Beckham's peers are not easily impressed.
"The man's a monster," Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant said. "That catch? Outstanding. Whew. Some of my work. You've got to give it to him for real."
Winning has become the only thing about which fans care, which is kind of a shame. Personally, I watch sports in the hope of seeing human beings do incredible things. That's why I say Beckham is saving this Giants season. If you're a Giants fan, your team obviously isn't going anywhere, but you're still going to watch these last five games, right? You get 16 chances during the regular season to watch your favorite NFL team play. Just because they're out of it doesn't mean you're going to stop watching the Jaguars games each Sunday.
So you're looking for something to watch. You want something that makes you feel good about your team. You can't watch Giants games for the next five weeks if the only thing that matters to you is how long after the season they make a decision on whether to get rid of their two-time Super Bowl champion coach. That's just misery. What's the point of washing that old Strahan jersey every week if all you're going to do in it is sit around and mope?
Beckham gives you something to watch, and it's something truly fun and spectacular. He gives you hope throughout the week that you might tune in Sunday and see something you've never seen before. He gives you hope about next season, and about seasons to come, after the Giants have done more roster building and Victor Cruz comes back and brighter days are around the corner.
That's why Beckham matters. Because this is still sports, and it's supposed to be fun.
"You just have to get yourself going, you have to get yourself started," Romo said. "Once you do that, it usually flows, and you just have to stay calm, stay in the moment and play each play by itself."
First thing out of the break, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka was called for a neutral zone infraction, setting the Cowboys up with first-and-5 from the 43. Romo found slot receiver Cole Beasley for a 21-yard gain that for a second looked a little bit like the 45-yard catch-and-run touchdown Beasley had scored earlier. The Cowboys were in business at the Giants' 36-yard line with 1:30 left.
Romo took a shotgun snap and sat there in the pocket for what seemed like an eternity. The Giants were not blitzing, instead dropping seven into coverage and trying to get to Romo with only their front four. They could not, and he found Witten for 15 more yards. The next play went back to Bryant for 8 yards, and he went out of bounds at the 13 to stop the clock.
So on second-and-2 from the 13, Romo took another shotgun snap. This time, more than eight full seconds elapsed before Romo threw the ball. He did not have to leave the pocket. Kiwanuka explained after the game that part of the Giants' plan was to contain Romo in the pocket, since they consider him more dangerous outside of it than inside. But they still needed to find a way to get at least one pass-rusher through the Cowboys' offensive line, and they could not.
"Obviously, anytime you're afforded that amount of time with a couple of plays left at the end of the game, it's huge," Romo said.
Bryant got open in the back of the end zone and caught the game-winning touchdown. The Giants fell to 3-8 with their sixth loss in a row and were eliminated from the NFC East race with a week left to go in November.
When you think about it that way, perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised at the amazing catch he made Sunday night that nearly broke the Internet.
Beckham Jr. spent a portion of his pre-game workout practicing one-handed catches like he does every week. In the second quarter of the Cowboys’ 31-28 win, Beckham made one of the best catches you’ll ever see.
With Brandon Carr tugging at Beckham Jr.’s jersey -- Carr was called for pass interference -- the rookie receiver leaped high and snagged the point of the ball with his right hand while he was nearly perpendicular to the ground.
He cradled the ball against his body and stumbled into the end zone, falling on his back for a 43-yard touchdown.
Yes, it was that ridiculous.
“We’ve seen Dez make catches like that for us,” safety Barry Church said. “What can you say? They get paid too. That was an amazing catch. You tip your hat and move on.”
Beckham Jr. finished with 10 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He caught eight passes for 125 in the first half.
“We studied him a lot in the draft,” Jason Garrett said. “He’s not tall, but he’s long, he’s explosive, and he has huge hands. He’s a dynamic player.”
Bryant said he hated to see Beckham Jr. make a grab like that against the Cowboys, but he had to respect the play.
“I respect playmakers, and he’s a playmaker,” Bryant said. “I just don't like it when he does it against us, but I do like seeing receivers ball out in this league. I’m a fan of all wideouts and I love that catch, but I’m happy we got the win.”
"I wanted to try and create some spark and be able to run the ball a little bit," Giants coach Tom Coughlin explained after the game. "In last week's game, there wasn't any run. I wanted to be able to have some balance to our offense, and if that's what it took, then so be it."
Geoff Schwartz, who was signed in the offseason to play left guard but missed the first 10 games due to a toe injury, made his Giants debut at right tackle Sunday in place of the injured Justin Pugh. We had a sense during the week that they'd do that. But in a mild surprise, the Giants also benched rookie Weston Richburg, who'd started the first 10 games at left guard, and replaced him with veteran Adam Snyder.
"Me and Snyder and some veteran guys, we've done this before where we've had to fill in at certain times," Schwartz said. "I thought our effort was good."
The line endured change during the game as well. Snyder had to leave with a knee injury and was replaced by Richburg. And during the fourth-quarter drive that led to the go-ahead Giants touchdown, left tackle Will Beatty had to leave due to an eye injury and was replaced by James Brewer. Beatty returned to the game, Snyder didn't, and it's hard to know for sure what the Giants will do going forward. Pugh could return from his quadriceps injury next week and move Schwartz back to guard. But they could stay with Snyder at left guard if he's able to bounce back and use Schwartz at right guard in place of John Jerry, who's struggled as well. Schwartz is versatile like that and willing to play anywhere.
The only thing that's certain is that this will remain flux, and that the Giants will need to do some more work on the line when the offseason rolls around. Again.
As for that run game... meh. The Giants ran for 89 yards on 32 carries, a pitiful average of 2.8. Starter Rashad Jennings had 52 yards on 19 carries, and rookie Andre Williams had 35 yards on 10 carries. The two alternated drives in the first half, but Coughlin said that wasn't necessarily the plan -- that he planned to play both of them and that's the way it worked out in the first half. The Giants ran 74 offensive plays in the game, so there was plenty of opportunity for multiple backs. Jennings got 12 carries in the second half while Williams only got one.
Granted, the Giants were facing a better offense this time around. But the defense folded in the second half against the Dallas Cowboys, giving up 21 points -- including a late game-winning touchdown drive -- in a 31-28 defeat.
"It should have been won," Antrel Rolle said. "I think our offense did an exceptional job."
Things started out pretty well -- the Giants limited the Cowboys to 10 points in the first half. Damontre Moore notched his third sack of the season in the second quarter, and the Giants finished off the Cowboys' final drive of the half with another sack of Tony Romo by Mathias Kiwanuka. Romo fumbled on the play, and the ball was recovered by Jason Pierre-Paul.
The second half was another story. On the Cowboys' second possession, Romo connected with Cole Beasley on a short pass that turned into a 45-yard touchdown when Beasley eluded the lunging Zack Bowman and sprinted to the end zone.
On Dallas' next possession, Romo found Dez Bryant for a 31-yard touchdown -- Bryant ran across the middle and was wide open, with nobody covering him.
And worst of all, after the Giants rallied to re-take the lead 28-24 with three minutes remaining, the Cowboys needed less than two minutes to go 80 yards for the game-winning score.
The last play was an unmitigated disaster. On 2nd-and-2 from the Giants' 13 yard-line with 1:11 on the clock, Romo dropped back and took a full six seconds before firing the ball to Bryant in the back of the end zone. The Giants' pass rush was practically invisible on the play, and the entire final drive for that matter.
"We were trying to pressure with four [pass-rushers] and obviously that didn’t work very well," coach Tom Coughlin said.
The Giants' defense, ranked second-to-last in the NFL (397.7 yards per game), gave up about their average Sunday night (385). They are dead-last in rushing defense (145 yards per game), and not surprisingly gave up more than 100 yards to the NFL's leading rusher, DeMarco Murray (24 carries, 121 yards).
But it's the lack of quarterback pressure that's particularly befuddling. The Giants' defensive line -- unlike their secondary, which has been decimated by injuries -- is practically intact. Yet they now have just 19 sacks in 11 games, ranking near the bottom of the league.
Pierre-Paul made a couple nice plays against the run Sunday, but he remains stuck on 3.5 sacks for the season -- a far cry from the 16.5 total he posted three seasons ago.
"We’ve gotta get to the quarterback quicker," Pierre-Paul said. "We need to do better -- especially me, I need to do better."
There's no lack of accountability in the Giants' locker room -- Pierre-Paul shouldered the blame. And Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did too, even though it was practically impossible to blanket Bryant for that long.
"Still, you gotta plaster to your guy," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "No matter how long it is, you gotta cover him."
The problem is, there don't seem to be any answers in the Giants' locker room, either.
"I don’t know," Pierre-Paul said, when asked why the pass rush struggled in the second half. "I gotta look at the film to see what went wrong. That’s basically it."
But they look at the film following every game, and the sacks still aren't coming.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The hope around the New York Giants was that last week's five-interception game from Eli Manning would turn out to be a fluke. A blip. A "step back," as offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo called it from a ball-security standpoint. The Giants have a thorny decision to make with Manning in one of the next two offseasons, and their hope was that the final six games of the season would look more like the first nine, in which Manning threw a total of six interceptions, than the ugly 10th.
Sunday's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys helped fuel that hope, as Manning returned to his efficient early-season form. Manning completed 29 of 40 passes (72.5 percent) for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. He had a third-quarter lull when the pressure was clearly getting to him and his footwork got messy. The interception was a back-breaker, as it came within a few yards of the goal line. And boy, oh boy, did he get away with a terrible throw into end zone coverage right before the first touchdown pass of the game.
But the totality of Manning's game -- aided by another spectacular Odell Beckham Jr. effort -- was encouraging for a Giants team that wants to believe he's going to be comfortable and careful in McAdoo's offense heading into next year and years to come.
"I thought we made some plays," Manning said. "Guys protected well up front and gave me plenty of time to make throws down the field. I'm just disappointed we couldn't finish them off."
Manning was 12-for-14 for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns on third-down plays. The Giants had the ball for 35:07 against one of the top time-of-possession teams in the league. Manning took two sacks, including one on third down, and but for the couple of exceptions noted above seemed comfortable and in control -- especially during the portions of the game when his protection was holding up.
The Giants have five games left in this season, and the way they perform in them will help answer a lot of the questions on a lot of people's minds about this team and its future. Manning's performance -- and the extent to which the Giants believe they can continue to trust him as their franchise quarterback for the next half-decade -- will be among the most scrutinized aspects of the Giants' December. As discouraging as last week's performance was, Sunday's offered refreshed reason to believe there are more good days than bad still ahead.