EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ– As difficult as it is, Tom Coughlin is going to accentuate the positives and set his sights forward instead of looking back.
The Giants can't do anything to change the disheartening 27-26 loss they suffered last night in Dallas. But they can't have a Cowboys hangover as they prepare for their home opener Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Although their flight from Dallas was delayed by a mechanical issue and they didn't land in New Jersey until almost 7:30 a.m., Coughlin brought the team together to review the Dallas game and begin focusing on the next challenge.
"We talked about yesterday's game and about going forward," Coughlin said. "I urged them to get to bed early tonight and again tomorrow night. Because sometimes it's a couple of days before it really hits you. And then come to work Wednesday morning excited about looking forward, not backward."
Coughlin lauded the Giants' effort, their three takeaways and no turnovers, and a defense that scored one touchdown and put the offense on the doorstep for another.
"Certainly the football wasn't by any means perfect," Coughlin said. "In many, many categories, we were deficient compared to what Dallas accomplished. However, we were plus-three. Our defense did score one touchdown, and really put us on the one-yard line. You might as well say scored two touchdowns, and did an outstanding job of taking the ball away from a very good Dallas team. And putting us in a position where we had an opportunity to win the game."
But they didn't win, and that's what pains everybody today. The Giants wasted a late 10-point lead, were uncertain about the number of timeouts Dallas had, selected a play that Coughlin believes was mistakenly called and Eli Manning said was poorly executed, and surrendered a final Cowboys drive that culminated with Tony Romo's game-winning 11-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with just seven seconds remaining.
As they did in the immediate aftermath of the game, Coughlin and Manning said anyone pointing fingers should aim at them.
"I stand by what I said last night," Coughlin said. "The responsibility for the management of time and the play calling decisions etc. etc. are mine. Therefore, the responsibility goes to me and nobody else. And all the other jibber-jabber, whatever is going on out there, simply comes down to the fact that we were within striking distance of being 10 points up. And that's all I ever wanted - was to get back to the 10 point lead."
The Giants led, 23-13, before Witten's one-yard touchdown catch lifted the Cowboys to within three points. On the Giants' ensuing possession, they had a first-and-goal at the Dallas four-yard line. The Cowboys had called a timeout after a 16-yard pass to Odell Beckham Jr., but kept it when the Giants declined an offside penalty on Demarcus Lawrence. Dallas had two remaining timeouts when Manning thought they had one.
That prompted Manning to issue a directive to Jennings to not score if he had the chance, reasoning it was better to bleed time off the clock.
"I thought with the decline, they would just have one timeout," Manning said. "So I thought that they may let us score to get the ball back, so that's why I informed Rashad if they let you score, just go down at the one-inch line. Don't score. He still ran hard, we got two yards on first down and second down."
Coughlin acknowledged Manning was uncertain about the timeouts, but strongly supported his most valuable player.
"It's never happened before," Coughlin said. "I completely trust Eli, I always have. He's extremely into the game, he's aware of all the circumstances. As he comes over to the sideline, he relates what he sees and so on and so forth, from his position. To be honest with you, nothing like that has ever happened. His mind was in the right place here, he just didn't have all the facts right, and unfortunately we didn't get it corrected."
On third down, Manning faked a handoff and moved to his right before throwing the ball out of the end zone, which consumed only six seconds. Coughlin said the Giants should have run the ball. Manning said the call would not have raised an issue had he taken a sack and let the clock run.
"Third down, it's still my mistake," Manning said. "We got on third down and not taking a sack there. I've got to do a better job managing the game, managing the clock and make better decisions in that scenario."
He'll get another opportunity on Sunday. Manning's lengthy track record suggests he'll do just fine.
Photos from the Giants Week 1 matchup with the Cowboys