Oftentimes a coach will call a play and the fans will complain, as natural as night follows day. At times, Giants fans have been displeased with the first down runs and the constant feeling that it’s third and long.
But tonight, on a day that his predecessor Tom Coughlin entered the Ring of Honor, Ben McAdoo’s decision to go for the touchdown on fourth and goal early in the fourth quarter instead of kicking a field goal was the key to the game.
“We knew it was going to take a touchdown to beat this team,” McAdoo said. “It’s a good football team and we felt like we had to score a touchdown.”
The Giants trailed 20-14 when they faced a goal line situation early in the fourth. New York’s offense picked up some yardage and stayed on the field for fourth and goal at the three. Eli Manning found Sterling Shepard for the touchdown.
A coach will often tell his QB before a third down play that it’s four down territory. This time, the call came earlier. “Coach McAdoo told me on second down, ‘Hey, we’re in four down territory just so you know'”, Manning said.
That turned out to be the critical decision of the game. “I’ve heard it on third down before,” Manning said. “We had the quarter change, so I think he had some time to think.”
The head coach has no problem being aggressive. In a week two win against the Saints he left his offense on the field on fourth and goal in the first half although that led to an incompletion.
Last night, the Giants didn’t take the field goal to cut it to 20-17 and if New York failed on fourth down, McAdoo would be second guessed. Especially if a later drive got into field goal range.
It seems like the only thing fans agree on is it’s a good call to go for it if the team converts. Last year, Coughlin was questioned for not taking a field goal which would’ve given the Giants a 23-10 lead over the Jets. With a struggling defense, he went for the touchdown and a three possession lead but instead the Jets tied it at 20 and won in overtime.
Even as a first-year head coach, leading an iconic team with high expectations in a big market, McAdoo hasn’t had any hesitancy to make a big call. “He wants to be aggressive,” Manning said of McAdoo. “He tells me to be aggressive with my play, my checks, take shots where you got it and so that’s what he likes.”
It was a good night for McAdoo, who took the ball after the Giants won the coin toss and then saw his offense go right down and score a touchdown. “Just wanted to come out and jump start the offense, see if we can get them playing a little slow defensively after a bye week,” McAdoo said.
Then the ground game helped run out the clock in the closing minutes. The running game has struggled at times, but there were reasons it worked when it needed to against Cincinnati. “Fundamentals and physicality,” McAdoo said. The key run was by Rashad Jennings on a third-and-six draw. “We were more physical, we had some more attempts at the plate, which always helps and we got into a little bit of a rhythm.”
The touchdown could turn out to be a season-defining play. And it happened in front of Coughlin. “It’s an honor to work for Tom and I was happy to see him get in tonight,” McAdoo said.