EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - He had the break between the quarters to think about his decision, but the truth is he had already made up his mind. The Giants were down six, at the Cincinnati 9, and a field goal would've put them just one field goal away from tying.
But that wouldn't have been Ben McAdoo's style.
"Hey, we're in four-down territory," the Giants coach told quarterback Eli Manning, "just so you know."
What followed, three plays into the fourth quarter, was the play that separated Ben McAdoo from his often-conservative predecessor and maybe set the tone for the rest of the year. The 39-year-old rookie head coach made it clear that he believes in the mantra of 'No guts, no glory.' And he wanted his team to believe it too.
So on 4th and goal from the 3, after an incomplete pass and another that fell short, McAdoo called for another pass without even calling for a huddle. And the gambler in him paid off when Manning hit Sterling Shepard for a touchdown pass that gave the Giants a one-point lead over the Cincinnati Bengals that held up in a 21-20 win.
It was the type of call that's stupid if it doesn't work, gutsy if it does. But McAdoo doesn't care what anyone thinks of his play-calling. He was going for it all along.
"He wants to be aggressive," Manning said. "He tells me to be aggressive with my play, my checks and take shots when we've got it. So hey, that's what he likes."
McAdoo is aggressive by nature, and he's said so all season long. If his offense has seemed too conservative at times, it's been more about the execution of his players than the calls he made. But on Monday night, with the Giants trying for their fourth straight win and McAdoo trying to get them off to a fast start in the second half, he made it clear from the beginning that he had faith in his offense.
The 4th-down call was the biggest leap of faith of all.
"We knew it was going to take touchdowns to beat this team," McAdoo explained. "It's a good football team and we felt like we needed to score touchdowns."
That's a nice, simple explanation but there was still 14:12 left when McAdoo made the decision to pass up the easy field goal for the touchdown try. Common sense, and the way the Giants' defense was playing, dictated taking the three points to pull within 20-17. There was plenty of time left to try for another couple of scores.
But it wasn't about common sense as much as it was about emotion and momentum and confidence. NFL players are aggressive by nature. And they absolutely took notice in every corner of the room when McAdoo showed them he can be aggressive too.
It was, in the words of running back Rashad Jennings, "huge" in every way. It could even be a spark for this team for the rest of the season. They left the game on Monday night feeling like they had something special building, and energized by the fact their coach clearly feels it too. When a risk like that pays off, the emotional swing can be enormous. It was a tremendous boost for the Giants' confidence.
It surely boosted their confidence in their rookie head coach, too.