Maybe if Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a moment to think about it, he would have reacted differently. If he'd processed the records of the two teams on the field, considered his own tenuous physical state or just assumed that Andre Roberts was too far ahead of him to catch, perhaps he wouldn't have taken off.
But there was no time for any of those things, so Rodgers-Cromartie did what came naturally to him.
As fast as he could.
In what almost anyone else in the world would consider a meaningless game.
The speedy Giants cornerback caught Roberts from behind, holding the Washington receiver to a 61-yard gain on what was shaping up as an 89-yard touchdown pass. Washington ultimately had to settle for a field goal, taking only a three-point lead in the third quarter and giving the Giants plenty of time for their 24-13 comeback win at MetLife Stadium Sunday.
"Once you're on the field, you're just playing," Rodgers-Cromartie said of his hustle. "Everybody has their own reason to go out there, but once you are on the field, you still have to play as one and be motivated to play and try to win."
It was the second win in a row for the Giants (5-9) and gave them a sweep of Washington (3-11) for the second straight year. It clinched a third-place finish for the Giants, leaving the expansion 1995 Jaguars as the only team in Tom Coughlin's 19 years as an NFL head coach to finish in last place.
"Despite it all, we kept battling and kept battling and found a way to win it," Coughlin said. "It feels good to win again on Sunday."
Odell Beckham Jr. caught three touchdown passes from Eli Manning to take care of the Giants' scoring and had a fourth TD catch negated by a holding call against Justin Pugh. He also couldn't hang on to a fade pass from Manning in the fourth quarter, although he followed that one play later with a 6-yard score.
"I'll have trouble sleeping at night," he said of his largely overshadowed gaffes, including a late muffed punt.
The more glaring misses came from Washington when it had opportunities to put points on the board. Robert Griffin III, who replaced injured starter Colt McCoy (neck) in the first quarter, had an apparent 8-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first half overturned on replay, leaving the Giants trailing 10-7 when it could have been 17-7.
Jason Pierre-Paul, the defender who chased Griffin to the pylon and whose tackle attempt forced the bobble of the ball in midair, already had retreated to the locker room when the six points were taken off the scoreboard with no time remaining. Unlike Rodgers-Cromartie later, his sprint did not prevent points at first.
"I was upset that I ran all the way down there and I thought he made a touchdown," Pierre-Paul said.
It wasn't until others started filtering in that he learned of the change of events -- and change in the score. "I was excited about it," Pierre-Paul said. "It was a momentum swing."
Thirty yards of unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties against Washington receiver Santana Moss after the call -- he also was ejected for what referee Jeff Triplette said was "very, very inappropriate language that was derogatory toward the official" -- left the Giants opening the second half kicking off from the Washington 35. An onside kick was recovered by Chandler Fenner and Josh Brown's field goal tied the score at 13.
Washington regrouped and looked ready to regain the lead with a touchdown, especially when safety Antrel Rolle came up on the wrong side of Roberts and the receiver got behind him with no one else providing deep help (Rolle insisted he played the receiver properly).
That's when Rodgers-Cromartie turned on the jets.
"I played with him in Arizona," Rodgers-Cromartie said of the receiver. "I knew his speed. I definitely thought he was going, but the more I kept running, the more I knew I was going to have a chance."
Eventually he caught his man.
"It could have been seven," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "You go out there and you fight and you only give up three. Every point counts in this league."
Even when it seems the games do not.