A nightmare start and very average performance nearly derailed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they hold on to beat the New York Giants. The heavily favored Bucs survived a few scares to win 25-23 on Monday Night Football. Despite not playing close to their potential, in the end they found a way to make the key plays and win the game.
A Nightmare start.
This was a trap game for the Buccaneers. Playing one of the worst teams in the league while trying not to look ahead to a huge upcoming game against the Saints next week. It would be a nightmare of a loss. However, it seemed it might turn into reality in first half. Tom Brady was very average as he missed 4-5 very makeable throws. This would keep Tampa out of the endzone and would force a 37-yard Ryan Succop field-goal.
For as bad as the Bucs’ start was, credit is due to the Giants. They had a good game-plan. They pulled off numerous misdirections and got the ball out of Daniel Jones’ hands quickly. However, the defense left a lot on the field. Their pass coverage was not good. Jones threw for 256 yards but missed numerous wide-open receivers on deep passes. These passes could have been game changers. The run defense, the top run defense in the league got pushed around. The Giants ran for a 101 yards with Wayne Gallman leading the way.
The Giants would cash in on a rare Ronald Jones fumble to give them a 7-3 lead. Daniel Jones threw a dime to Dion Lewis with Devin White draped all over him. Jones dropped the ball on White’s inside shoulder where Lewis would slide back towards the inside to grab it. On their next possession, Jones engineered a 77 yard touchdown drive that finished off with a Gallman run into the endzone. The underdog Giants now lead Tampa 14-3.
The Buccaneers managed to drive down the field and had a chance for a touchdown. However, this was one of many drives that would stall late. They were able to salvage field goal to pull the game to within a single score. This would be the end of a nightmare start against a bad team and went to the locker room trailing 14-6.
Things start to turn around
It looked like the bad start would continue as the Kickoff was returned to the 44 yard-line. However, the defense would come up with one of their key plays of the night. Shaq Barrett got to Jones to disrupt the throw. Wobbling in the air, the ball came right to Carlton Davis for his 4th interception of the season. Unlike New York, this turnover would only lead to 3-points as once again a Bucs drive stalled late.
Finally, after the defense came up with a stop, the offense would finally get going. Leonard Fournette had a couple of solid runs. Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski both had first down catches, and a pass interference penalty set the Bucs up with goal to goal. Perfect in goal-to-go offense coming into the game, they would remain perfect as Brady hit Gronkowski for a 3-yard TD to give Tampa Bay a 15-14 lead.
Back and Forth
New York would answer with a field goal. This came as a result of one of only a couple of Jones’ deep connections. A touchdown might have swung the momentum completely into the hands of the Giants. However, the Defense would hold, but New York had the lead again, and it was 17-15.
The Bucs went three and out on their next drive. The Giants now had a chance to make it a two score game and control the momentum. However, Barrett made himself known again as he was able to force Jones into a terrible decision. Sean Murphy-Bunting found himself with another timely interception. Despite not playing a great game, as Mike Evans said “the defense made a play when it counted”.
The offense cashed in this time. Brady would hit Cameron Brate for a 24 yard reception and a favorable helmet contact penalty would put the ball at the 8 yard-line. Brady hit Mike Evans for the TD and gave the lead back to Tampa Bay 22-17. After the Defense got another stop, Brady had the chance to ice the game. Once again though, the drive would stall late and Bruce Arians decided to kick the field goal rather than going for it on 4th-and-1. However, this kept it a one-score game with a 25-17 lead.
It all comes to a head
New York got the ball back with just over 3 1/2 minutes remaining. They used all their timeouts on the Bucs previous drive, but nevertheless Jones had plenty of time to move the ball down the field. Likewise, the Bucs defense had numerous opportunities to close out the game. Jason Pierre-Paul had a sack and Davis had his second interception slip through his fingers. They had the Giants in a 4th-and-16 and let Jones throw a strike for a first down. Shortly after Jones would throw a 19 yard touchdown to Golden Tate who leaped into the air and barely got his second foot down. The game now hinged on a New York 2-pt conversion.
The ball at the 2 yard-line, the Giants came within inches of forcing overtime. Jones under threw an out-route, as Antoine Winfield met the receiver at exactly the time the ball hit his arm. A flag was thrown, and for a second that the Giants would get another chance. However, after the officials met, they decided there was no pass interference on the play. Game over! The Bucs survived! Had Jones not underthrown that ball and hit Winfield’s arm, the pass interference call would have likely stood and New York could have gotten a second chance.
A win is a win
The Buccaneers are 6-2 and sit atop the NFC south heading into their big game with New Orleans on Sunday. The start was a nightmare and they left a lot to be desired. They will have to make some improvements to have a chance against the Saints this upcoming weekend. However, they made enough plays to avoid an even worse nightmare, a loss to the Giants.
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