It was one of those games that you'll remember for quite some time. The Bucs were dominating on the scoreboard but it felt like they were losing. Then when they were losing, it felt like they should have been winning. It was that kind of game.
In the end, the Bucs delivered a Giant-sized scare to the defending Super Bowl Champions, who were desperately trying to avoid an 0-2 start on their home turf. The Bucs led by 11 heading into the final stanza...but what a final quarter it would be for the New York Giants.
25 points and 243 passing yards later, the Bucs were left stunned and grasping for answers (as well as making an old man rather grumpy).
Read on to see what 10 Things We Think We Learned...
1. The pass defense...um...its...a work progress? No, its a problem. Fans who expected coach Greg Schiano and Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan to fix the Bucs defensive woes in one off-season were probably kidding themselves. But no one truly expected to see the team surrender 501 yds passing through the air. Truth be told, the Bucs defense were doing an average job for the first three quarters, holding Eli and the Giants to 258 yds passing but countering with three interceptions (one for a touchdown). Then it all fell apart in the fourth - when Manning lit up the tiring and depleted Bucs defense for 243 fourth quarter passing yards and 25 points.
2. Depth was a concern coming into this season and it certain reared its ugly head in this one. The offense had trouble sustaining drives in the second half and you could see the defense wilt. The Giants had 76 offensive plays, to Tampa Bay's 55 and controlled 33:29 of the clock. That just can't happen if the Bucs hope to win consistently in 2012. The defense has to get off the field and the offense has to sustain drives.
3. After surrendering 10 yds rushing against Carolina, the Bucs had a little trouble with Giants reserve running back Andre Brown. Brown, a north-south runner with a nice burst pounded the soft underbelly of the Bucs defensive line for 5.5 yds a carry, finishing with 71 yds on 13 carries and a touchdown. As a team, the Giants pounded out 94 yds. Still significantly better than what we saw last season from this Buccaneers defense.
4. Josh Freeman finally saw the big play return to the passing game. Freeman hit Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams for long touchdown passes against the Giants banged up secondary.
5. Freeman also saw some questionable decision making a return as in the third quarter he threw across his body over the middle of the field and was intercepted. That interception seemed to wake up the Giants. Even though New York's ensuing drive only netted 3 points, the Giants seemed to take over the game from there. Freeman would get picked again in the waning moments, trying to force a pass to Dallas Clark and overthrowing him by 5 yds.
6. The amazing shift of the game - the possessions from the 10:36 of the third quarter on:
The Bucs' Drives:
Punt (6 plays)
Intercepted Pass (2 plays)
Punt (6 plays)
Punt (3 plays)
The Giants' Drives:
Touchdown (2 point conversion)
End of Game
7. Fans lamented the blitzing of the Bucs in this one. It seemed every time the Bucs blitzed, Eli Manning burned them for a big play. Truth be told, Manning was carving the Bucs up no matter what defense they ran. Blitz, don't blitz, zone, man - the Bucs had no answer for Nicks or Cruz.
8. The talk should cease immediately - Aquib Talib is not a Pro Bowl corner. That much became evident on this day when he was abused by Nicks, surrendering 10 receptions for 199 yds and a touchdown. We should no longer kid ourselves that he is anywhere near an upper echelon cornerback in this league. Talib is average and against a player like Nicks, average gets you beat.
9. In the ESPN pre-game show, Merrill Hoge compared Gerald McCoy to Reggie White. He played more like Reggie Roby on Sunday - never even getting a sniff of Eli Manning's cologne. He wasn't alone as the Bucs' pass rush was non-existent. With no help from the front seven, the secondary was exposed by the Giants' two time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
10. Where was the running game? Doug Martin ran the ball 20 times for 66 yds and LeGarrette Blount was allegedly in the stadium but never saw the football field. If this offense is going to win with a "keep away" style of offense - they have to be able to run the football.
Bonus: I liked that Schiano's Buccaneer men play to the triple zeros. It certainly beats last season when Tampa Bay began mailing it in by the second quarter. The grumpy old man can whine all he wants about getting people hurt - but you never know what can happen and the Bucs were still scrapping.
Here's an example of why:
Victory Formation Fail (Troy at Oklahoma State - 2010) (via RefutingStupidity)