The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a close and sloppy game to the New York Giants, keeping it close throughout but never quite keeping up with the Giants offensive output. The Giants won 32-18, though that score was inflated by a Giants touchdown on the Bucs' final desperation play of regulation. Two sloppy fumbles, a slew of Mike Evans drops alongside his massive production and inconsistent play in the secondary eventually cost Tampa Bay a winnable game despite solid play by Jameis Winston.
The Bucs struggled to run the ball all game, and Jameis Winston really only had Mike Evans to throw to. The second-year receiver had a really weird game, with multiple huge drops -- but also eight catches for 155 yards. Winston himself looked good this game, with a beautiful fourth-quarter scramble for a touchdown to cap off an excellent performance, even if his receivers let him down at times.
On defense, the Bucs made some major changes to the secondary, with Sterling Moore, Jude Adjei-Barimah and Alterraun Verner taking almost all of the cornerback snaps, displacing Mike Jenkins and Johnthan Banks. That yielded some results, as the defense got two interceptions and a few other stops, but it wasn't enough to win the game.
The Buccaneers are now 3-5 and their playoff hopes have evaporated. They're basically playing for Lovie Smith's job at this point. We'll see whether they can show enough improvement on defense and win enough games down the stretch for Smith to stick around the rest of the season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got off to a terrific start with an interception off Eli Manning on the very first play of the game, Sterling Moore grabbing the deflection on a poorly-thrown slant. Moore got the start on the outside, after being benched for the past games, playing only a handful of snaps. The other starter's even more surprising: Jude Adjei-Barimah. Clearly, the Bucs hate their options at cornerback.
The Bucs settled for a field goal despite getting the ball in the red zone, and the defense then put up their patented bend bend bend bend maybe break performance, this time not breaking -- mostly because Giants tight end Will Tye bobbled a ball in the end zone, giving Chris Conte a chance to break it up.
The Bucs then got back to a 6-3 lead after a 68-yard Mike Evans catch, and another red zone stall. The Bucs then allowed the Giants to march down the field again, giving up three penalties including two for jumping offside, and blowing a coverage to give Eli Manning an easy touchdown to Rueben Randle.
Down 10-6, the Bucs needed a spark. Instead, they got Doug Martin putting the ball on the ground and Ali Marpet getting helped off the field, all on the same play. It didn't take long for that to turn into a 17-6 lead for the Giants, as Eli Manning continued to convert third downs basically at will. A solid drive then went unrewarded because of two Mike Evans drops, and Connor Barth's first miss of the year.
The Bucs could have imploded at that point, but instead they found a way to bounce back. They stopped the Giants on a fourth-and-two in Tampa Bay territory, and then proceeded on a methodical drive down the field to get them to the goal-line. The offense once again stalled there, though, and they settled for a field goal with ten seconds remaining, cutting the Giants lead to 17-9 at the half. There's an argument to be made that the Bucs should have gone for it there.
The Bucs had a very good chance to go down the field and tie the game, and they seemed to be on their way to doing exactly that -- until Charles Sims fumbled, and the Giants recovered after a 20-yard rumble into Bucs territory. Sterling Moore knocked away a third-down pass to Odell Beckham Jr. to force the Giants to kick the field goal, giving them a 20-9 lead.
The Bucs then repaid that on the next drive, with Jameis Winston making some big throws -- but drops by Mike Evans and Doug Martin kept Tampa Bay from extending the drive, and Connor Barth hit a 53-yarder to bring it back to a one-score game. The Giants then seemed to get back into scoring position, but Alterraun Verner saved them with a beautiful jump on a slant route by Odell Beckham Jr. Another pair of Mike Evans drops stopped the Bucs from turning that into punts though.
The Bucs actually got a stop to start the fourth quarter, forcing the Giants to punt for the first time. A big catch by Mike Evans and a huge Charles Sims run then set up a beautiful Jameis Winston scramble for the touchdown, crossing the goal-line just before losing control of the ball. The two-point conversion failed, with the Bucs still trailing by two points.
The Giants scored a field goal on their next try out, but the Bucs offense stalled at midfield while they were driving for what could have been a game-winning touchdown. Instead, they were forced to punt -- and as has been so often the case over the past years, the defense could not get a stop to give the offense another chance. Instead, a field goal with 23 seconds left turned this into an eight-point game, effectively ending the Bucs' chances. Rubbing some salt in the wounds, the Giants actually scored a touchdown on a fumble on the Bucs' final desperation play.
Ali Marpet left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter and did not return. The rookie was replaced by Evan Smith.
Bradley McDougald suffered a concussion in the first quarter and did not return. He was replaced by Keith Tandy.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the still Tony Romo-less Dallas Cowboys next Sunday.