A game that seemed like a guaranteed win earlier this season was the exact opposite today. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but turnovers killed the Bucs in another matchup yet again.
The defense couldn’t stop anyone in the first quarter, giving up a season-best (for the Giants) 139 yards. Two quick touchdowns thanks to Saquon Barkley gave New York enough padding to finish out the game.
Barkley and the offense got off to a good start, marching 63 yards in six plays on their first possession. The drive was capped off with a six yard pass to Barkley from Eli Manning for the game’s first score. The Giants led, 7-0.
The Bucs were able to answer with a nice drive, but it fell short inside the Giants’ 5-yard line after they went for it on 4th-and-goal and couldn’t convert.
Despite starting from their own 5-yard line, New York was able to string together 12 plays on a 95-yard drive for another touchdown. The Giants used a good mix of pass and run to keep the Bucs off balanced and Barkley ran it in for his first rushing touchdown of the day.
It was the first time this season that Barkley recorded both a rushing and receiving touchdown in a game. It was also the longest drive of the season for the Giants.
With the Giants up 14-0, the Bucs had to do something. Their response was allowing a sack on third down and they had to punt again.
The defense finally came alive for Tampa Bay on the next drive. Good pressure from Carl Nassib got him into Manning’s face and Jason Pierre-Paul came in to help clean up for the Bucs’ first sack of the game.
It forced New York into a three-and-out and they had to punt.
A great reception by O.J. Howard on a very questionable throw from Fitzpatrick keyed an eight play, 64-yard touchdown drive. Fitzpatrick was able to convert the 4th-and-goal this time, barley crossing the goal line to give the Bucs their first touchdown.
Fans everywhere held their breath as new kicker Cairos Santos came on to attempt the extra point. He nailed it and the Bucs cut the lead to 14-7.
Manning tripped over Barkley on the next drive, resulting in another sack for Tampa Bay. They were able to overcome it though as Manning found Sterling Shepard for a big 17-yard gain on a corner route.
Shepard looked to have made an even bigger, juking out Javien Elliot as he raced down the field, but the call was challenged and reversed as it was apparent that Shepard’s knee hit the ground before he took off.
That led to a poor throw from Manning to Barkley on third down. The Giants had to punt again. Could Tampa Bay get something going on offense?
Three straight penalties from Oliver Vernon gave the Bucs great field position and pulled them out of a possible three-and-out. But Fitzpatrick threw behind Howard and it was picked off by Michael Thomas to further the Bucs’ misery.
Tampa Bay finished the first half down 14-7. Outside of the score, it was a pretty even first couple of quarters. The Giants outgained the Bucs 199-171 and averaged 6.6 yards per play to Tampa Bay’s 5.7
The Bucs would receive the ball to start the second half. Fitzpatrick and the offensive line would have to step their game up if they wanted to make a come back.
Well, neither happened. Tampa Bay’s first two plays featured immense pressure from the Giants’ defense. On 2nd-and-8 from their own 12, Fitzpatrick tried to sidearm a pass to DeSean Jackson and the results were disastrous.
Janoris Jenkins read the route perfectly and broke the pass up, but the pain didn’t stop there. The ball rolled off of Jenkins’ body and right into the hands of linebacker Alec Ogletree. The former Georgia Bulldog then got up, untouched, and ran the ball into the end zone to push the score to 21-7.
Fitzpatrick didn’t do anything to help himself on the next drive. Facing more pressure, he just lofted the ball up for Jackson, who was in the end zone. The Giants’ Curtis Riley stepped right in front and picked it off while racing out to the Giants’ 40.
That was it for Fitzpatrick as Jameis Winston was seen warming up on the sidelines after the Bucs turned the ball over on their last three drives.
The Giants were able to move down the field quickly on thanks to a 23-yard burst from Barkley on first down, but another JPP sack held the Giants to a 52-yard field goal attempt. Aldrick Rosas hit the attempt and the Giants now led, 24-7.
Some big runs by Barber keyed the next drive for the Bucs. Even though the offense was clicking under Winston, he almost turned the ball over again as he took off on a scramble toward the end zone.
The ball was stripped out by Mario Edwards Jr, but fortunately Evans was there to recover the ball in the end zone and give the Bucs six points. The Giants’ lead was now 24-14.
Now that the offense had finally done something, it was the defense’s turn to return the favor.
But it fell back to its earlier-game status on the next drive. The Bucs allowed plays of 27, 14, and 13 yards and Odell Beckham Jr capped it off with a beautiful 8-yard grab in the back corner of the end zone.
The score was now 31-14 at this point and it looked to be over.
To give Tampa Bay some credit, they didn’t give up. They were able to drive down the field on the next possession and Barber added to his big day with a five yard touchdown run.
Tampa Bay trailed 31-21, but somehow still had life compared to earlier. Could the defense keep them in the game?
They most certainly did. Gerald McCoy got to Manning for the second time on third down and the defense was able to give the ball back to Winston and the offense.
Winston made a terrible decision on the first throw of the drive and almost paid for it. He threw to a covered Humphries despite a wide-open Evans and was nearly picked off.
Evans came through on the next play with a big 25-yard catch to put the Bucs into Giant territory. An even bigger catch on third down by Jackson had the Bucs on the move.
Howard made a nice catch over the middle for a 24-yard gain on the next play but had to leave the game after a New York defender rolled over on his ankle, causing it to twist under the weight.
Winston found Humphries on the next play for an eight yard touchdown pass to bring the Bucs back within three points, 31-28.
Just like Cincinnati, a quarterback came off the bench to bring Tampa Bay back into the game. Could the defense make amends for not stepping up against the Bengals?
After holding up for almost the entire second half, the defense couldn’t get it done. They were able to put the Giants in a 3rd-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 2-yard line, but Barkley punched it in for his third touchdown of the game, increasing the score to 38-28.
But Winston wasn’t done. He found Evans wide open for a 41-yard touchdown that put Tampa Bay right back in the game. The score was now 38-35 and the Bucs still had life.
They had to attempt the onside kick though due to no timeouts left. As usual, the game came down to one last big play.
Santos’ attempt landed right into the arms of Thomas, who made one of the earlier interceptions to put the game on ice and give the Giants their third win of the year.
The Bucs are now (3-7) on the season. They will face off against the San Francisco 49ers (2-8) in a likely battle for the top pick in the draft next week. Kickoff is set for 1PM EST.