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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

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Buccaneers at Giants recap: Upset denied in narrow 25-23 victory

Tampa Bay got all it could handle from New York on Monday Night Football, but managed to escape with a 25-23 victory.

With their scheduled Sunday Night Football game against the Raiders getting bumped up to an afternoon slot last week, the Buccaneers’ return to primetime action finally came this week on Monday Night Football. With a trip to the Meadowlands to take on the struggling Giants, Tampa Bay had a chance to put its recent improvements on display for a national audience.

The Bucs and Giants last met in Week 3 of the 2019 season, with New York overcoming a big halftime deficit to take a late lead before ultimately winning on a missed Matt Gay field goal as time expired. Needless to say, things looked much different heading into Monday’s meeting, with the Bucs now led by Tom Brady and the Giants struggling to surround second-year quarterback Daniel Jones with much of a supporting cast. The two teams, quite frankly, are in polar opposite positions right now, with Tampa Bay working its way toward the top of the NFC while New York’s sights are likely more on draft position despite only being a couple of games out of first in the shambolic NFC East.

And despite only having one win to their name coming into Week 8, the Giants have largely found themselves hanging around with their opponents week in and week out. Four of their losses had been by just one possession, including last week’s 22-21 loss to the division rival Eagles. Jones hasn’t lived up to his draft position so far in his second season, but the loss of Saquon Barkley early this year and the state of the team’s roster as a whole certainly have played a part in that. Turning the corner into the second half of the 2020 season, the team will have to figure out the direction it’s headed in.

Unsurprisingly, the Bucs were the popular pick in this one, coming in as 12.5-point favorites and being given an 82.6% chance to win by ESPN’s FPI.

The Giants gave the Bucs plenty of problems in this game, leading at halftime before the turnover bug bit them in the second half. That allowed Tampa Bay to take momentum back and grab a fourth-quarter lead that it nearly relinquished in the final minute. New York got within two and had a chance to tie it with a two-point conversion try, but a breakup by rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. secured the Bucs’ third straight victory.

Game Recap

After the Giants won the coin toss and deferred, the Buccaneer offense took the field first in 39-degree temperatures at MetLife Stadium. Starting from the 25 after a return by Jaydon Mickens, the Bucs began on the ground. Ronald Jones II picked up a couple of yards before Tom Brady connected with Mickens for a first down. After another four yards gained by Jones, Brady unloaded a 19-yard pass to Scotty Miller to get the ball across midfield to the New York 41. Jones picked up another five on the next first-down carry before a short three-yard catch set up a 3rd & 2. Tampa Bay converted its first third down of the night, with Brady finding Cameron Brate for a gain of 10 to the 23. On the next play, Brady missed for the first time, due in large part to a low snap by Ryan Jensen. The Bucs ran it again with Jones on 2nd & 10 and he picked up five yards to set up another third down, which Brady couldn’t convert as he avoided pressure before missing Mickens in the end zone. Despite the promising opening drive, Tampa Bay had to settle for a field goal attempt. But still, Ryan Succop’s 37-yarder gave the visitors an early 3-0 lead after an 11-play, 57-yard drive that lasted 5:19.

The Giants started their first drive at the 25 and picked up a couple of quick first downs, with the second one coming on a trick play that saw Daniel Jones throw a screen to Golden Tate before Tate found Darius Slayton for a gain of 18 across midfield. But the Buccaneer defense stepped up from there, with Jordan Whitehead picking up a tackle for loss before Lavonte David and Sean Murphy-Bunting stopped Wayne Gallman for a gain of two to set up a 3rd & 10. Jones tried looking for Slayton deep on the third-down play, but he misfired and gave way to Riley Dixon for his first punt of the game. After a fair catch by Mickens at the 10, the Tampa Bay offense once again took the field.

The Giants’ defense came up with a big play to help their offense on the second play of the Bucs’ next drive, with a tipped ball at the line leading to an awkward catch for Jones, who was hit as he got up and lost the ball for a fumble at the 12-yard line.

The Giants went absolutely nowhere on the first two plays with a short field, but a neutral-zone infraction on Shaquil Barrett pushed the ball to the 7 before Jones found Dion Lewis for a seven-yard touchdown. It was tight coverage by Devin White, but he couldn’t find the ball and Lewis made a great sliding catch to give New York a 7-3 lead with 4:10 left in the first quarter.

The ensuing kickoff was a short one, with Justin Watson fielding it and returning it to the 31, giving the Bucs solid starting field position. To the surprise of no one, Leonard Fournette started the drive in the backfield over Ronald Jones after the latter’s costly fumble. On first down, Brady found Miller for a seven-yard pickup, then next play was a handoff to Fournette, who picked up 13 yards to the New York 49. A one-yard pickup and an incomplete pass set up a challenging 3rd & 9 for the Bucs, who called a timeout at the 2:16 mark in the first quarter.

After the timeout, Brady missed on third down while looking for Tanner Hudson in double coverage. Bradley Pinion booted a 44-yard punt from midfield, with Ross Cockrell making a great play on the ball to keep it from going for a touchback. That set the Giants up at their own 4-yard line.

Tampa Bay’s defense couldn’t take advantage of New York being backed up inside of its five, giving up a quick first down on an 11-yard pass from Jones to fullback Elijhaa Penny. A six-yard pass to Sterling Shepard two plays later set up a 3rd & 4, but not before the end of the first quarter arrived with the Giants leading 7-3.

An offsides on White gave New York a first down to open the second quarter, bringing the ball to the 28. That gave the drive new life, with the Giants picking up first down after first down after first down to get the ball down to Tampa Bay’s 33. But the Buccaneer defense finally stepped up from there to force a 3rd & 7, which led to a Devin White sack on a beautifully called blitz. The loss of 11 yards pushed New York out of field goal range, too, leading to another punt. Dixon delivered a solid kick of his own, pinning the Bucs at their 8 to start the next drive.

The sluggish start looked like it was continuing for the offense, with a short run and a drop by Fournette leading to a 3rd & 8. But Mike Evans entered the picture on that third down, catching a 14-yard pass to keep the drive alive. A couple of plays later, Brady found Miller for another first down, then Miller set the offense up with a 3rd & 1 thanks to a seven-yard carry. Mickens picked up the first down on the next play with a carry of his own, keeping the drive moving. But the drive died there, with two incompletions and a sack leading to another Pinion punt. That kept the Bucs at just three points in four drives on the night.

The Giants quickly got going on their next possession, with two first-down catches by Slayton sandwiching a Gallman first-down run. New York quickly got inside the red zone after that, with the clock ticking under three minutes in the first half. A four-yard run by Gallman got the ball to the 14 before the clock hit the two-minute warning.

Barrett came up with a big pass breakup on the first play after the break, but a 12-yard pass to Engram set up a two-yard rushing score by Gallman. With the PAT, New York had a 14-3 lead with 1:46 left in the half.

Starting from the 25 with two timeouts and 1:40 to work with, the Bucs’ drive started with an eight-yard pass to Fournette. He got out of bounds to stop the clock prior to 2nd & 2, then Brady hit Mickens for a gain of nine to the 42 before a 15-yard pass to Tyler Johnson at the one-minute mark. It was then that New York took a timeout to collect itself on defense with Tampa Bay already in plus-territory. The timeout didn’t seem to help, though, with Brady responding by finding Evans for a gain of 12 to the 31. Two plays later, Brady went to Fournette again, but he couldn’t get out of bounds, leading to the Bucs’ second timeout at the 0:29 mark. Then, on 3rd & 2, Evans didn’t get enough for the first down. That led to the Bucs settling for another field goal, this time a 40-yarder from Succop that got them within 14-6 before halftime.

The second half began just about as poorly as possible for Tampa Bay, with a 44-yard kick return by Lewis setting the Giants up near midfield. But the Buccaneer defense came up with the big play it needed, with pressure from Barrett forcing Jones into a bad throw that was easily intercepted by Carlton Davis at the Tampa Bay 42.

The Bucs started their first drive of the second half by going back to Ronald Jones, who caught a nine-yard pass before picking up a first down with a short run to the New York 47. After an incompletion and an eight-yard catch by Jones, Tampa Bay faced a big third down at the Giants’ 39. With Fournette back in the ball game, Brady looked his way, only for the pass to get broken up by Devante Downs. Despite the miss, the Bucs went for it on fourth down and converted, with the offensive line holding up to give Brady the time he needed to find Mickens for a first down to the 31. A few plays later, though, the Bucs failed on third down again. This time, Succop came back out for a third time to deliver on a 43-yard field goal to bring Tampa Bay within 14-9 at the 10-minute mark in the third quarter.

The Buccaneer defense picked up Brady and the offense again on the Giants’ next drive, forcing a quick three-and-out to get the ball back. After the punt, Tampa Bay’s offense set up shop at its own 33-yard line.

Fournette got the first two carries of the next drive, picking up seven yards on back-to-back plays. A 16-yard pass to Gronkowski on a play-fake followed, getting the Bucs down to the New York 37. Then, Brady linked up with Evans for a gain of 17, getting inside the red zone. On the next play, James Bradberry got called for pass interference in coverage on Mickens, giving the Bucs a first down at the 3. Brady took advantage, finding Gronkowski for a three-yard score on the next play to give Tampa Bay the lead. A failed two-point conversion attempt kept it at 15-14, but the Bucs still had their first lead since the first quarter.

An offensive pass interference call temporarily set the Giants behind the sticks on their next drive, but a 15-yard pass to Shepard set up a 3rd & 1 that Jones converted with a short pass to Engram. New York kept it moving from there, with Jones and Slayton connecting for another first down a couple of plays later before a 30-yard pass from Jones to Engram down to Tampa Bay’s 15. However, a holding call set the offense back from there, leading to the drive stalling in the red zone. Regardless, a 33-yard field goal by Graham Gano gave New York a 17-15 lead with just 15 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Giants obviously kept that lead heading into the fourth quarter, intent to give the Bucs all they could handle for a full four quarters.

The Bucs did nothing on their next drive, with a Brady incompletion starting the final quarter before he was sacked to end the drive.

New York looked to keep the pressure on Tampa Bay’s defense on its ensuing possession, picking up a quick first down. But it was then that the turnover bug bit Daniel Jones again. Barrett nearly got to him for a sack again, but he escaped the takedown only to throw the ball into the arms of Sean Murphy-Bunting for a huge momentum shift.

The Bucs resorted to running the ball with Fournette on back-to-back plays to begin the next drive, bringing up a quick third down. However, Brady converted it with another pass to Mickens, getting the ball to the 48. A Joe Haeg holding call backed things up and could have put the drive in danger, but on 1st & 20, Brady connected with Johnson for 20 yards. The rookie took a huge hit from Logan Ryan, but did a great job of holding on to the ball through the contact.

With the ball at New York’s 42, the Bucs kept it going. Off of a play-fake, Brady found Brate for a 25-yard gain. The officials added a questionable personal foul on a New York defender to the end of the catch, putting the ball at the 8. Then, on the next play, Brady found Evans in the end zone. No. 13 made a phenomenal catch, giving the Bucs the lead with 9:02 to go. After the PAT by Succop, Tampa Bay had a 22-17 advantage.

The Buccaneer defense stepped up big-time on the next drive, with Steve McLendon getting a stop on first down before Jason Pierre-Paul came up with a sack on second. Jones completed a pass to Shepard short of the sticks on third down, with Mike Edwards coming up to make a key tackle. That forced a punt, giving the ball back to Brady and the offense with 6:57 to go.

After a short first-down run by Fournette, Brady took advantage of having a clean pocket to find Gronkowski for an 18-yard pickup to the Giants’ 47. Fournette struggled to get anything on back-to-back carries after that, leading to a 3rd & 7. Brady looked for Evans on that third down and the big receiver came up with an Evans special, drawing a pass interference call on Bradberry to get a big first down. After the penalty brought the ball to New York’s 29, the Bucs went back to Fournette, who gained just two yards.

The Giants called their first timeout with just under four minutes to go before calling another after Fournette fought hard for seven yards to bring up a 3rd & 1. The Bucs ran it up the gut with Fournette, only for him to get stuffed. New York called its final timeout at the 3:44 mark, and rather than going for it, Bruce Arians brought Succop out for a 38-yard field goal attempt. He nailed it, giving Tampa Bay an eight-point lead with 3:41 left to play.

After another nice kick return by Lewis, the Giants started their drive at the 30 with 3:34 left. A nice play by Lavonte David on first down led to an incompletion before Pierre-Paul dropped Gallman for a loss on second down. That forced New York into a 3rd & 11, which Jones used to find Engram for a gain of six to bring up 4th & 5. On that fourth-down play, Jones avoided pressure and found Slayton, who somehow avoided White to get a first down and keep the home team’s hopes alive. A couple of plays later, Jones scrambled for 15 yards to the Bucs’ 43 to bring up the two-minute warning with the game still very much undecided.

Coming out of the two-minute warning, the Tampa Bay defense turned it up. Pressure forced an incomplete pass on first down before Ndamukong Suh came up with a huge sack at midfield to force a 3rd & 16. David juuuust missed a game-clinching interception on third down, and his inability to bring the ball in gave the Giants life. Jones converted the 4th & 16 with a 20-yard pass to Shepard. As the clock ticked under one minute, Jones and Shepard linked up again to the Tampa Bay 19. Then, a couple of plays later, Jones found Tate for a touchdown to bring the Giants within two, just 28 seconds before the end of the ball game.

However, on the two-point conversion try, Antoine Winfield Jr. came flying across the field to break up Jones’ late pass, preserving the lead and the victory for Tampa Bay. The officials originally threw a flag on Winfield for getting there a bit early, but they ultimately decided to pick the flag up. The ball hit the rookie’s arm for the breakup, and it was perhaps too close to call. With that, it was Bucs 25, Giants 23.

From there, Justin Watson recovered New York’s onside kick attempt and Brady took a knee to end the ball game, giving the Bucs their third straight victory.

Quick Notes & Stats

  • The Bucs were outgained 170-167 in the first half, but it was the turnover inside their own 20 that contributed most to the eight-point deficit heading into the break.
  • Both teams averaged 5.2 yards per play in the game.
  • Tampa Bay’s historically good run defense struggled in the game (by its normal standards), allowing 101 rushing yards and 4.2 yards per carry to a Giants backfield that didn’t include Saquon Barkley.
  • The defense’s streak of holding opponents under 100 rushing yards came to an end at 13 on Monday night.
  • The Bucs were called for just two penalties in the first half for 10 yards (both on defense). They ended the game with just three for 20 yards.
  • New York totaled 15 first downs in the first half, moving the ball with relative ease in the opening 30 minutes.
  • Tom Brady was 16-of-24 in the first half for 132 yards, being held without a touchdown.
  • The Bucs’ longest play of the first half was a 19-yard pass from Brady to Scotty Miller.
  • By the end of the ball game, Brady was 28-of-40 for 279 yards and two touchdowns. His second score allowed him to retake the lead over Drew Brees for most regular season passing touchdowns in NFL history.
  • Mike Evans finished as Tampa Bay’s leading receiver, catching five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski was the team’s second-leading receiver, bringing in four passes for 41 yards and a score.
  • Jaydon Mickens caught a career-high five passes for 36 yards, getting a team-high eight targets on the night.
  • Brady completed passes to eight different receivers in the game.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul overcame a rough first half to have a strong game against his former team, totaling seven tackles (five solo), with a sack and two tackles for loss.
  • Devin White and Ndamukong Suh both added sacks of their own.
  • Ryan Succop continued to be a steady performer for the Bucs, converting all four of his field goal attempts and nailing his lone extra point.
  • With the win, the Bucs improved to 6-2 for just the third time in their history. The first was in 1979, with the most recent coming in the 2002 Super Bowl season.
  • The win also made the Bucs the third Tampa Bay sports team to beat a New York team in crushing fashion over the last couple of months. The Lightning did it first—eliminating the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final—before the Rays knocked the Yankees out in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.

The Buccaneers (6-2) return to Raymond James Stadium in six days for a Sunday Night Football matchup against the New Orleans Saints (5-2). First place in the NFC South will be on the line, with kickoff set for 8:20 p.m.

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