When the Buccaneers left the field at Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 24 after dominating the Bears in a 38-3 win, they surely didn’t expect that to be their last win for almost a month.
Yet, thanks to two frustrating losses at the hands of the Saints and the Washington Football Team—with a bye week mixed in between—that’s exactly the situation they found themselves in when they returned to their home field on Monday night—two days shy of a month later—to host the New York Giants.
Tampa Bay (6-3) looked nothing like the defending Super Bowl champions in its two road losses on Oct. 31 and Nov. 14. To be fair, injuries have piled up this season and those are always going to be difficult to overcome, but the team’s play lately has had less to do with injuries and more to do with it reverting to the old “Bucs beating Bucs” problems that became a common theme before last year’s championship run.
On the injury front, the Bucs did get some reinforcements this week, with Rob Gronkowski and Sean Murphy-Bunting both returning to action. This Week 11 matchup with the Giants (3-6), who played the Bucs far too close in a Monday Night Football meeting last November, needed to be a true get-right game for Bruce Arians’ team, especially with the season’s stretch run approaching.
Despite their recent two-game losing streak, the Bucs entered Monday’s game as 11-point favorites, with ESPN’s FPI Matchup Predictor giving them a 78.5% chance to get back in the win column ahead of next week’s trip to Indianapolis.
Tampa Bay got out to a quick start, scoring on an electric opening drive before eventually taking a 17-10 lead into the locker room at halftime. The defense shut out the Giants in the second half and the offense took care of the rest, resulting in a 30-10 victory to snap the two-game skid and get to 7-3 on the season.
The Giants won the coin toss, but elected to defer to start the game. That meant Tom Brady and the Buccaneer offense would get an early chance to do something they couldn’t do against Washington last Sunday, which was take a lead. Giovani Bernard returned Graham Gano’s short kick to the Bucs’ 27-yard line, which was where the opening drive would begin.
Running play-action on first down, Brady found O.J. Howard for 10 yards and a quick first down out to the 37. Chris Godwin then picked up eight yards on a screen pass and seven more on an end-around to get the ball across midfield quickly. Mike Evans then took a reverse (!!) for 10 yards to the New York 38 before Brady hit Cameron Brate for 15 yards to the 23. Tampa Bay’s offense continued to drive quickly down the field from there, with Leonard Fournette getting seven yards on his first carry of the night to get inside the red zone. One play later, Brady found Godwin, who did the rest and found the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown. With Ryan Succop’s PAT, the Bucs had a 7-0 lead after an eight-play, 73-yard drive that lasted 3:57.
After a touchback by Bradley Pinion on the ensuing kickoff, the New York offense started its night at the 25-yard line. Saquon Barkley picked up two yards on first down before Daniel Jones hit Darius Slayton for a nine-yard pickup and a first down. Jones then connected with Kenny Golladay for a 12-yard gain on the next play to get the ball near midfield. The Giants went back to Barkley from there, and he got eight yards to get inside Tampa Bay territory. Jason Pierre-Paul was flagged for lining up in the neutral zone on the next play, which gave the visitors yet another first down. Shaquil Barrett forced Jones into an incompletion on the run one play later, then Jones gained six yards on a quarterback keeper to bring up a big 3rd & 4. The third-down struggles from last week carried over for Tampa Bay’s defense, though, with Jones hitting Evan Engram for nine yards and a first down.
A host of Buccaneer defenders stood Barkley up on the next play before Sean Murphy-Bunting limited Kadarius Toney to a four-yard pickup on second down to bring up a 3rd & 6. This time, New York got a first down thanks to a pass interference call on Murphy-Bunting. Two plays later, it was another third-down chance for the defense, forcing a 3rd & 9 at the 14-yard line. A false start on Will Hernandez made it a 3rd & 14, which was enough for the Buccaneer defense to get a red-zone stop. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka chased down Jones to force an incompletion, leading to a 37-yard field goal by Graham Gano. With 4:04 to go in the opening quarter, Tampa Bay held a 7-3 lead.
Graham Gano gets the Giants on the board with a 37-yard FG.— Dan Salomone (@Dan_Salomone) November 23, 2021
Bucs 7, Giants 3
4:04, 1st QTR
A short return by Jaelon Darden gave the Bucs a bit of a longer field to work with on their second drive, as they set up with a first down at their 14-yard line. Fournette gained six yards on the first play of the possession, then Brady found Godwin over the middle for six more yards and a first down. Fournette got 18 yards on two catches and three yards on a run to get the ball near midfield before Rob Gronkowski was welcomed back into the fray, with Brady throwing to him for a six-yard gain to New York’s 46-yard line. Ronald Jones II then got back-to-back carries to move the chains again and bring us to the end of the first quarter with Tampa Bay leading 7-3.
Opening the second quarter with a 1st & 10 at the Giants’ 39, Brady hit Fournette out of the backfield again for five yards, then he finally threw his first incomplete pass of the night to bring up a 3rd & 5. On third down, Brady took off and picked up 10 yards on the ground (!!) to keep the drive alive. He was certainly fired up after that one, but the Bucs quickly faced another third down two plays later. This time, on 3rd & 4, Brady and Evans linked up for a seven-yard gain and a first down at the 10. An incomplete pass and a run for three yards by Fournette brought up a 3rd & Goal at the 7 before good coverage forced a throwaway. That brought Succop on for a 25-yard field goal attempt, which he nailed to extend the Tampa Bay lead to 10-3 with 11:16 left in the second quarter.
The kick is good and we're up 10-3 pic.twitter.com/m2fVFcMEeI— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) November 23, 2021
Starting drive No. 2 from the 25-yard line, the Giants were looking to answer the Bucs’ 18-play, 79-yard field goal drive that lasted 7:48 by potentially tying the game. Jones and Engram connected for three yards on the first play of the series before Barkley got into the mix with a five-yard catch to bring up 3rd & 2. Ndamukong Suh nearly got to Jones on third down and while he didn’t get the sack, he forced an incompletion to bring Riley Dixon out for the first punt of the night. After the 52-yard kick, Tampa Bay’s offense took over at its own 15.
It was at this point that the Bucs got some bad news, as left guard Ali Marpet was ruled out for the rest of the game with an oblique strain. Aaron Stinnie, who filled in admirably for Alex Cappa during last year’s playoff run, took his place on the left side of the line. And things went from bad to worse from there for Tampa Bay, as Evans had a pass go off his hands and chest and into the arms of Adoree Jackson, who returned it to the Bucs’ 5-yard line.
It took just two plays for the Giants to go five yards and find the end zone, with Jones finding the eligible tackle, Andrew Thomas, for a two-yard big-man touchdown. With Gano’s PAT, the game was tied 10-10.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn returned the ensuing kickoff to the 29, setting the Buccaneer offense up from there. Ronald Jones II gained three yards on the first play of the drive, then Gronkowski caught his second pass of the night to set up a 3rd & 3 at the 35. With all day to throw on third down, Brady connected with a wide-open Gronkowski for 35 yards to the New York 29. A seven-yard pass to Evans and a four-yard run by Jones gave the Bucs another first down and got them inside the red zone. Two plays later, Brady and Brate linked up for a 12-yard gain to the 6. And on the play after that, Jones took the ball outside for a six-yard touchdown run. With the PAT, the Bucs had a 17-10 lead after driving 71 yards in eight plays.
John Ross picked up 16 yards on the first play of the Giants’ next drive before Toney threw incomplete on a deep ball on the next snap. A five-yard catch by Toney then brought up a 3rd & 5, but not before the Giants called their first timeout of the half with 3:35 to go before the break. Out of the timeout, Antoine Winfield Jr. made a nice pass breakup on third down and, though it was initially ruled a catch before being overturned, it led to a New York punt. Dixon’s 39-yard punt was caught by Darden at the 15, which was where Brady and the offense would start their drive with just over three minutes left in the half.
Fournette picked up just two yards on first down, but Evans caught a short pass and slipped loose for a 16-yard gain to the 33 on the next play to get the drive moving. A short pass to Gronkowski got us to the two-minute warning with the Bucs leading by seven and looking to add on before halftime.
After the timeout, Brady threw complete to Godwin over the middle for a 13-yard gain to the 49 before Gronkowski caught a short pass and dragged a defender forward to the New York 42. A seven-yard run by Fournette to the 35 then led Tampa Bay to call its first timeout of the half with 1:21 remaining. After a drop by Brate and a deep ball that went off the hands of Breshad Perriman, the Bucs faced a 3rd & 10 with 1:09 to play in the half. Brady found Godwin for what looked to be a 35-yard touchdown on that play, but a costly—and highly questionable—holding penalty on Tristan Wirfs brought it back and set up a 3rd & 20. Brady missed Tyler Johnson on the next play, which brought Bradley Pinion out to drop a punt at the Giants’ 9-yard line with 43 seconds left in the half.
The Giants gained 11 yards on a second-down pass from Jones to Barkley, but the half came to an end when Sean Murphy-Bunting forced a Darius Slayton fumble after a 21-yard catch. Antoine Winfield Jr. recovered the fumble before fumbling the ball away himself, then Mike Edwards scooped it up before being forced out of bounds. The wild sequence sent the teams to their locker rooms with Tampa Bay leading New York 17-10.
At halftime, Buccaneer legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Lynch was presented with his Hall of Fame ring by outgoing Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker. The Bucs also unveiled a Hall of Fame logo next to Lynch’s name in their Ring of Honor before he spoke to the Raymond James Stadium crowd, thanking them for their support over the years.
Starting from their 25 to open the second half, the Giants benefitted from a pass interference call on Jamel Dean, which moved the ball up to the 38 before Jones found a wide-open Kyle Rudolph down the sideline for a 28-yard gain to the Bucs’ 34. A one-yard run by Barkley and an incomplete pass then brought up a 3rd & 9. Toney then caught an eight-yard pass to bring up a 4th & 1 that the Giants couldn’t convert. Devin White came flying in on a blitz and nearly sacked Jones, who then threw wildly incomplete to give the ball over to Tampa Bay.
Fournette lost a yard on the first play of the Bucs’ ensuing possession, then an incompletion brought up a quick 3rd & 11. However, Tampa Bay kept the drive alive as Brady stepped up in the pocket to deliver a 17-yard pass to Evans for a first down at the 42. Breshad Perriman then caught a 14-yard pass over the middle to get the ball into New York territory. Fournette then looked to have a long catch and run, but it was negated by an illegal formation penalty. Nonetheless, the Bucs kept the ball moving. Brady found Gronkowski for 14 yards and Godwin for another 18 to bring up a first down at the 17, then Fournette caught a short four-yard pass. A holding flag on the Giants gave the Bucs another five yards and another first down inside the 10. It took until 3rd & Goal from the 5, but the offense managed to extend the lead to two scores as Brady threw a strike to Evans for a touchdown. With Succop’s PAT, Tampa Bay’s lead was at 24-10 with 7:31 to go in the third quarter.
With that touchdown catch, Mike Evans surpassed Mike Alstott for the most touchdowns in franchise history.
Daniel Jones opened the Giants’ next possession with an 11-yard pass to Barkley. But two plays later, pressure from Devin White got to Jones again, and he threw a bad pass across the field into the arms of Steve McLendon (!!), who recorded his first career interception. That gave possession back to the Bucs, with a 1st & 10 at the Giants’ 37.
After the interception, Fournette gained eight yards on a catch and four yards on a run to move the chains, but the drive stalled shortly after. Two incompletions and a short pass to Bernard translated to a 40-yard field goal by Succop, which extended the Bucs’ lead to 27-10 with 3:58 left in the third quarter.
Barkley ran for a first down on the first play of the Giants’ next drive, but they quickly faced a 3rd & 10 after that. Jones found Toney for a gain of eight, and with it being a 17-point game late in the third quarter, New York was forced to go for it from its own 45. Jones converted the fourth-down try with another pass to Toney, getting the ball across midfield to Tampa Bay’s 48. But penalties hurt the Giants from there, as a holding call and a block in the back—with a tackle for loss by Mike Edwards sandwiched between—brought them back to 2nd & 28 as we reached the end of the third quarter with Tampa Bay leading 27-10.
Jason Pierre-Paul knocked down a pass in the backfield to open the fourth quarter before Tryon-Shoyinka pressured Jones out of the pocket on third down to force an incompletion. With that, the Giants punted the ball away to Darden, who got to the 22 on the return.
Runs of nine and two yards by Ronald Jones II got the Bucs’ next offensive series going, but a two-yard run and two incompletions led to a Pinion punt from there. The punt was a good one, traveling 55 yards before going out of bounds at the New York 10, setting the Giants up there with 12:31 to go in the game.
The Giants got going with a short pass on first down and a Devontae Booker run to the 21-yard line on second down. Booker got another seven yards and a first down two plays later, but the Buccaneer defense then came up with its third turnover of the day, with Devin White tipping a Jones pass into the hands of Mike Edwards. The interception gave the ball back to Brady and the offense at the New York 39, already leading by 17 with 10:02 left on the clock.
Brady and Evans linked up for a 21-yard gain on the first play of the next possession, getting the ball inside the red zone. An incomplete pass, a one-yard run by Fournette and a five-yard pass to Perriman brought up a 4th & 3, and the Bucs decided to kick. Succop drilled the 30-yarder, extending Tampa Bay’s lead to 30-10 with 7:44 left in the game.
Tampa Bay’s defense continued to dominate on the next New York possession, forcing a quick three-and-out as the clock ticked under the seven-minute mark. After the punt, Blaine Gabbert led the Buccaneer offense onto the field to take over at the 19-yard line.
There was nothing going on for Tampa Bay’s second-team offense, leading to a Pinion punt. The Buccaneer defense didn’t let up from there, though, as a sack by Anthony Nelson forced a 4th & 16. And on that 4th & 16, Cam Gill registered a sack to turn the ball over on downs with just over three minutes left.
Once Gabbert and the offense took over, they managed to kill the rest of the clock and put the finishing touches on a 30-10 primetime win. With the victory, the Bucs improved to 7-3 and widened their NFC South lead to two games heading into Week 12.
Quick Notes & Stats
- The Buccaneers didn’t face one third down on their eight-play, 73-yard touchdown drive to open the game.
- Tom Brady started the night 10-of-10 for 86 yards and a touchdown before throwing his first incompletion in the second quarter.
- In the first half, the Bucs held the edge over the Giants in first downs (18-9), total plays (43-24), total yards (273-117), yards per play (6.3-4.9) and time of possession (18:42-11:18). Thanks to a costly turnover inside their own 20, though, they only led by seven heading into the break.
- By the end of the game, the Bucs only widened their advantages in all of the aforementioned categories, leading in first downs (28-15), total plays (76-54), total yards (402-215), yards per play (5.3-4.0) and time of possession (35:39-24:21).
- Tom Brady broke the 3,000-yard passing mark on the season during the first half. He now has 19 seasons with 3,000-plus yards in his career, which is a new NFL record. Brady was previously tied with Brett Favre (18 such seasons).
- Brady finished his night 30-of-46 for 307 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 10 yards on one carry.
- Mike Evans’ third-quarter touchdown catch was the 72nd total touchdown of his career, giving him the most in franchise history. Coming into the night, he was tied with Mike Alstott (71) for the Buccaneer record.
- Evans was the Bucs’ leading receiver on the night, catching six passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 10-yard run in the first quarter.
- Rob Gronkowski had a productive return to the field, catching six of his eight targets for 71 yards.
- Chris Godwin wasn’t far behind Evans and Gronkowski, finishing with 65 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.
- Defensive tackle Steve McLendon recorded his first career interception in the third quarter. According to ESPN Stats & Info, McLendon is the first Buccaneer who weighs 300+ pounds to intercept a pass since Booger McFarland did it in Week 1 of the 2003 season.
- Anthony Nelson and Cam Gill registered the only sacks of the game for the Tampa Bay defense, but the unit totaled nine quarterback hits as a whole and made life miserable for Daniel Jones all night.
- Mike Edwards recorded his third interception of the season in the fourth quarter, setting a new career high.
- Ryan Succop finished 3-of-3 on field goals and 3-of-3 on extra point attempts.
- Kanye West was in attendance at Raymond James Stadium on Monday night.
The Buccaneers (7-3) return to the field on Sunday afternoon, traveling to Indianapolis for a matchup with the Colts (6-5). Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.