New York Giants 41 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34
Giants fans I was right there with you. “Are you kidding me?” was the first half. “Here we go again,” was the second half. Can’t they ever make things easy on us? My father, who went to see both of the Superbowls under Bill Parcels, told me long ago that it doesn’t matter how you win, a W is a W. Big Blue has never played well with a lead, they can look absolutely horrible against bad teams, and mediocre against great teams, but they’ve been to five Superbowls and won four. This Sunday we watched them play to the level of their opponent as usual and emerge with another fourth quarter victory.
Eli Manning had a rough quarter. In fact both Manning brothers threw three picks in a quarter this past weekend. Unlike big brother, Eli was able to complete the comeback as he was near perfect in the fourth quarter. It was a huge day through the air as Manning racked up 510 yards with nearly 200 going to Hakeem Nicks. Victor Cruz had a bounce back game with 11 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown. Martellus Bennett even got in on the action providing a score to go along with 72 yards. These are the kind of performances you can only find when the team is trailing the way Big Blue was after the three early turnovers.
So what changed? Manning didn’t suddenly get more accurate. Ahmad Bradshaw went out with a neck injury bringing in Andre Brown. Now I’ve never been a big fan of Bradshaw as he is often hurt and middle of the pack in terms of production. The running game hasn’t been there much at all since last season, but when Brown came in the game he got it going for 71 yards averaging nearly 5.5 per carry. When watching the games on television with the national announcers they are quick to point out the lack of continuity, health and push on the offensive line, but listening to the game on radio with Bob Papa, Carl Banks and Howard Cross, who are around the team constantly, they point out several plays designed to one side that Bradshaw will cut back and not follow his blockers. Hopefully the other backs like Brown and the rookie David Wilson, who is currently relegated mostly to kick returning after his week one fumble, will help this line gain confidence and help open the passing game.
Defensively the secondary looked out matched against Vincent Jackson especially in the first half. They made adjustments throughout the game and even got two picks off of Josh Freeman. Jason Pierre Paul and Chase Blackburn each picked up their first sack of the season. Normally giving up 34 points is an extremely poor defensive performance, but here there was one touchdown scored by the opposing defense and they were faced with short fields. In the second half the Giants won 27-10. And the one touchdown was scored on a very well covered route, but the ball bounced off the helmet of Justin Tryon, who really played a very nice game.
The real story coming out of this game had nothing to do with all of what I’ve talked about thus far. It was the final play of regulation as Big Blue lined up in victory formation to take one final kneel down, as they had done to close out the first half, and what looked like a formality turned into a controversy. The Bucs went for it as they bowled over the offensive line looking to create a fumble for the last ditch effort of a scoop and score to tie the game. It didn’t work and Tom Coughlin was mildly perturbed with rookie head coach Greg Schiano’s tactics.
I believe there is no right or wrong here. The line could have prepared themselves to make one more block, but the Bucs were making a desperate move. It had nothing to do with playing until the final whistle because in the same game they allowed the Giants to kneel to end the first half. I don’t like the fact that they did it as I believe they should have taken the defeat like men, but there was certainly nothing wrong with it.
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