Tampa Bay’s latest attempt at winning back-to-back games for the first time in two years fell short on a rainy Sunday at home against the New York Giants.

Trailing by as much as 20-9 early in the third quarter, the Bucs kept New York close and nearly tied things up when quarterback Jameis Winston went airborne for his third career touchdown run. That diving, 10-yard effort in the fourth brought Tampa Bay within a two-point conversion of knotting the score at 20-all, but receiver Russell Shepard couldn’t get his feet down after going up to get Winston’s high pass in the end zone.

New York tacked on a pair of field goals to go back up 26-18 and it was the second drive and Josh Brown kick that hurt most. After stalling out at midfield, Tampa Bay punted away possession with five minutes remaining and needed a quick defensive hold. Aided by defensive tackle Akeem Spence’s unnecessary roughness penalty that pushed the Giants across the 50, New York effectively drained the Bucs of timeouts and the clock down to 28 seconds when Brown’s 44-yard field goal split the uprights.

The final score ballooned to 32-18 when the Bucs’ desperate effort to lateral the ball deep in its own territory ended with a fumble and Giants defensive back Trevin Wade returning it for a touchdown.

The Bucs outgained New York 385-327 but an inability to maximize scoring opportunities by getting into the end zone proved costly. Five of Tampa Bay’s drives ended in Connor Barth field goal attempts, including three in the red zone. Barth connected on four of his five kicks, missing his first of the season from 43 yards in the second quarter.

Tampa Bay opened the game with a bang when cornerback Sterling Moore intercepted Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s tipped-up pass intended for receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and returned it to the New York 13. The Bucs failed to capitalize fully, though, and Barth hit a 26-yard field goal after the offense went three-and-out.

“We must take advantage of our opportunities, especially in the red zone,” Winston said after the game. “That’s some of the goals that Coach [Dirk] Koetter put up for us: scoring in the red zone. And it’s my fault, every single time. But the thing you have to focus on is, ‘How hard are we playing?’ This is two back-to-back games where we’re out there just giving it our all.

“Eventually we’re going to break through. Eventually it’s going to happen.”

The Bucs’ last and final lead of the game came later in the first. Similar to the spark provided by Moore’s interception, Tampa Bay opened its second drive with a 68-yard, Winston-to-Mike Evans reception. The receiver’s career-long gain moved the ball down to the New York 12, but the three plays that followed netted just two yards and ended with Barth’s 28-yard field goal.

Evans’ catch and run marked the beginning of an evening full of big plays and missed opportunities for the second-year pass catcher. Evans finished with eight receptions for 152 yards on a season-high 19 targets but dropped a number of catchable passes.

“No one’s perfect,” Winston said when asked about Evans’ dropped passes. “We’ve got to think about the positives. Dropped balls, you can fix those. … He’s one of our best receivers and he’s playing his tail off and it starts raining and all eyes were on him. It’s a lot of pressure, but nine times out of 10 he’s going to come through. But we’ve got to score in the red zone. I’ve got to lead us in the red zone.”

Winston turned in his fourth straight game without an interception, going 19 of 36 for 249 yards and no touchdowns. He added 24 yards on three rushing attempts and the 10-yard score.

Outside of a 59-yard Charles Sims run that set up Winston’s touchdown, Tampa Bay struggled to run the football Sunday and a pair of running-back mistakes set up 10 Giants points. The Bucs went for 136 yards on 23 total attempts but Sims and Doug Martin coughed up fumbles in Tampa Bay territory.

Martin’s came on the first play of the second quarter and resulted in Manning’s 4-yard touchdown pass to running back Shane Vereen that put the Giants up 17-6. Sims’ turnover came five plays into the second half and gave New York possession at the Tampa Bay 24. The defense forced a three-and-out and Josh Brown’s field goal increased the visitor’s lead to 20-9.

The Bucs could only convert two Manning interceptions into three points. Cornerback Alterraun Verner, recently moved inside to be the team’s primary nickelback, jumped a Manning pass to Beckham Jr. late in the third quarter. A three-and-out that included a third-down drop by Evans forced the game’s first punt.

A week after throwing for six touchdowns in a loss at New Orleans, Manning hit on 26 of 40 pass attempts for 213 yard, two scores and the two interceptions.

Both quarterbacks stayed upright Sunday, with the Bucs failing to register a sack for the first time all year. Lavonte David led all defenders with 11 tackles, followed by fellow linebacker Kwon Alexander’s 10.

WHAT’S NEXT
Tampa Bay stays home next week to host another NFC East opponent, the Dallas Cowboys. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

OFFENSIVE STARTERS
WR Donteea Dye, LT Donovan Smith, LG Logan Mankins, C Joe Hawley, RG Ali Marpet, RT Gosder Cherilus, TE Luke Stocker, WR Mike Evans, QB Jameis Winston, RB Doug Martin

DEFENSIVE STARTERS
LDE Will Gholston, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Akeem Spence, RDE Howard Jones, SLB Danny Lansanah, MLB Kwon Alexander, WLB Lavonte David, CB Sterling Moore, CB Jude Adjei-Barimah, SS Chris Conte, FS Bradley McDougald

INACTIVES
QB Ryan Griffin, S Major Wright, S D.J. Swearinger, DE Jacquies Smith, DE Lawrence Sidbury, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

DID NOT PLAY
QB Mike Glennon

GAME SPECS
Paid attendance: 64,351, Raymond James Stadium
Game time: 3:14

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Anyone who blames this game on the Coaches needs to have their head examinbed. This was strictly a player’s loss. Fumbles, penalties, dropped passes, not enough defensive line pressure on the QB, lack of defensive run stopping strength, summed up the main issues in this game for me. Yes we could have won; we didn’t. The team played hard, but haven’t yet learned how to consistently win. We are close, but for me it’s the same ole words; one more draft for defensive players will do it. Go Bucs! lets take it out on the Cowboys!

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

I agree with you for the most part Horse even though I believe the coaches have to take some of the blame also for not having the players prepared properly. Also I haven’t said anything about L. David all season but at the midway point I’m concerned enough to bring him up specifically. He was not performed well in the Tampa 2 last year or this year which calls into question why Licht made him the highest paid 4-3 LB in the NFL. The contract for McCoy made sense at the time because McCoy had his best season last year… Read more »

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

Sorry about the typos…I’m kinda sleepy.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  Horse
5 years ago

I hear what your saying horse about plenty of player blame in this one…but (and I guess I’ll go get my head examined), we had a chance to win the game with about 5mins to play and the ball across mid field…our coaches decided on 1) long bomb, 2) time out, 3) pass short to Evans, 4) pass short to Evans, 5) punt. I think we’ve suffered all year from strange play calling and this is symptomatic of the problem. We should – with 5 mins to go down by 5 points – be trying to make this drive the… Read more »

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

I agree Horse, Too many key players are hurt or MIA. It was all Winston, Evans, and the rookies. I’m not going to beat up Mike Evans because we all know he can play better and he will. Even the backups or depth is hurt. You can’t beat a good team without weapons and tonight we brought a knife to a gunfight. But we did fight – there is no quit in our Bucs, but you just aren’t going to win many of those. The problem is what Horse says, some of them are just not good enough. I’m not… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

Macabee; agree with you and Pinkstob. It could be worse. Next season is going to be a different story. I expect about a dozen players who are actually starting either due to injuries or not, won’t be on this team. I can see the progress from this year compared to last year and next season looks very promising. We have some good people drafting good players; it’s been a long time since I can make that statement. Go Bucs!

owlykat
owlykat
5 years ago

I also agree with Horse’s comments. Evans had five drops that cost us the game, but we were competitive nevertheless because of Winston. We lost Marpet but I have been saying EDS is a better Guard than Center and he held his own. Dontae Dye needs to be sent back to the Practice Squad–he was worthless. We need to activate our receiver from Central Florida who outplayed Dye the entire Preseason. We can beat Dallas next week. Keep your chin up Buc’s!!!

bucterp
bucterp
5 years ago

The stupid penalties continue apace. We are on record breaking ground here. Yes, of course, the players are making the poor decisions, but it also reflects back on coaching. Lovie told us this would be “cleaned up”. When? We are not good enough to recover from all these fouls.

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 years ago

My shrink appointment is later this month, so I will be getting my head examined. Horse, we had four 4th, and goals, and kicked field goals all four times. Lovie Smith is a no balls loser, and his team plays like it. Lovie picks up pennies off the street knowing some day he’ll have a nickle. Lovie, rumor has it if you dare take this road you might find a dime. Nope, I go this road every time, always find three pennies. Sorry Horse, our coach is a ball less loser. Let me ask, didn’t you say out loud at… Read more »

Horse
Horse
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

surferdudes; i do blame it on the players because we were forced into those situations because of poor execution. Yes i was okay with kicking the field goals because our players couldn’t execute the plays given to them prior to 4th down. These aren’t robots and yes this game is on them. coaches can only do so much; the players have to do a better job.

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

Easy to second guess plays that fail. I did think a little ball control toward the end of the game with 7 or so minutes left to keep the ball away from Manning would be the safe route. Here, we want to be ballsy, but are critical of the deep passes. I had no problem with kicking the field goals. My concern is the difficulty we have passing into the end zone from inside the 10. I suspect Jackson and ASJ missing is more of an impact than we think. Also think Jameis is being cautious.

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 years ago

Scu, I’m not second guessing plays that failed, but rather plays that never took place. You’re O.K. with always kicking field goals so you’re O.K. with Lovie, I’m not. Against Manning, ODBJ, it’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. There’s a reason Lovie spent a year in his basement, no one wanted him. He was a mistake hire, Glazers need to correct it.

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Definitely saw some improvement in the defensive backfield this week. Verner’s INT was a great play. I agree with the person who spoke out on Dontae Dye. He has contributed very little while Humphries knows how to find the soft spot in zone coverage and has great hands. Can’t fault the DL that much as far as no sacks. Like the rest of the QB’s who play against us, Manning used a lot of quick 3 and 5 step drops. He only threw one long pass to Beckham all might. Despite the fact the ball was coming out fast, the… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Surferdude, if you want to blame the defense on Lovie, have at it.
But as far as the offense is concerned and any play calling on that side of the ball, you need to fix your sights on Dirk Koetter.
This is the main problem I have with all the people who want to fire Lovie, they blame him for everything including the fact Mike Evans got a bad case of Clayton hands in the rain which I know you didn’t.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

@drdneast – it’s a good point about Koetter vis-à-vis the play selection…but it’s definitely Lovie who makes the 4th down decisions to kick or go for it….in Koetter’s case, he’s just trying to score on every possession, so I have a little sympathy for him in calling the 2 (maddening) long bombs on our last drive… IMO, Lovie is the one who is supposed to have the bigger picture in mind and telling Koetter “use up the whole 5 minutes on this drive, and if we get to 4th down we’re going to go for it, so keep all of… Read more »

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
5 years ago

Lovie is the problem and his flaws continue to show up on gameday. Is he responsible for the Mike Evans drops, of course not. But he is responsible for the fact that we have only forced 1 punt in the last 8 or 9 quarters. He is responsible for the fact that we have Tim Jennings, Mike Jenkins and Alterraun Verner lined up at CB instead of Darrelle Revis. He is responsible for the most penalized team in football bc good teams don’t commit the bone headed penalties that we do. Committing personal fouls has nothing to do with talent… Read more »

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  stlbucsfan
5 years ago

Stlbucsfan I know you’re pissed and I am too but it’s important to be fair in terms of who is doing what when it’s time to make heads role. Lovie has nothing to do with how much FA’s get paid, that’s Licht’s job so Michael Johnson falls on him. Lovie can want a player all he wants but it’s up to Licht to give the green light or not. For example, PR reported that Lovie also wanted to sign Devin Hester and Charles Tillman last year but Licht said no because they wanted too much money relative to their skillset.… Read more »

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
5 years ago

Lovie pretty much got Licht the GM job so of course year one he was going to go out and get the players Lovie wanted. Once we saw how that turned out it appears Licht took more control and had a more structured approach to FA. Not saying Licht doesn’t have any blame for paying them but I blame the guy who wants these busts in the first place. Also McCoy’s best season came in 2013 under Schiano when he had more tackles and sacks than last year. That also was the last season we saw the artist formally known… Read more »

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  stlbucsfan
5 years ago

Well, what I’m trying to say is that even in year one Licht didn’t get all the players Lovie wanted because he didn’t get Tillman and Hester. Licht had the right to tell Lovie no on any player he saw fit in year one yet only chose to do so with those two guys. Now I see what you’re saying in terms of McCoy having more sacks and tackles in 2013, but I gave the nod to the 2014 season only because of the production he mustered in 3 fewer games due to injury (one less sack in 2014 despite… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  stlbucsfan
5 years ago

Well it appears the Bucs have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat again. As for the game, I am relying onmy fellow pewter report brothers to lead me as I missed the game yesterday and was watching a gamecast on my phone. I couldn’t see incompletions etc, but it seemed Jameis was doing his thing on third downs as well as that beautiful diving td. ANd was very surprised to see the number of drops from Evans. I have been a critic of his catching skills all season and today he broke records. He has got a ton of… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast
5 years ago

Lets get off the whole Darell Reavis and FA signing of 2014. First of all, Reavis wasn’t worth a $16 million contract. No CB is. That is franchise QB money. To tie that kind of money up in a CB is absurd. The idea was to use that money on 3 or 4 other players who would improve the Bucs. When they were signed all the experts gushed about who they had inked. It was widely thought by all of the ‘experts’ including Bill Polian that because of the signings the Bucs would contend for the division. Sadly, the two… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

I’d have to agree with you here Drdneast as while his skill set is definitely enviable, NO db is worth that money. That is franchise QB money.

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  drdneast
5 years ago

Tying that kind of money up in crappy players (no matter how many you get in the deal) is even more absurd. Also, saying the “experts” thought they were great signings is a poor excuse. These are OUR Bucs. We have to be smart enough to know that there is no accountability among any of these experts. None of these “experts” get fired, get demoted or take a pay cut when they are wrong. We as the fans are the only ones who suffer when they are wrong so what the “experts” say should have no bearing on who we… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

You make a good point Pink, but you’re speaking from hindsight. What if those players turned out to be good? As a GM you have to take three players over one. We just chose the wrong three in typical buc fashion.

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

Amen

jiggyjoe
jiggyjoe
5 years ago

I think I am sure of two things. Winston can lead us to the promised land and Coach Smith is the best coach we can get in Tampa at this time. We have a few good players and a lot of below average players. Until this changes, no coach could do better. BUT, I am pretty sure we have our QB and that is half the battle. Go Bucs….

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

There’s no great coaches out there available that’s going to help this team. having a dL takes care a lot of things. This draft will be a big help in fixing our DL and Safety issue. I believe our corners are adequate. I’ve already said enough about the DE’s; it’s the safety’s where I see weakness there too. They play so far back because they aren’t fast enough. Conte was constantly late in his coverage. I still don’t get it why defense doesn’t play tighter because the bombs aren’t hurting us it’s the short passes that’s doing it. I’d take… Read more »

macabee
macabee
5 years ago

First let me say that I am no Lovie Smith apologist. I could give a rat’s about Lovie or any other coach that loses. Having said that, I’m not one given to cutting off my nose to spite my face either. Firing Lovie now is not going to fix anything – may satisfy your anger, but does nothing to make players play better. The ship is sinking and many are looking for the captain (Lovie) to throttle him, when all attention should be focused on saving the passengers (Winston and the team). Lovie will be dealt with in time if… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  macabee
5 years ago

Good points on all accounts MAc. I have been one myself leading the charge on the fire Lovie brigade, but your points about progression and keeping Jamies in the same system do ring true ot me. He already knows the playbook well and another season in it will do wonders for him as well as his receivers. My two main complaints about lovie has been his lack of fire, and I commended him above for getting into Spence a bit, and his clock management, which was still terrible yesterday. The players play hard for him and the last two drafts… Read more »

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
5 years ago

I’ll stop bringing up Revis when we have NFL caliber CBs that can stop slants and force more than 1 punt in 2 games. Who cares if it was franchise QB money. NEWSFLASH until this draft we didn’t have one and even now he’s cost controlled so that argument is irrelevant. Lovie took an area that didn’t need a drastic overhaul and made it a weakness. If Lovie was listening to these “experts” then he’s on the fast track to joining them on Sundays, analyzing from the studio instead of the sidelines. Again this is not what I want for… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  stlbucsfan
5 years ago

Ok I’ll roll with you, but let’s look at the other side of the coin. Do you really think revis would’ve mattered last year? I certainly don’t. We sucked on many more levels than secondary. SO he’s on the books that and this year for another 16 million, that is ofcourse if he doesn’t want another raise, which he always does.
SO think about that, between him Mccoy and david you would have 41 million dollars tied up in three players this season and for the foreseeable future. That’s how you cripple a franchise, see Detroit.

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
Reply to  cgmaster27
5 years ago

Not sure if it changes the outcome but limiting a teams ability to carve us up with their #1 WR doing the damage would at least help. I’m not really all that concerned with his cap number bc we still would’ve been under the cap and his contract was a series of 1 year deals, so at the point where his play declined or we had proven replacements then he could’ve been cut. If The Bucs had invested 41 mill between those 3 players then judging by what I’m seeing we would still be pissed about the same 2 guys…Lavonte… Read more »

Horse
Horse
5 years ago

Macabee, spot on. Lets get thru this see and evaluate what we need on Defense. My guess right now is 2 De’s, 2 Safety’s, 1 LB.