It’s always ideal coming back home after a defeat, whether that comes on the road or even at home in the previous week. Whether it was the crowd, the atmosphere or just being in the place you call home, whatever it was, it helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the New York Giants 25-23.
The game started with some heavy rain right at the kick off. Because of this, both the Bucs and the Giants offenses were conservative, running the ball early and often, but to not much success. That was until the Bucs second drive of the game which featured a big 36-yard run from Jacquizz Rodgers – his best run of the season. That run got the Bucs into the end zone where wide receiver Mike Evans found himself in one-on-one coverage, which ended in six points.
Following the Bucs putting some points on the board, the Giants offense, now no longer operating in the rain, came alive. On a drive that started off with a big Paul Perkins run and was followed up by first down catches from Evan Engram and Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants found themselves in Tampa Bay territory for the first time. However, when they crossed the middle line, the Buccaneers defense came alive and stopped the Giants, not only on third down, but on fourth down as well for a turnover on downs.
The Bucs capitalized off the momentum from their defense on the next drive with a 12-yard run from Rodgers, followed by a 59-yard O.J. Howard touchdown. The touchdown from Howard came off a play action design that looked a lot like the broken play he was hidden on for big scores during the Clemson-Alabama National Championship games.
After a missed point after attempt from Folk, the Giants took over down 13-0. After a series of punts between both Tampa Bay and New York, the Giants took good field position and turned it into three points to get on the board for the first time in the contest.
Instead of steeping up to the Giants first points of the day, the Buccaneers offense went cold and had to punt. The Giants, however, continued their momentum into their next drive where they went 63-yards in seven plays to score a touchdown on the feet – yes, feet – of Eli Manning.
But, before the half, the Bucs would not be denied, and though the team was spotted the ball at the half yard line and came up empty in terms of a touchdown, they did add three points to their lead and went into the half up 16-10.
The Bucs took the ball to open up the half and started things off at a good pace. Two back-to-back five yard runs by Rodgers gave way to a DeSean Jackson pass for another first down. A few more run plays from Rodgers got Tampa Bay into field goal range, but the field goal was missed by Nick Folk.
In response, the Giants led an 11-play, 61-yard drive that ended in an easy passing touchdown near the goal line for the Giants to take their first lead of the game, 17-16.
The Giants were in control for most of the second half, including on their next drive of nine plays and 30 yards that didn’t end in points thanks to a missed field goal – a theme for this game.
However, on the Bucs’ fourth drive of the half, things started to all come together. Rodgers strung together some nice runs which got the offense in motion. Then a 38-yard pass from Winston to Humphries got the Bucs all the way to within the 10 yard line. After a play where both Evans and Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins had offsetting penalties, Winston hit Brate in the end zone to re-take the lead, 22-17.
But the drama didn’t stop there. When the Giants took over after losing the lead, a 42-yard bomb pass to Beckham once again had the Giants threatening in Buccaneer territory. After a drive-saving pass on third down to Engram, the Giants were in the red zone. With the ball on the 2-yard line, the Giants ran a bootleg rollout play action pass to a wide open Ellison to re-gain the lead for a second time. Following an unsuccessful 2-point conversion, the Giants led by only one with just over three minutes to go.
The Bucs final drive began at their own 25-yard line. After some clutch catches from Mike Evans and Cameron Brate – featuring a gutsy, picture-perfect pass from Winston – the Bucs found themselves on the 15-yard line with four seconds to go down by one.
It was all on Folk.
And he nailed it.
Winston finished the game 22-for-38 for 332 yards with three touchdowns and most importantly no interceptions. Brate was Winston’s top receiver with 80 yards on four catches and a score. Evans was next with 67 yards on five catches and a score. Humphries had a big game with 70 yards on six catches, and O.J. Howard was next in line with 63 yards on two catches for his first score of the season. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers had his best game of the season with 83 rushing yards on 16 carries with 25 receiving yards on two catches.
On defense, Kendell Beckwith and Vernon Hargreaves led the way with nine tackles each. Gerald McCoy got himself three tackles for loss, and Robert Ayers got himself one as well. On a low note, the Bucs once again did not record a sack.
Though he was the hero in the end, kicker Nick Folk was not consistent, missing one PAT and two field goals, one from 46 yards and the other from 49.
The Bucs will take this momentum into a short week where they will host the New England Patriots on Thursday.