Welcome to my weekly post-game column, where I’ll take a look at the moment(s) the game turned either in favor or against the Buccaneers. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive look at all the reasons the Bucs won or lost, but instead the key moment or two where things went north or south for the team.
If there’s one thing I pride myself on as a beat reporter, it’s being unbiased and fair in all of the analysis that I do, even toward players or teams I may have a proclivity toward. And as much as I’d love to give the Bucs credit for the turning point in Monday night’s ball game, the biggest reason why Tampa Bay is 6-2 and not 5-3 doesn’t have anything to do with a player wearing red and pewter.
Instead it was Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones, he of the 18-point comeback victory in his NFL starting debut a year ago against the Bucs, who fell flat on his face despite the Bucs worst defensive showing of the season. Jones, who finished the game 25-41 for 256 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, made the first of several back-breaking errors early in the second half, when he tossed his first pick of the game.
After the Giants kick return team set the offense up with great field position at the 44-yard line, Jones’ first pass of the second half quickly squashed any advantage New York may have had. Facing a 2nd-and-8 from his own 46-yard line, Jones looked like he wanted a one-on-one to the boundary between Darius Slayton and Jamel Dean, but came off the throw before the receiver worked open down the field.
Instead Jones lobbed an inexplicably poor throw right to Carlton Davis, who was sitting deep in his zone when he saw the free gift floating his way. Credit Shaq Barrett for discarding the Giants blocking tight end and pressuring Jones into a poor decision, but if Jones makes the right read it’s a touchdown on the other side of the field.
Instead Jones committed his first of two crucial turnovers, giving the Bucs life near midfield for a field goal attempt that cut the Giants’ lead to 14-9. But it may have been his second interception of the game, with the Giants leading 17-15 almost three minutes into the fourth quarter, that truly doomed New York.
The Giants actually block this play up very well, but Jones drops too deep in the pocket and rolls right into Barrett, who gets off his block to grab the second-year quarterback’s jersey and force an ill-advised late throw. Sean Murphy-Bunting, who had touched the ball one time all year, made an impressive half-diving interception, and the Bucs thwarted an almost certain Giants scoring drive.
There is certainly some good stuff by the Bucs defense on these two plays, but both of the team’s interceptions were far more a product of Daniel Jones falling apart than anything brilliant the defense did. Arians admitted as much after the game.
“The young quarterback (Jones) – he’s still trying to do too much,” Arians said after the game. “When you’re in the grasp with those guys (Bucs pass rushers), it cost them basically the ballgame throwing those two picks. God bless him – he is hard to handle and he’s a kid that thinks he can make a play.”
The Bucs weren’t good on Monday night, especially on defense, but luckily for them Daniel Jones was worse. The road is about to get much tougher over the next four weeks, as the Saints, Panthers, Rams and Chiefs form a formidable next month of games.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft