The Giants’ defense needed a “get-right” game following their previous outing when they were excoriated, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided the remedy, in a 32-18 New York win.
New York (5-4) used a staunch and opportunistic defense to keep Tampa Bay (3-5) off-balance throughout. The Giants obviously had an easier time stifling an offense led by a rookie quarterback than, say, a future Hall of Famer like Drew Brees, but they’ll definitely take the win, especially since it keeps them atop the NFC East.
Eli Manning didn’t light it up as he did last week, but he was more than capable in going 26-of-40 for 213 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He ultimately outdueled Tampa’s prodigious first-round pick, Jameis Winston, who while statistically efficient in going 19-of-36 for 249 yards (no touchdowns or interceptions), he failed to sustain long scoring drives. Tampa had more than a handful of chances inside the red zone (five trips), but could only muster four field goals and just one touchdown.
The win gave Manning his 96th career regular-season victory, which broke a tie with Phil Simms for the most in franchise history.
The Giants’ defense never broke, as they utilized a bend-but-don’t-break mentality. They failed to really apply much pressure on Winston (no sacks), but what they lacked in actual takedowns, they made up for with timely turnovers. And despite a league-worst nine sacks, the Giants are now a plus-12 in the turnover ratio, which is tops in the league.
Big Blue did just enough to get back on track, as they now have a huge week ahead of them in preparation for the undefeated Patriots next Sunday.
1. Peer Pressure
Odell Beckham Jr. is more of a household name than Buccaneers’ wideout Mike Evans, but the latter made sure that those who don’t know his name, now do. While Beckham had a solid game in his own right, garnering nine catches for 105 yards – including clutch work on the team’s final four-minute drive to ice the game -- Evans took the competition to another level as he racked up eight catches for a game-high 152 yards. The former Texas A&M star had four receptions for 106 yards in the first half alone, as he appeared to play with a chip on his shoulder.
2. Battle of attrition
Defensive end Johnathan Hankins was on his way to a standout performance, especially after he forced a Doug Martin fumble early on, but that would prove to be the highlight of his game, as he was ruled out for the remainder following a pectoral injury early in the second quarter. Team officials noted it’s a torn muscle, which means Big Blue’s best interior defender will likely be out for the season -- just as the team got back its best defensive end in Jason Pierre-Paul. Hankins could go on injured reserve (IR) by Monday, noted a team official, which would actually make room on the roster for the Giants, as they need to add left tackle Will Beatty, who is coming back from his own torn pectoral. The Giants’ defense has been barraged with injuries this season -- whether it’s Pierre-Paul’s tribulations, Hankins going down, or linebacker Jon Beason being put on season-ending IR. Cornerback Prince Amukamara is still a week or two away while dealing with his own pectoral malady, meaning there’s a lot of meaningful Big Blue defenders who won’t be able to hold down the fort going forward.
3. The return
He only played 41 total defensive plays, and had minimal impact by garnering just two tackles, but it was good to see Pierre-Paul at his customary right defensive end spot. Other than a neutral-zone infraction late in the first half, Pierre-Paul was relatively quiet, but he managed to get a couple of hits on Winston, and harass him on a handful of other drop backs. Nobody expected Pierre-Paul to step right back on the field and look like his Pro Bowl self, but at the very least, he got some valuable reps and his football legs back under him in anticipation of next week’s huge tilt at MetLife against New England