Daniel Jones pulled off a second-half comeback reminiscent of his predecessor, Eli Manning, in his first-ever start as New York Giants quarterback — overcoming an 18-point halftime deficit without Saquon Barkley to pull out his team’s first victory of the season, 32-31.
Trailing by six points with 3:24 remaining, Jones led the Giants on an eight-play, 75-yard drive for the win, scrambling in from seven yards out on a 4th-&-5 with 1:16 remaining.
His big day looked poised to end in defeat as the porous Giants defense allowed the Buccaneers to drive to their 16-yard-line, butt Matt Gay missed a 34-yard field goal as time expired to secure New York’s first win of the season.
The No. 6 pick of the 2019 draft completed 23-of-26 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns (two passing), carrying the Giants offense to their highest output this season.
More impressively was the fact that he was without the star running back in Barkley, who injured his ankle in the second quarter.
The initial diagnosis was promising after he came out for the second half on crutches and in a boot. While he will miss some time, he suffered a sprained ankle.
Jones’ game-winning touchdown provided the Giants with their first lead of the day as the defense struggled to contain the Buccaneers’ potent passing game.
Wide receiver Mike Evans recorded a monster day, hauling in eight catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns — including a 44-yard catch with 34 seconds left to set the Buccaneers up for a win.
He and Jameis Winston ensured that Jones would play from behind the moment he stepped on the field as they hooked up for a 21-yard touchdown to cap off the 10-play drive that took over five minutes.
Jones connected on four of his first five passes, bringing the Giants within Tampa Bay’s red zone before things stalled for a field goal.
He provided a quick reply after the defense allowed Winston and Evans to connect for a second-consecutive touchdown — directing a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with him keeping it for a seven-yard rush to make it a 12-10 game (Tampa Bay missed both of their extra points).
That kind of athleticism is what was lacking when Manning was under center as Jones made several plays with his legs to open up more opportunities for the Giants offense, including a scramble to pick up a first down on a third-and-five earlier in that touchdown drive.
Jones’ first day as a starter didn’t come without its fair share of growing pains.
Shortly after Barkley exited the game late in the second quarter, with the Giants trailing 18-10, Jones was sacked and fumbled possession away for his second-career turnover.
With a shortened field, the Giants defense stood no chance as Winston hit Evans for his third touchdown of the game, this time from 20 yards out.
The Buccaneers scored on each of their six first-half possessions, taking a 28-10 lead into halftime.
Jones and the Giants offense came out firing in the second half, quickly cutting Tampa’s lead to three thanks to touchdowns on consecutive possessions.
On Jones’ first attempt of the third quarter, a short pass to tight end Evan Engram went 75 yards for his first-career passing touchdown followed by a two-point conversion. Engram was one Jones’ favorite target on Sunday as the two connected six times for 113 yards.
No. 1 receiver Sterling Shepard led all Giants receivers with seven catches and 100 yards.
After the Giants defense’s first stop of the game, Jones led an eight-play, 80-yard drive to make it a 28-25 game. The 22-year-old floated a perfectly-touched pass to the right side of the end zone which was caught by a diving Shepard.
As soon as the Giants offense gained momentum — as well as the defense — the offensive line evaporated as Nate Solder allowed four sacks to Buccaneers defensive end Shaq Barrett.
Barrett’s fourth takedown of the game was a damning blow for the Giants when he strip-sacked Jones in the fourth quarter just one play after the Giants intercepted Winston for their first takeaway of the season.
The fumble led to a Bucs field goal to go up six with six minutes remaining.