The atmosphere following the Giants’ thrilling 41-34 comeback win over the stunned Buccaneers was all smiles and pats on the backs, but the heart-attack inducing style of winning isn’t the desired approach by head coach Tom Coughlin.
Ultimately, his two-time Super Bowl MVP?quarterback came through.
“[Eli Manning] made a couple of bad plays but he didn’t get discouraged,” Coughlin said. “We talked about the character of our team [showing] up in the second half, because we were only down two scores. … [Manning] kept hanging in there and believing and finally the big plays came back for us.”
The big plays came mostly in the second half, via the passing game, as Manning, Hakeem Nicks (10 receptions, 199 yards and a touchdown) and Victor Cruz destroyed the Tampa Bay secondary.
Cruz, who finished with 11 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown, noted there wasn’t any tension at halftime, considering the veteran group.
“We were playing badly and it’s pressure [being down so much] but it’s
fun too, because I knew we’d throw it a bunch and we just needed to
convert some big plays,” Cruz said. “We needed to get open for Eli so he
could make some big plays.”
“It was exciting to see guys getting fired up while we’re coming back,”
Manning said. “Obviously, it’s not the situation you always want to be
in, but it was still fun to get back to playing good football.
“As a quarterback you like to throw it and spread them out [and] guys were just getting open. We kept fighting [and] those guys [Nicks and Cruz] are a great 1-2 punch. … But there are lots of things we need to do to get better.”
The cynic would argue that Manning’s heroics wouldn’t have been needed if he wasn’t a turnover machine in the first half. He may have thrown for the second-most yards in a game in the franchise’s history, but Manning was anything but stellar in the first half. He notched 510 yards passing, but it was the errors that made the Buccaneers upset-minded in the first place.
Manning’s biggest mistake was a pick-six to Eric Wright to close out the first half.
The interception return for a touchdown was particularly irksome to Coughlin, as the replays showed how listless the offense looked in trying to corral Wright. The Giants left the field amid a chorus of boos but it didn’t faze a team that’s already been there.
Defensive end Justin Tuck said Coughlin didn’t appear any madder than usual in the halftime locker room, but even if he was he wouldn’t have had to say much because the Giants already knew what they had to do to get back into the game.
“There weren’t any Hall of Fame speeches or pep talks or anything like that,” said Tuck. “We knew what we had to correct and we made those corrections in the second half.”
Big Blue notes
»Giants’ legend Phil Simms holds the single-game franchise mark with 513 passing yards in Oct. 1985.
»Third-string running back Andre Brown picked up the slack for Ahmad Bradshaw, who was knocked out of the game with a neck injury midway through the second quarter. Bradshaw finished with 16 yards on five carries, while Brown tallied 71 yards on 13 carries, the game-winning touchdown, and a two-point conversion following Cruz’s score. Coughlin said Brown really stepped up: “Andre came to the park and he wasn’t sure his role but he did an excellent job. He probably only thought he’d come in and play just special teams, but he did an outstanding job.”
»Left tackle Will Beatty dropped a sure-fire touchdown as a tackle-eligible late in the first quarter with the game tied 3-3. They settled for a field goal. It proved doubly-costly for the Giants as it extended the drive, which allowed starting right tackle David Diehl to injure his right knee a couple of plays later. Diehl did not return.
»There’s currently no debate as to which rookie running back was worthy of a No. 1 pick, as the Bucs’ Doug Martin is lapping the Giants’ David Wilson. Martin, who was selected No. 31 overall in last April’s draft, finished with 66 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, while Wilson, picked one spot later, only had six yards on three carries.
»Tight end Martellus Bennett scored for the second-straight game and has become a prime target for Manning in the scoring zone. Bennett, who was an afterthought during his years in Dallas, notched five receptions for 71 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown in the closing minutes.
»Buccaneers’ wideout Vincent Jackson victimized the Giants’ cornerbacks all game, as he notched 128 yards on just five receptions and a touchdown. Jackson had a long of 41 yards. The touchdown grab was a perfectly-thrown 29-yarder from Freeman, who tossed it to Jackson’s outside shoulder towards the front pylon over a helpless Michael Coe.
»Freeman couldn’t avoid the turnover bug either, as he threw two interceptions. The first was by cornerback Corey Webster and the second was on the Buccaneers’ final drive by linebacker Michael Boley, which extinguished Tampa’s hopes of sending the game into overtime. Freeman finished 15-of-28 for 243 yards, the two picks and a pair of 41-yard touchdowns.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.