Another fourth quarter, another heart-stopper for Eli Manning and the defending Super Bowl champs.
Despite three first-half interceptions, quarterback Eli Manning finished the afternoon with three scores and 510 passing yards, while wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz each touted at least ten receptions and a touchdown grab.
The Giants improve to 1-1 on the year, squeaking out a thriller at MetLife Stadium.
Check out a complete position-by-position week 2 report card for key Giants.
Eli Manning: B+
Despite three second quarter interceptions, Manning churned out a great performance, finishing the day with three touchdowns and 510 passing yards. He overcame a bevy of red-zone drops and a handful of turnovers to lead Big Blue to 25 fourth-quarter points.
There was plenty of zip on Manning’s first-half passes, but an under-thrown ball to tight end Martellus Bennett and an errant out-route throw to wideout Victor Cruz lead to two consecutive interceptions. Eli also struggled reading the flat for most of the first half, highlighted by CB Eric Wright’s 60-yard “pick six.”
Manning’s timing in the screen game looked particularly off, leading to a couple of botched swing plays for halfback Andre Brown.
However, when the fourth quarter rolled around, Eli returned to star form. Manning frequented back-shoulder hot reads to Hakeem Nicks, and picked apart single press coverage en route to an 80-yard catch and run from Victor Cruz. Tampa seemed to abandon the zone late in the game, and Manning capitalized on vertical sideline routes. A 33-yard touchdown bomb to Bennett and a 50-yard floater to Nicks capped off a remarkable crunch-time effort.
All in all, Eli’s final grade is hurt by a rough second quarter, but he still propelled the Giants to their first win of 2012.
Andre Brown: A+
A proverbial panic button for the Giants’ backfield, Brown was thrusted into the game after Ahmad Bradshaw hit the sidelines with a neck injury. He performed brilliantly, hitting interior runs well and finishing with the game’s winning two-yard touchdown scamper.
Brown notched 71 yards on just 13 touches, good for a 5.5 yards-per-carry average. He kept Big Blue’s offense from becoming one-dimensional, picked up blitzes in the shotgun, and touted some fancy footwork on a few long runs.
Henry Hynoski: A
Hynoski sprung Brown for a couple of runs, and flaunted the physical style of play that fans fell in love with last year. Despite sustaining an injury from an Eric Wright collision, Hynoski returned to the second-half action. You can’t ask for much more from a second-year fullback.
Ahmad Bradshaw: N/A
Bradshaw took five carries for just 16 yards, but he didn’t hang around long enough to earn a full evaluation here. The Giants will meticulously monitor Bradshaw’s neck as a Thursday showdown in Carolina creeps closer.
Hakeem Nicks: A+
If there’s any grade higher than an A+, Nicks certainly deserves it.
Despite a shortened practice regimen and a lingering knee injury, Hakeem Nicks torched the Tampa Bay secondary for 10 grabs, 199 receiving yards and a second-quarter touchdown.
Nicks’ outstanding route-running ability was on full display on Sunday, and Eli Manning targeted him more than any Giants receiver in the fourth quarter. Nicks came away with a crucial 50-yard catch that set up the game’s winning score, and finished with a 19.9 yard-per-reception average.
Nicks was held up by corner Aqib Talib all day long, but still made a colossal impact for the G-Men.
Victor Cruz: A+
Not to go unnoticed in the Giants’ receiving core was Victor Cruz, who racked up a team-high 11 catches for 179 yards. His fourth-quarter 80-yard touchdown burst swung all momentum to the Giants’ sideline.
After dropping three passes in the season opener, Cruz was efficient on Sunday, and worked mid-level routes all game.
Ramses Barden: B+
While Barden only recorded one catch on two targets, it was a crucial 24-yard grab that helped set up the game-winner. Barden stepped up when third receiver Domenik Hixon left the game early, and could see augmented reps after Sunday.
Domenik Hixon: N/A
Like Ahmad Bradshaw, Hixon’s first-half injury kept him shelved for most of the action. He doesn’t get a grade here, despite notching one catch for 12 yards.
Martellus Bennett: A
Bennett’s second-drive end-zone drop hurts him a bit here, but it was still an inspiring performance from the new Giant. His final stat line bares five catches, 72 receiving yards and a touchdown.
What stands out about Bennett’s game, of course, was the 33-yard score. Eli Manning’s pass was a lofting, touch throw, showing faith in his tight end to out-muscle the defense and make a clean jump on the ball.
Like last week, Bennett was an impact performer in this one. He has an enticing season ahead of him if he continues to play at this level.
Sean Locklear: A
Locklear protected the edge all game long, and continues to be one of the Giants’ best options up front. When RT David Diehl went down in the first half, Locklear seamlessly shifted from the left side. It was Locklear who allowed the pocket to close early on Manning’s first pick of the day, but he still gets a stand-out grade.
Chris Snee: A
Snee helped pave the way for a dominant inside ground game, muscling through Tampa’s front lines all afternoon. Snee, along with fellow guard Kevin Boothe and center David Baas, put out a reassuring performance in the middle, after a rough first outing against Dallas.
David Baas: A
After a paltry first effort, Baas opened countless holes for Andre Brown on Sunday. While he was flagged for a holding call, Baas exceeded expectations against the Bucs.
Kevin Boothe: A-
Boothe was out-muscled on a stuffed third-quarter Andre Brown run, but looked strong on the inside for most of the game. He and Baas split the Buccaneers’ front seven on two big first-down runs.
Will Beatty: B
Beatty was thrown into the left tackle spot when Diehl left, and for the most part, held things down without a problem. He was flagged for two key false start calls, and dropped a first-quarter touchdown pass from Manning, but the Giants didn’t give up a single sack, and Beatty passes as an emergency option.
David Diehl: N/A
Diehl's injury is a costly one, and we'll see how serious things are as more information comes in.
Jason Pierre-Paul: A+
Pierre-Paul was a bona-fide star on the edge on Sunday, finishing with a team-high eight tackles and one of Big Blue’s two sacks. He converged on the run well, and was in Buccaneers’ quarterback Josh Freeman’s face on two straight plays late in the second quarter. He also lead the team in tackles for losses with two.
Rocky Bernard: A
The Giants did a good job sniffing out the run, and veteran tackle Rocky Bernard came away with five total stops. Bernard and fellow DT Linval Joseph crammed the middle all game, and Tampa halfback Doug Martin finished with just a 3.3 yards-per-carry average.
Linval Joseph: A
Joseph lead the Giants with two QB hits, and was in on four tackles as well. It was another big game for the third-year pro.
Justin Tuck: B+
Tuck actually played a bigger role in run defense than pass rush, and finished the afternoon with three tackles. He failed to tally a sack or quarterback hit, but stayed active in the Tampa backfield.
Osi Umenyiora: C+
It was another limited effort for the two-time All-Pro, who’s only noticeable play was a sniffed out D.J. Ware screen on a third-down. Umenyiora now has just two tackles and no QB hits in two games.
Michael Boley: A-
Boley notched his second interception in as many games--this time coming in on the play that sealed the game for New York. He also recorded a pass deflection and a tackle for a loss, and sniffed out a third-and-16 screen play in the second quarter. However, Boley struggled a bit when defending tight end Dallas Clark late in the fourth quarter.
Chase Blackburn: B+
Like last week, Blackburn continues to bite hard on play action fakes. However, he was in on a sack, and anchored a strong day of run defense.
Mathias Kiwanuka: B
Kiwanuka over-pursued on a Doug Martin touchdown run, and finished the day with two tackles, one going for a loss.
Jacquian Williams: B
Williams was used on a few blitz packages, but failed to get to Freeman at any point. He boasted three tackles in run defense, but wasn’t much of a stand-out in this one.
Spencer Paysinger: B
Paysinger saw limited reps and finished with two tackles. Like Williams, he wasn’t too involved in pass coverage or up front on Sunday.
Kenny Phillips: A-
Phillips laid a perfect hit on a crossing Vincent Jackson late in the game, deflected a pass, and finished third on the team with six tackles. In a secondary that continues to struggle with consistency and identity, Phillips is New York’s most reliable player.
Michael Coe: B-
Coe was torched by Vincent Jackson on his first-half touchdown catch, although some of the blame here lies on defensive coordinator Perry Fewell for matching an inexperienced corner on a Pro-Bowl caliber wideout. Coe also came up with one of New York’s five pass deflections.
Antrel Rolle: C
Rolle failed to shift over in time on several long balls to Vincent Jackson, particularly a first-half bomb that went for 41 yards. He finished the day with five stops, and will need to step up his play as the Giants battle with shoddy corners.
Justin Tryon: C-
Tryon was beat by Jackson for 19 yards on the game’s final drive, and looked out of place for much of the afternoon against Josh Freeman and the Bucs’ passing game.
Corey Webster: C-
Webster came up with a game-changing interception, but was gassed by Vincent Jackson the entire first-half. He fared better when lined up against No. 2 wideout Mike Williams, but will need to return to his ’11 form against Carolina’s Steve Smith next week.
Jayron Hosley: C-
Rookie Jayron Hosley spent some second-half time lined up with Jackson, and was charged with Mike Williams’ fourth-quarter touchdown grab.
Lawrence Tynes: A
While Tynes came up a little short on a few kickoffs, he drilled all four of his field goal attempts. Tynes connected on two 24-yarders, and was good on attempts from 36 and 37 yards as well. While the masses at MetLife were reluctant to see him in the redzone, you couldn’t get a better performance from the veteran placekicker.
David Wilson: A
Rookie David Wilson continues to be held from the Giants’ backfield, but made his presence felt on kick returns this time around, busting a big 44-yard return in the second-half. He finished with a 28.7 yard average on three returns (former Pro-Bowler Devin Hester boasts a career return average of 23.7 yards).
Steve Weatherford: A
It was another strong effort from Weatherford, who pinned Tampa inside their 20 in the second quarter. He maxed out at 47 yards.
Rueben Randle: B+
Randle’s fair catch calls were a little suspect, but he did show some blinding speed on a 45-yard punt return that was eventually called back.
Final Grade: A
It wasn't pretty, but the Giants got their first win of the season. The offensive play-calling was particularly bold in the fourth quarter, trying the vertical pass on third downs and testing a shotgun handoff on the decisive two-point conversion.
Tom Coughlin and his staff kept New York motivated despite a flurry of turnovers, injuries, and busted defensive plays.