Buccaneers vs. Giants: Tampa Bay's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 2
While the loss is disappointing on the surface, there were several positive developments.
For one, it's apparent that the attention to detail Greg Schiano focused on in the offseason has worked based on the way the linebackers are playing compared to last season. Mason Foster, Quincy Black and Lavonte David are a much-improved group.
Offensively, the Bucs scored 34 points—the most since December 26, 2010 against the Seahawks when they scored 38 points.
Granted, cornerback Eric Wright contributed with an interception return for a touchdown, but nevertheless, the team showed itself capable of scoring throughout the afternoon.
With that in mind, which individual performances stood out? Good, bad or indifferent, whose play on Sunday is sure to be the subject of water-cooler talk on Monday?
Who were the Bucs' biggest winners and losers versus the Giants?
Winner: Receiver Vincent Jackson
The Bucs' most expensive offensive weapon finally showed himself worthy of the title, hauling in five catches for 128 yards and a touchdown against New York.
Almost as important as the numbers themselves is the realization that Jackson is as dominant an offensive player the Bucs have had—possibly ever.
He showed great speed and ability, consistently beating coverage by outleaping and outrunning defenders.
Quarterback Josh Freeman, who threw for 243 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, hooked up with Jackson on a 29-yard scoring strike in the second quarter.
The touchdown reception is his first as a member of the Buccaneers.
The game served as a nice bounceback for Jackson after dropping several passes the previous week against Carolina. In that game, Jackson caught four passes for 47 yards, but was targeted 10 times total.
Sunday's performance is the kind of game that can spring a player with positive momentum in the immediate games ahead, something the Bucs are sure to need as they face the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins over the next two weeks.
Loser: Cornerback Aqib Talib
Aqib Talib didn't just have a bad game; he had an awful game. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to find a player who had a worse performance on Sunday than Talib did.
New York's Eli Manning completed 31 passes for 510 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs, of which 21 of those passes found their way into the arms of receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks caught 10 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown, almost exclusively against the coverage of Talib, who was consistently out of position and clearly overmatched on the afternoon.
Talib's performance is even tougher to stomach given the scope of the Giants' second-half turnaround, as Eli and company scored 25 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Talib will have much better days than the one he just turned in, but regardless, he is far and away the biggest loser on the day for the Bucs.
Winner: Linebacker Mason Foster
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Linebacker Mason Foster played like a man possessed.
Not only did he pile up a team-leading 12 tackles on the afternoon, but he also added an interception to his box score.
In all, Foster flashed the range, quickness and toughness that the Bucs have lacked at the position for a few seasons.
He delivered several big hits, and along with fellow linebacker Lavonte David, showed that the future of the Bucs' linebacking corps is in much better condition than a year ago.
Loser: Buccaneers Defensive Line
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
For as much credit as they rightfully received following the beatdown they delivered against the Carolina Panthers last week, the defensive front is equally as guilty for the letdown this afternoon against the Giants.
The unit allowed seldom-used (and little-known) running back Andre Brown to rush for 71 yards on 13 carries (5.5 yards per carry), behind a beat-up Giants offensive line.
Worse yet, due to the lack of pass rush (oh no, not again) against Eli Manning, the defense allowed 510 passing yards and 604 total offensive yards.
Oh, and 41 points.
All of which begs the question: Was last week's performance against Carolina an anomaly, or was this week's?