Giants vs. Buccaneers: What We Learned from Big Blue's 41-34 Comeback over Bucs
What a game. What a comeback.
But honestly, do you expect anything less from Eli Manning in the fourth quarter? Can you honestly count him out of any game if it is in striking distance?
No, you can't.
The Giants trailed 27-13 in the third quarter, Ahmad Bradshaw, Domenik Hixon and David Diehl all left with injuries and Manning had three interceptions in the first half alone.
Yet they were never out of the game.
The Giants rallied to score 28 points in the second half, 25 of which came in the fourth quarter. The Giants picked up their first win of 2012 by knocking off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41-34 in a wild and crazy game at MetLife Stadium.
The Giants will have only a couple of days to gather themselves and travel to play the Carolina Panthers on a special Thursday night game on the NFL Network.
What did we learn from the Giants against Tampa on Sunday? Click through to continue.
Will Beatty Had a Terrible Game
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On the Giants' second possession of the game, Will Beatty must have made both Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning want to pull out their own hair.
Beatty had the rare lineman's attempt to catch a touchdown pass, but missed.
Then on 3rd-and-1, Beatty is called for a false start, which backed up the Giants up to 3rd-and-6.
The Giants eventually had to settle for a field goal that made it 6-3 Giants. Beatty blew a major opportunity to score an early and rare touchdown, then looked even worse by making a bad penalty.
If David Diehl's knee injury is serious and keeps him out of games, Beatty needs to play better. I know he's been out for a while now, but he's protecting Manning's blindside and has to step up in the future.
Justin Tryon; Still Terrible
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For the second week in a row, Justin Tryon did not look like an NFL defensive back.
With the Giants up 34-27 in the fourth quarter, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman engineered a four-play drive against the defense and threw up a deep pass which was either going to be caught by Mike Williams or intercepted by Tryon.
Williams ends up using his height, has the ball bounce off Tryon's helmet before falling into his arms for a 41-yard game-tying touchdown.
If that wasn't bad enough, Tryon nearly got killed on another big play that wasn't meant to be.
Freeman was again trying to drive the field and threw up a 29-yard pass to Williams down the sideline, which would have set up first down at the 16-yard line.
The catch was reviewed and reversed, as Williams never maintained control of the ball, a call the referees got right.
But on the play, Tryon never saw the ball get thrown to Williams and looked awful on the play.
Thankfully, Antrel Rolle was there to knock the ball away from Williams. Otherwise, Tryon could have been an even bigger goat than he was last week.
Either way, Tryon is playing terribly and really should not be on the field as a starter, but is due to injuries to the secondary.
The Pass Rush Is Quiet Again
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In two games in 2012, the Giants defense has four sacks. Normally, the Giants defenders have a lot more, but that is not the case through Week 2.
Against Tampa, Jason Pierre-Paul picked up a sack, as did linebacker Chase Blackburn. None for Justin Tuck and Osi Umemyiora, who have yet to record one.
Granted, the Giants have played mobile quarterbacks who scramble very well, which was the case with Freeman being able to make decisions on his feet.
Freeman was also able to release the ball and make quick passes to avoid getting sacked.
Either way, the Giants still need to improve their pass rush and start picking up more sacks to avoid having another team put up 34 on them like Tampa did.
The Red Zone Offense MUST Improve
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How many times have we talked about the Giants needing a better game plan when it comes to red-zone offense?
Has offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride learned to not be so predictable with his play calling?
On four separate drives, the Giants had opportunities to put up four touchdowns. Instead, Lawrence Tynes was four-for-four on short field goal opportunities.
While getting three points is still better than none, getting seven points is a hell of a lot better and the Giants didn't convert on those four drives.
The only one that the Giants did convert on was the final drive where Tampa basically let Andre Brown walk into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
I know Tom Coughlin is very loyal to Gilbride and likely will never fire him no matter how crappy the offense looks. If that is the case, Gilbride needs to be a little more creative.
He has a nice, tall target in Ramses Barden, who Eli Manning can throw a fade route/jump-ball to in the back of the end zone.
Gilbride's play-calling was a lot better in the second half, but for three quarters it was terrible.
The red zone offense of the Giants must improve, and I put that on Gilbride's shoulders since he runs the offense.
Martellus Bennett Redeemed Himself in the Second Half
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Martellus Bennett had a tale of two halves on Sunday.
In the first half he looked awful, dropping a sure touchdown pass in the end zone after Will Beatty got called for a false start.
Bennett also had a couple of big drops in the game that would have kept Giants drives going; one of his drops was intercepted by Bucs' defender Mason Foster.
As bad as Bennett looked, he turned it around and looked like a beast in the second half.
With the game tied at 27, Eli Manning threw a ball deep towards the end zone in Bennett's direction. Bennett beat Brandon McDonald, catching the ball and somersaulting into the end zone, giving the Giants a 34-27 lead.
Bennett finished the game with five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown, making it two straight games that the Giants' tight end has caught a touchdown pass.
Take away the few drops and Bennett has really established himself as a legitimate passing target with a solid grip on the tight end spot.
Andre Brown Stepped Up for Ahmad Bradshaw
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Ahmad Bradshaw got knocked out of the game with a neck injury, so it was up to the second and third running backs to carry the load for the running game.
Instead of David Wilson being the go-to back, it ended up being Andre Brown, who had his breakout game for the Giants.
Brown had 13 carries for 71 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown that put the Giants ahead 41-34.
Brown also had two catches for 19 yards, giving him 90 total yards.
Losing Bradshaw to an injury is always a tough loss, but it's not the first time the Giants have dealt with his injury.
If Bradshaw has to miss Week 3 on Thursday night against Carolina, both Brown and Wilson should be expected to step in and step up their roles against the Panthers.
However, on Sunday, Brown really had a good game running the ball and should get more opportunities to be productive.
Victor Cruz Redeemed Himself for Week 1 with a Big Week 2
We all know Victor Cruz had an awful game in Week 1 against the Cowboys.
That was all forgotten on Sunday because against the Bucs, Cruz looked like the superstar that captivated fans in 2011 by making big plays.
Cruz had 11 catches for 179 yards and one touchdown.
That touchdown was an 80-yard strike from Eli Manning to the king of the salsa dance, which brought the Giants within two points.
After the touchdown and the salsa dance celebration, Cruz pointed up to the sky to pay tribute to his grandmother, who passed away earlier in the week.
I'm sure Cruz was playing with a very heavy heart and wanted to make his grandmother proud. With his performance, I think he did just that.
Also, for the second week in a row, Cruz led the team with total catches, giving him 17 on the season.
Hakeem Nicks Was an Absolute Monster
Hakeem Nicks was hobbling during the game, but that didn't stop him from owning the Tampa Bay secondary.
Nicks had 10 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown, having an even better game than Victor Cruz, who had a great game himself.
In the second half, it looked like Nicks simply couldn't be stopped unless he was getting held. On one replay, Aqib Talib got away with a horse-collar hold/pass interference while trying to cover Nicks.
Other than that, the secondary was no match, as Nicks made two really great catches in the fourth quarter. One 20-yard catch set up the touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett.
The other was a 50-yard pass that, if Nicks didn't get tripped up by his heel, would have been the go-ahead touchdown pass. But Nicks was stopped at the 11-yard line.
Even with the nagging injury, Nicks could not be stopped. Any time Eli Manning put the ball near him, Nicks was able to make the catch.
Just like in the playoffs for the Giants, Nicks showed everyone again that he can simply take over a game and dominate, which makes him so valuable to the offense.
Eli Manning Does It Again with Another Comeback
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Eli Manning could not have played a worse half of football than he did on Sunday. He threw three interceptions in the first half, which all led to Buccaneers touchdowns.
Late in the second quarter, Manning's intended pass to Victor Cruz was picked off by Eric Wright and returned for a 60-yard touchdown which gave Tampa a 24-13 lead at halftime.
In the second half—and more importantly, in the fourth quarter—Manning was up to his old tricks again.
After Lawrence Tynes converted his fourth field goal of the game, Manning led three scoring drives, threw two touchdown passes, nearly threw a third and engineered another game-winning drive for the Giants.
Manning was 31-for-51 for 510 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The 510 yards was a career high for Manning, who looked like a completely different quarterback in the second half; one who made better decisions along with better throws downfield.
Of the 510 yards, 295 of those were in the second half. Manning threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and had no turnovers in the second half.
As bad as the first half was, nobody will remember that because of the strong finish and Manning's performance. He continues to show everyone why he is one of the best quarterbacks when the ball is in his hands during the fourth quarter.