Buccaneers vs. Giants: Porous Pass Defense Black Eye on 2012 Season

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterSeptember 16, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 16:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants carries the ball as  Ronde Barber #20 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defends on September 16, 2012 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The bad news for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that the team is no longer fumble free, as Arrelious Benn coughed up a first-quarter kickoff return. Everyone knows how much head coach Greg Schiano hates fumbles, even if Quincy Black did recover for the Buccaneers.

The even worse news is that Tampa Bay coughed up a 27-16 lead in the final frame by giving up 25 points in the fourth quarter to lose to the New York Giants, 41-34.

How do you think Schiano is going to feel about that?

After handling the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, 16-10, Tampa Bay took a 24-13 lead into halftime, and with a field apiece for both teams, Tampa still couldn't hold onto an 11-point cushion with just 15 minutes to play.

“We had a pretty good lead,” said Schiano in his postgame press conference when asked if the Buccaneers had let one get away. “If you look at the game, what changed is in the first half we got takeaways.

“It’s not like we did a great job of shutting them down in the first half; we got takeaways, and that led to points. In the second half, they got takeaways.”

The Buccaneers picked off Giants quarterback Eli Manning three times in the first half. Mason Foster and Brandon McDonald each had interceptions, then Eric Wright picked off a late second-quarter Manning pass and returned it 60 yards for a score.

But in the second half, Josh Freeman had a few miscues.

With 34 seconds left in the third quarter, Corey Webster picked off a Freeman pass that led to a fourth-quarter field goal—the Giants’ first three of 25 points in the fourth.

Freeman’s second turnover didn’t result in any New York points, but it was the last play for the Buccaneers on offense, as Michael Boley found a Freeman pass with just five seconds on the clock, stopping any threat Tampa Bay could make to tie the game.

The two Freeman picks weren’t the reason Tampa Bay squandered its lead late in the game, but they were drive-killers. And they marred a decent but not stellar effort by the offense Sunday.

Freeman passed for 243 yards and threw two touchdowns to go along with his two interceptions. The first was a 29-yard connection with Vincent Jackson in the second quarter, and the second was a score-tying 41-yard bomb to Mike Williams.

Rookie running back Doug Martin carried the ball 20 times for 66 yards to augment Freeman’s passing.

Where Tampa Bay did break down was in its pass defense, and it seems to be a growing negative trend.

Newton, last year’s 4,000-yard passing rookie sensation, put up 303 yards through the air in Week 1 against the Buccaneers. On Sunday, Manning, who threw for just under 5,000 yards in 2011, tossed 510 yards' worth of completions at Tampa Bay.

If the Buccaneers can’t keep quarterbacks from torching the secondary—and there are many fantastic opposing quarterbacks on the Bucs' schedule—it’s going to be a long season in Tampa Bay.