One week after containing rushing-threat QB Cam Newton, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new-look defense picked off prolific pocket passer Eli Manning three times Sunday at MetLife Stadium, leading to a 24-13 halftime lead over the New York Giants.
Manning did lead the Giants’ offense to 277 first-half yards, but the Bucs were opportunistic when they needed to be. The home team’s only touchdown of the half was a 23-yard catch by WR Hakeem Nicks, who had five catches for 93 yards. Fellow starter Victor Cruz caught nine first-half passes for 94 yards as Manning repeatedly worked it to him in the middle of the field.
Three members of the Giants’ offense left the game with injuries before halftime: starting right tackle David Diehl (knee), starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) and reserve wide receiver Domenik Hixon (concussion).
The Buccaneers deferred after winning the toss and rookie RB David Wilson took the opening kickoff out of the end zone to the Giants’ 30. After throwing a quick slant to Nicks on the first play, Manning pumped a similar play on second down then went down the right sideline to the same receiver. CB
The Bucs dodged a bullet on the ensuing kickoff when
A rare mis-hit on the kickoff by
An end-around by
The punt was fair caught at the 11 and Tampa Bay’s defense got the ball back one play later. Manning tried to hit Bennett down the left seam but Foster cut into the throw’s path and intercepted it at the Giants’ 28. It was third-and-11 two plays later, however, when the Bucs went up top. Freeman stood alone in the backfield and had the rush in his face as he lobbed a perfect pass down the left sideline to Jackson. Jackson fought off coverage from CB Michael Coe and separated at the two-yard line to make the catch and glide into the end zone.
After a Cruz catch for 12 yards nets a quick first down, Talib got another pass break-up on a quick slant attempt to Nicks. On third-and-seven, it was Nicks against Talib again, and though the Giants’ receiver made an impressive catch, Talib pulled him down two yards short of a first down and New York had to punt for the first time.
The Bucs started at their own 26 but quickly faced a third-and-16 after a sack of Freeman by DE Jason Pierre-Paul, and a screen to TE
Brown broke free up the middle for 23 yards on first down to start the next drive but a holding penalty on Brown’s next run backed the Giants back to their 33. A defensive holding penalty on Eric Wright got New York out of that hole, and Manning started working the middle of the field for a bunch of short passes to Cruz. A three-yard out to Cruz on third-and-two put the ball at the Bucs’ 35 just before the two-minute warning, and Brown found a gap up the middle again for 12 more. After the two-minute warning, the Bucs blitzed and Manning found Nicks in a seam down the right side for a 23-yard score.
A three-and-out by the Bucs’ offense allowed the Giants to take another crack at the scoreboard before halftime, although a long return of Koenen’s punt was erased by a pair of penalties. Still, Manning threw a quick post pass to Nicks to start the drive with a 17-yard gain to the New York 42. The Giants used their last timeout of the half after a 13-yard Cruz catch put the ball at the Bucs’ 39 with 29 seconds left in the half.
After an incompletion made it third-and-two, manning tried to throw a real short pass right at the line of scrimmage and Wright somehow picked it off. Wright then began weaving around the middle of the field, avoiding would-be tacklers and looking for a seam. He found one, suddenly, hit the right sideline and ran 60 yards for a touchdown.