When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants have gotten together, it's usually resulted in defensive struggles, like two chess grandmasters deploying the Sicilian Dragon Variation. Except that one time when it really, really was not.
The Buccaneers have faced the Giants 20 times in the regular season, and in 19 of those games they've allowed a low average of 251.6 net yards per outing. In the one outlier, the Giants drag-raced to 604 yards, nearly doubling the Buccaneers' total on the day…and yet the game was tied with less than a minute to play.
In exactly half of those 20 games, the winning team scored 20 or fewer points. At one point, the Buccaneers went to the Meadowlands three times in the span of seven years, and every single one of those games ended in the exact score of New York 17, Tampa Bay 14. It's just kinda the thing they did back then.
As you would expect, then, this series has seen big games from some of the biggest defensive names in the history of the sport: Anatoly Karpov, Emanuel Lasker, Vishwanathan Anand…wait, I'm sorry, that's chess again. As for the NFL, Lee Roy Selmon, the Bucs' first Hall-of-Famer, had three sacks in five sacks in a three-game span against the Giants in 1978 and 1979 alone. Lawrence Taylor came along in 1981 and first got a shot at the Bucs in September of 1984…and immediately punished them with four sacks. We've got a Harry Carson sack in there, a Mark Haynes interception, a Jim Burt sack.
Derrick Brooks waded into the fray in the mid-'90s and immediately had a big interception in his first game against the Giants. Warren Sapp hit New York with a two-sack, two-forced fumble game in 2003. John Lynch had a pick and a fumble recovery in that same game, and the Giants' Michael Strahan had a sack. Ronde Barber's first career interception came against the Giants, when he played opposite his brother Tiki for the first time.
So, have I convinced you that you're going to see a defensive struggle this Sunday when the Buccaneers go back to the Meadowlands? What's that you say? This matchup features the NFL's top-ranked offense (Bucs), 28th (Bucs) and 22nd-ranked (Giants) defenses, Mike Evans, Saquon Barkley, DeSean Jackson, Odell Beckham, O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, Chris Godwin, Sterling Shepard, the first quarterback ever to post four 400 yard games through the first nine games of the season (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and a quarterback that has twice bested Tom Brady in the Super Bowl (Eli Manning). Okay, you're right. We're probably not going to see the Sicilian Defense. Does chess have a version of the proverbial shootout?
Here's the all-time series scoreboard (regular-season only):
Tampa Bay 7
New York 13
1. Tampa Bay 20, N.Y. Giants 8, Nov. 30, 1997
This was a late-afternoon kickoff, and by nightfall the Buccaneers' organization had lifted several heavy weights off its proverbial shoulders. For one thing, the Bucs went to the Meadowlands having never won a road game against either New York team, finally getting a victory in their 10th try. More importantly, the team improved to 9-4 with the win, which meant it was guaranteed to finish a season with a winning record for the first time in 15 years. With three games left, the Bucs knew as they left the Meadowlands that they needed just one more win to clinch their first playoff berth in that same span. The win itself was Exhibit A of the team's strategy under Tony Dungy: Play great defense and run the football. The Bucs only allowed the Danny Kanell-led Giants offense to gain 202 yards as they picked Kanell off twice and sacked him twice. Meanwhile, Warrick Dunn ran for 120 yards and added a 53-yard reception and Mike Alstott took care of the scoring with a one-yard TD catch and a nine-yard scoring run.
2. Tampa Bay 31, N.Y. Giants 3, Nov. 18, 1979
If the above game marked the Bucs' return to the playoffs after a long drought, this one helped the team break through to the postseason for the first time. In just the franchise's fourth year of existence, the 1979 team famously won its first five games, but then lost three of its next five. After a narrow win in Detroit, the Bucs got a visit by the Giants to Tampa Stadium and they completely dominated a rematch after the Giants had beaten them in New York in October. Neither team scored through the first quarter and a half, but Doug Williams then threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Larry Mucker and, just three minutes later, David Lewis returned a Phil Simms fumble 39 yards for another score. Another Williams-Mucker hookup, this one for 42 yards and a touchdown put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Simms was also picked off twice, by Mike Washington and Cedric Brown, and the Giants mustered only 200 yards of offense.
3. Tampa Bay 19, N.Y. Giants 13, Nov. 24, 2003
The Buccaneers' title-defense season in 2003 started to come off the rails early with a couple of crazy-ending losses to Carolina and Indianapolis and a rash of injuries to key players. Tampa Bay still managed to get to 4-3, but three straight losses in games in which it had a fourth-quarter tie or lead put the Bucs on the brink of elimination. This win over the Giants – in which the defense did get the necessary fourth-quarter stops – got them back to 5-6 and kept their (ultimately-doomed) hopes of repeating alive. This was a Monday Night Football affair, and the Bucs rushed out to a 14-3 first-half lead on a touchdown run by Thomas Jones and Charles Lee's 53-yard catch-and-run for another score. As has been the case with all three games we've highlighted in this second, the Giants offense, time led by Kerry Collins, was kept in check, gaining just 212 yards. Also continuing the theme, Collins was picked off twice, with John Lynch and Dwight Smith doing the honors this time. Still, it was 17-13 in the fourth quarter after Frank Walker returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown. After Lynch's pick killed a Giants drive with four minutes left, the Bucs went for it on fourth-and-one at the New York 12 but Michael Pittman was stopped short. Warren Sapp's third-down sack made it fourth-and-19 at the three and the Giants elected to take a safety to get a free kick. An onside attempt followed but failed and the Bucs held on.
1. N.Y. Giants 24, Tampa Bay 14, Jan. 6, 2008
The Giants run to the Super Bowl title after the 2007 season began in Tampa, as a Wild Card team against the NFC South-winning Buccaneers. That New York squad featured a defense that led the league in sacks and a quarterback in Eli Manning who caught fire in the postseason after a pedestrian regular season. The Giants only sacked Bucs QB Jeff Garcia once but they kept the pressure on much of the day and helped force a pair of interceptions. The Buccaneers committed the game's only three turnovers, including a lost fumble by Micheal Spurlock on the opening kickoff of the second half, which led to three New York points. The home team scored first on an Earnest Graham touchdown run in the opening period, but the Giants scored the next 24 points, two on Brandon Jacobs touchdown runs. Corey Webster and R.W. McQuarters snagged the two interceptions, both in the second half, one ending a drive that reached New York's 27 and one ending Tampa Bay's last possession. The Giants went on to win at Dallas in the Divisional Round and at Green Bay in the Conference Championship before upsetting the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and preventing New England's historic 19-0 season.
2. N.Y. Giants 17, Tampa Bay 13, Sept. 12, 1999
The 1999 season was an unusual one for the Buccaneers, with a 3-4 start followed by an 8-1 finish and a run all the way to the NFC Championship Game. The Giants were part of that slow start, coming to Tampa on opening weekend and pulling off a very weird victory. How weird? Well, New York won despite generating just 107 yards of offense, the second-lowest total the Buccaneers have ever allowed in a game. Most of the scoring came on a 38-yard fumble return by DT Christian Peter after a Jessie Armstead sack of Trent Dilfer and an eight-yard pick-six by Andre Weathers in the third quarter. Dilfer threw two more picks in a span of two passes early in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Eric Zeier. Zeier completed three of 11 passes for 14 yards and his last throw was also intercepted with 90 seconds left to seal the game for the Giants. Notably, while the Giants were essentially incapable of moving the football, they also didn't turn it over once.
3. N.Y. Giants 41, Tampa Bay 34, Sept. 16, 2012
In the six games we've chosen to highlight in these two sections, four of them involved outings in which the Giants' offense failed to gain more than 212 yards. This one is the polar opposite. In a wild shootout in the Meadowlands in Week Two of the 2012 season, the Giants set a still-standing team record with 604 net yards of offense. That was nearly double the 307 that Tampa Bay would end up with, but the game was still tied at 34-all with two minutes to play after Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams on a 41-yard touchdown bomb. However, Eli Manning hit Hakeem Nicks on a 50-yard completion moments later, setting up Andre Brown's two-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left. The Bucs managed to get to the Giants' 45 in the waning seconds to set up a last-second shot by Freeman, but it was intercepted by Michael Boley. Eli Manning threw for 510 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions, one of which Eric Wright returned 60 yards for a touchdown. Nicks had 199 receiving yards and Victor Cruz added another 179.
Bucs' Top Performers Against Giants:
Among players currently on the roster, here are a few Buccaneers who have fared well against the Giants.
· WR DeSean Jackson…17 games, 65 receptions for 1,071 yards and 6 touchdowns, 16.5 yards per catch, 13 punt returns for 289 yards (21.5-yard avg.) and two touchdowns
· QB Jameis Winston…2 games, 41 of 74 passing for 579 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 94.4 passer rating, 7 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown
· CB Brent Grimes…3 games, 17 tackles, 1 interception, five passes defensed
Giants' Top Performers Against Bucs:
· QB Eli Manning…5 games, 117 of 195 passing for 1,326 yards, 10 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 86.8 passer rating, 9 carries for 27 yards and a touchdown
· LB Alec Ogletree…5 games, 30 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 passes defensed, 1 tackle for loss
· CB Janoris Jenkins…5 games, 22 tackles, four passes defensed, 1 interception returned 41 yards for a touchdown
Series Notes (regular season):
· Overall Season Series: Giants lead, 13-7
· Bucs' Home Record: 6-6
· Bucs' Road Record: 1-7
· Current Streak: Win 1 (2017)
· Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 2 (1979-80; 1997-98)
· Giants' Longest Winning Streak: 4 (1977-79; 2006-15)
· Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 329, Giants 357
· Most Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Giants 41-34 (2012)
· Most Points in a Game, Giants: Giants 41-34 (2012)
· Most Points, both teams: 75, Giants 41-34 (2012)
· Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Giants 10-0 (1977), Giants 24-0 (2009)
· Fewest Points in a Game, Giants: Buccaneers 31-3 (1979), Buccaneers 20-3 (1998)
· Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: 10, Giants 10-0 (1977)