QB Byron Leftwich was unable to find any open targets downfield, gaining just 22 yards on his seven completions
In every season a little rain must fall.
Those weren't Longfellow's exact words, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can only hope the rest of his sentiment holds true: Behind the clouds the sun is shining.
The third week of the 2009 season began in sunshine for the Buccaneers and the visiting New York Giants, but a heavy rain began in the second quarter, just after the Giants went up 14-0. Things didn't get much better, as the Giants ran away with a 24-0 victory and Tampa Bay found itself 0-3 on the year.
Head Coach Raheem Morris hopes there are brighter days ahead, which will begin by putting Sunday's game in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible.
"You have no choice but to get better after a day like today," said Morris. "We had 86 total yards, five first downs. It was a complete disaster. You have to move on to the next opponent and be ready to deal. If you let this one linger, you back it up with three more losses. This one's over."
The early deficit was in keeping with the Buccaneers' first two losses, but the productive offense that had kept Tampa Bay in each of those games was nowhere to be found against the Giants. In fact, the home team didn't record its initial first down of the game until five minutes were left in the third quarter. New York controlled the clock for a stunning 43:38 of the game's 60 minutes.
"[We were] clearly outmanned today, beat by a grown-man team we want to be like one day," said Morris. "They came in here and took it to us, out-manned, out-gunned. They were clearly better than us today. It wasn't even close."
Overall, it ranked as one of the least productive offensive days in franchise history: a total of just 86 yards and the team's first shutout since a 27-0 loss to Baltimore on the opening day of 2006. The Bucs' lowest offensive output ever was a 65-yard day against Green Bay on Dec. 1, 1985. Tampa Bay also produced just five first downs, four on their final drive, tying the team record for fewest first downs in a game. The Bucs also had five first downs in the aforementioned Green Bay game and against San Diego on Sept. 19, 1976.
The Bucs had averaged 401 yards and 20.5 points per game in their losses to Dallas and Buffalo but couldn't get either the ground game or the passing attack going on this Sunday. Buccaneer runners combined for 28 on 10 carries and QB Byron Leftwich completed seven of 16 passes for 22 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. The first reception by a Buccaneer wideout came with 9:27 left in the game, a six-yard catch by Antonio Bryant.
That reception actually came just after Leftwich was relieved by second-year man Josh Johnson in the final period. Johnson got the Bucs' second first down of the game on a 15-yard scramble that jumpstarted the home team's only sustained drive of the game. Johnson got the Bucs down to the Giants five but New York preserved the shutout by denying four passing plays from there.
The Buccaneers' longest pass play of the game was a 15-yard catch by WR Sammie Stroughter on the team's final drive. The longest run was a 15-yard scramble by Johnson, which also made him the team's leading rusher on the day.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's defense exhibited some of the same problems that plagued them in a 33-20 loss at Buffalo a week earlier. There were a few too many missed tackles and virtually no pressure on the quarterback. Manning wasn't sacked as he completed 14 of 24 passes for 161 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His favorite target was the emerging Steve Smith, who made seven grabs for 63 yards and a score. Sinorice Moss caught Manning's other TD pass, putting the game away early in the fourth quarter with a leaping catch over CB Aqib Talib in the end zone. The Giants let backup David Carr finish the game from there.
The Bucs also struggled to stop their opponent's rushing attack for the second straight weekend. After Fred Jackson and the Bills rang up 218 yards on the ground in Week Two, the Brandon Jacobs-led Giants ran for 226 yards. The Bucs weren't completely overwhelmed by the enormous Jacobs, who gained 92 yards but was held to 3.6 yards per carry. However Ahmad Bradshaw was frequently unstoppable, picking up 104 yards yards on 14 carries and averaging 7.4 yards per tote.
One of the few bright spots for the Buccaneers was return man Clifton Smith, who frequently gave the offense decent starting spots with impressive returns, including a 20-yard tightrope walk down the sideline after a first quarter punt. By the end of the game, however, the Giants appeared to be purposely kicking it away from Smith. The Bucs' special teams were relatively strong overall, particularly in terms of kick coverage.
The Giants set the game's tone immediately by methodically driving 80 yards for a touchdown on their opening possession. The drive ate seven minutes off the clock, survived several near turnovers – including a stunning play in which Smith snatched an apparent interception out of Talib's hands – and culminated in an easy six-yard run up the middle by Jacobs.
Leftwich threw his one interception on the first play of the Bucs' second drive and the Giants capitalized with a 66-yard TD drive. Much of that came on Bradshaw's 38-yard run down to the Tampa Bay nine, with the speedy back breaking two tackles along the way. The Bucs forced at third-and-goal as the first quarter came to an end but the opening play of the second period was a four-yard Manning touchdown pass to Smith.
Meanwhile, the Bucs' offense struggled to find any level of success in the first half. By the intermission, Tampa Bay had produced just 19 yards, to the Giants' 215, and Cadillac Williams was the team's leading rusher with his five-yard tote. Leftwich completed five of seven passes in the first half but all of them were underneath tosses with no one open down the field, and they produced all of nine yards.
The Bucs' first drive of the second half wasn't much better, a three-and-out that ended when Leftwich threw a bit behind Clayton on a deep crossing route.
Tampa Bay's defense came out fired up, with Gaines Adams running down Jacobs in the backfield for a loss of two to make it third-and-12. However, with absolutely no pressure on Manning on third-and-12, the Giants QB was easily able to find Manningham over the middle for a gain of 20. A hands-to-the-face penalty against Ronde Barber helped New York gain another first down at the Tampa Bay 31, and TE Kevin Boss made a leaping catch at the Bucs' 12 for a gain of 24 after a Giants penalty. The Bucs did hold there, however, and the Giants settled for a 26-yard field goal and a 17-0 lead with six minutes left in the third period.
The Bucs got their first first down on the ensuing drive when Williams ran for three yards on second-and-three, but three incompletions followed. When the Giants got the ball back, the Bucs forced a quick third-and-nine and flushed Manning out of the pocket on third down, but the Giants passer was able to scramble for just enough to move the pile. The Giants drive crossed into the fourth quarter and Smith got it into the red zone with a diving catch at the Bucs' 15. Tampa Bay challenged the ruling of a catch but lost.
Two plays later, Manning hit Moss for an 18-yard touchdown pass over very tight coverage from Talib. That pushed the Giants' lead to 24-0 with 12:30 left in the game. After one more ineffective drive with Leftwich at the helm, Johnson got his shot and completed four of his first six passes to get the Bucs within scoring range. His first pass from the five-yard line was the Bucs' best chance to score, a hard throw to WR Michael Clayton in the back of the end zone that Clayton couldn't hold on to.
The Giants improved to 3-0 with the victory. The Bucs fell to 0-3 and will travel to Washington next week to play the Redskins.
Game Notes: With the loss, the Buccaneers are now 6-11 all-time against the Giants. Sunday's game was the 10th regular-season meeting between the two teams in Tampa, of which the Buccaneers have won exactly half. … T Jeremy Trueblood played in his 50th regular-season NFL game on Sunday.
Inactives: The Buccaneers declared the following eight players inactive prior to Sunday's game: RB Earnest Graham, C Jeff Faine, OL Marc Dile, T Demar Dotson, WR Maurice Stovall, DT Dre Moore, DE Kyle Moore and designated third quarterback Josh Freeman. Graham, Faine, Stovall and Kyle Moore were out due to injuries.
The Giants deactivated these eight men: RB Danny Ware, CB Aaron Ross, CB Kevin Dockery, T Adam Koets, WR Domenik Hixon, WR Hakeem Nicks, LB Clint Sintim and DL Chris Canty. All eight Giant inactives were out due to injury.
Injuries: The Buccaneers did not report an injury from the sideline during Sunday's game.
For the Giants, LB Chase Blackburn was taken into the locker room for X-rays on his lower leg in the first quarter. He returned to the game later. T Kareem McKenzie also visited the X-ray room in the third quarter to have his knee examined. He did not return. G Rich Seubert left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return.