DT Chris Hovan and the Bucs' defense battled hard against Brandon Jacobs and the Giants rushing attack but gave up 135 first-half yards on the ground
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into halftime down 14-0 to the New York Giants on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, but the raw numbers suggest it could have been worse.
The Giants' offense piled up 215 yards of total offense and missed a chance to pad their lead just before halftime when K Lawrence Tynes missed a 21-yard field goal try. The Bucs possessed the ball for just 8:30 of the first 30 minutes and produced 19 yards of offense and no first downs. Tampa Bay also committed the only turnover of the first half, a Byron Leftwich interception that was the product of the quarterback getting hit as he threw.
With the Giants applying pressure with just their four-man line and leaving seven men back in coverage, Leftwich had difficulty finding any open men downfield. Though he completed five of his seven passes in the first half, Leftwich had just nine passing yards at the half. Conversely, the Bucs' defensive line applied little pressure on QB Eli Manning, who completed nine of 17 passes for 80 yards and threw a five-yard touchdown pass to WR Steve Smith.
The Buccaneers will get the ball first to start the second half, hoping to find a spark on offense.
The Giants won the toss and elected to receive. With the wind at his back, K Mike Nugent blasted the opening kickoff to the back of the end zone for a touchback.
The Giants opened with a pair of Jacobs run and he bashed his way for a total of nine yards. Though the Bucs loaded nine men in the box for third-and-one, Jacobs was able to push over left guard for two yards and a first down. Manning's first pass of the game was a rollout pass to WR Steve Smith that the receiver nabbed on the sideline, dragging his toes for a gain of 13. DE Jimmy Wilkerson made a nice play to break up a bubble-screen on first down, but on the ensuing third down Smith ran a crossing route and caught an eight-yard pass at the Bucs' 43.
The Bucs blitzed over the left side and Jacobs ran right, a bad combination that led to a gain of 11. CB Aqib Talib nearly intercepted Manning's next pass but Smith somehow pulled the ball away for a first down at the Bucs' 20. Smith got up and subsequently fumbled but officials ruled that the receiver was down where he caught the ball. Three plays later, Jacobs took a handoff up the middle and was barely touched on an easy six-yard touchdown run.
A very nice kickoff return by Clifton Smith allowed the Bucs to start their first drive at the 30-yard line. However, the offense wasn't quite as sharp on its first drive. A false start on G Jeremy Zuttah cost the Bucs five yards, so Ward's fine seven-yard run and Winslow's four-yard catch on third down proved to be a half-yard short of the sticks. Dirk Johnson's 58-yard punt helped push the Giants back to their own 23.
The Bucs' defense stiffened on New York's second drive, forcing a three-and-out thanks to a solid stop of Jacobs by DT Ryan Sims in the middle and a pass breakup by Talib on third-and-five. Smith worked his magic again on the ensuing punt with an impressive, tackle-breaking 20-yard return to the Bucs' 41.
Unfortunately, the Bucs couldn't do anything with that good field position. Leftwich tried to throw a deep play-action pass to Winslow on first down but he was hit just as he threw and the resulting floater was easily intercepted by CB Terrell Thomas.
From their own 34, the Giants got started with two quick completions underneath the Bucs' umbrella coverage. On third-and-one from the Bucs' 47, Bradshaw broke free around right end, slipped out of two tackles and rambled all the way to the Bucs' nine. Only impressive pursuit by DE Tim Crowder prevented the touchdown. The first quarter ended with the Giants facing third-and-goal at the Bucs' four.
On the first play of the second period, Manning hit Smith just over the goal line for the game's second touchdown, giving the Giants a 14-0 lead. As New York lined up for the ensuing kickoff, the clouds opened up and a very heavy rain began to fall.
The Bucs tried to establish the run on their next drive but two Ward runs were stopped for no gain by LB Antonio Pierce. Leftwich settled for a screen to Ward on third-and-10 but that, too, was stopped for no gain.
The Bucs' defense forced a three-and-out in answer, but Tampa Bay's offense than gave it right back on its own short possession. RB Cadillac Williams caught a screen pass on third-and-six but was tripped up in the open field by S Michael Johnson. The trend continued with the Giants also failing to gain a first down on their next possession.
Back at their own 17, the Bucs immediately lost five yards when DT Fred Robbins burst through the line and stopped Williams in the backfield for a loss of five. On third-and-11, Leftwich was flushed from the pocket and forced to throw the ball away.
A holding penalty on Johnson's punt pushed New York back to their 37 but they got within a yard of midfield on the first play of the drive, a 12-yard slant to WR Mario Manningham. On third-and-one from the Bucs' 42, the Giants lined up in a spread but gave it to Bradshaw on a delay and he fought through the muck for a gain of seven. The Bucs did force the Giants into a third-and-nine at the 24, but a huge blitz by the Tampa Bay defense failed when Manning easily found an open Manningham for a gain of 13. The Bucs held inside their five when S Sabby Piscitelli rushed around the right end of the line and caught Jacobs for a loss of one on third-and-one from the two. The Giants elected to try a field goal and Tynes stunningly missed left on a 21-yard attempt.