Bucs run out of gas
Eli Manning had just finished schooling Greg Schiano's defense by passing for 510 yards and three touchdowns, reading the recurring blitzes like a children's book in a 41-34 come-from-behind win over the Bucs on Sunday.
Now it was time for Tampa Bay's first-year NFL coach to receive his own teaching moment, courtesy of Tom Coughlin. Schiano lit the fuse of the veteran Giants coach when he — against apparent NFL etiquette — ordered his players to try to knock the ball loose from Manning as he knelt to run out the game's final seconds.
Coughlin approached Schiano after the game with his finger pointed, walked away then returned to yell at him for about 15 seconds before shaking his hand.
"I don't think you do that at this level," Coughlin said. "I don't think you do that in this league."
Returning to the state where he coached Rutgers for 11 seasons, it wasn't the only lesson delivered to Schiano and the Bucs at MetLife Stadium by the Giants.
The Bucs (1-1) played well early, building a 27-16 lead they carried into the fourth quarter. They intercepted Manning three times in the first half, each resulting in touchdowns. That included a winding 60-yard return by cornerback Eric Wright with eight seconds left.
Wright was supposed to blitz on the play but pulled up at the last moment and intercepted a pass intended for Victor Cruz (11 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown).
But as Schiano and the Bucs learned, you don't tug on Superman's cape the way they dared Manning to beat their blitz and lead the Giants to a win when trailing during the fourth quarter for the 26th time during his eight-plus seasons.
"He's good. What can I say?" Ronde Barber said. "Numbers don't lie. I've watched and seen too many Giants games to feel like you're comfortable with this guy. He's made a career of it."
The Bucs made it easier for Manning. Josh Freeman, who passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns, back-footed a pass to Sammie Stroughter over the middle that sailed and was intercepted by cornerback Corey Webster with 21 seconds left in the third.
The defense kept Manning out of the end zone, forcing Lawrence Tynes' fourth field goal that cut the lead to 27-19.
After forcing a punt, the Giants faced third and 2 from their 20. This time, Wright blitzed, leaving Cruz to run past Barber and haul in an 80-yard touchdown.
"I wasn't expecting him to run a (deep route); not with the pressure coming," Barber said.
The two-point conversion run by Andre Brown tied the score at 27 with 6:48 to play. But it didn't stay tied for long. After the Bucs went three-and-out, Manning needed only three completions to get the Giants the lead, the last a 33-yard touchdown to tight end Martellus Bennett.
Freeman tied it at 34, completing a 41-yard touchdown to a leaping Mike Williams in the back of the end zone with 1:58 to play. But Manning could not be stopped.
On first and 15 from the 39 after a false start, Schiano pushed all his chips to the middle of the table and brought the house again. It didn't work — again.
Hakeem Nicks (10 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown) beat cornerback Aqib Talib for a 50-yard completion to the Tampa Bay 11. With 1:20 left, Schiano decided to let the Giants score. Brown went down at the 2 but walked into the end zone on the next play. "That's something I'm not comfortable with; not taking a touchdown," Coughlin said.
The Bucs took over with 25 seconds left and threatened. If not for a replay review overturning Williams' catch at the Giants 16, who knows what happens? But linebacker Michael Boley intercepted Freeman's next pass. Schiano was unapologetic about what happened next. He ordered his players to go after Manning as he knelt.
"I don't know if that's not something that's done in the National Football League," Schiano said. "What I do with our football team is we fight until they tell us game over. And there's nothing dirty about it. There's nothing illegal about it. If people watched Rutgers, they would know that's what we do at the end of a game."
Manning called it a "cheap shot." Teammates called it "bush league."
"We do what we're coached," Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Leave it at that."
|About the writer|
Rick Stroud has been the lead Bucs beat writer for The Tampa Bay Times for many years and his game reports and news updates are a prime source of information for Buccaneer fans in the Bay area. He also often makes guest appearances on the JP Peterson show on 1010 Sports Radio.