Giants do, Bucs don't once again
Every once in awhile, a football game comes along and helps define a few simple dos and don'ts. Take Sunday, for instance. The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, they still do whatever it takes; the bumbling Buccaneers, they still don't. Have you heard this before?
In New York's eventful 21-14 win over Tampa Bay, the final 4 minutes, 40 seconds were the essence of the story. With the game on the line, the Bucs fizzled and the Giants dazzled. "That's kind of what separates teams in the NFL; the teams that make plays and the teams that don't," said Tampa Bay tailback Reggie Cobb, his weary voice dropping quickly into broken-record mode. "That separates the upper half and the bottom half. I'm tired of this. I've been tired of this. I think a lot of guys are getting tired of it. And that's what we need. You've got to have a rotten feeling in your gut when you walk off the field, no matter how good you played. If you lose, you lose. That's the bottom line."
For those in a hurry, the bottom line is this: Staring at a potential go-ahead scoring drive that began with 4:40 remaining, Tampa Bay's offense took control at its 42 and marched all of 12 yards. The Giants then showed the Bucs how it's done. Taking possession at 1:41, New York proceeded to shove it down Tampa Bay's ever-tightening throat to the tune of 90 yards in eight plays. The game-winner, which came at :16, was a 30-yard Phil Simms-to-Stephen Baker deep corner route that was as daring as it was perfect.
"They're a hell of a team. You know they still haven't relinquished the title of being world champions," said linebacker Broderick Thomas, whose two sacks again led a feisty but frustrated Tampa Bay defense. "But you've got to do it when it counts. Nobody went cautious out there. You look at the TD. It was a perfectly thrown ball, it was good coverage (by cornerback Alonzo Hampton) and it was a great reception. You've got to understand, that was a $3-million quarterback we're talking about. Phil Simms is mostly responsible for them being world champions last year."
Although the similarities to previous last-minute Bucs defeats were strong (see games against Buffalo, Green Bay and Chicago), Tampa Bay linebacker Jesse Solomon said the approach to New York's final drive was anything but better-safe-than-sorry. "We knew they only needed a field goal," Solomon said. "So we were in a blitz. We had been stopping them all day, and we had no doubt we could do it again. They just went for the home run ball and got it. These are more growing pains. But this time nobody panicked like Buffalo and other games. Nobody in the huddle lost their poise. We were sound. They just made the play."
And the Bucs did not. Third-and-9 from the Giants' 46: Rolling left away from pressure, Vinny Testaverde tried an awkward across-his-body pass to Terry Anthony. When it fell short, so did the Bucs. "The effort is good, but to hell with effort," fullback Alonzo Highsmith said. "Everybody in the league plays with effort. They got it done, and we didn't. All we needed was a couple first downs and we're in field-goal range. But when you've got a young team, you usually make the mistakes that hurt you. Once again, that was the difference in the ballgame."
Don Banks, The St.Petersburg Times 1991