Interceptions provide the spark for a turnaround
A year ago, after blowing an 18-point lead to the Giants in the second half, the Bucs secondary was considered one of the worst in the NFL. But on Monday Night Football, Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting changed the game and some perceptions along the way. Davis and Murphy-Bunting had second-half interceptions of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones that led to 10 points in the Bucs 25-23 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

First, Davis intercepted a pass intended for Giants receiver Sterling Shepard to start the second half. That led to one of Ryan Succop's four field goals. It was Davis' fourth interception of the season.

Then Murphy-Bunting made a diving interception of a pass intended for Giants receiver Golden Tate. That set up Tom Brady's TD pass to Mike Evans. On both plays, linebacker Shaquil Barrett pressured Jones. "It's been great, and it's been a different guy," coach Bruce Arians said of the INTs. "Really happy for Sean to get his hands on one. The guys kept hanging in there, but yeah, turnovers have been huge for us."

Not to be outdone, rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. batted away the two-point conversion pass attempt to Dion Lewis that would have tied the game and possibly sent it into overtime. A flag for pass interference was thrown on the play, but it was waved off after officials conferred, ending the game.

"'Toine's been making plays since he got here, and he got put in a situation today where he had to make a play, and he came up big for us," linebacker Lavonte David said. "It was something we kind of figured out they were going to do, try to get the quarterback out of the pocket and sprint out to him, and he did a good job of getting over the top and getting to his man. He actually beat the ball there. The refs did the right thing in my opinion to pick up the flag, because it was a great play by 'Toine. But man, we should've never been in that situation in the first place. But we've got to fight it out to the very end, and that's what we did." David said the Bucs defense did not play a good first half. They allowed too many rushing yards. They missed tackles. Jones escaped the pocket and hurt them with his legs. At halftime, there was a clear message.

"Settle down and play our game," David said. "We knew we were going to get their best shot. They threw everything at us, they did a lot of trickery ... and I can't lie, they hit us in the mouth in the first half. But we got in at halftime, talked things out, made some adjustments, got an earful, came out in the second half and took it to heart."

In the past, the Bucs may have lost this game. They lost a similar one 20-19 at Chicago only a few weeks ago. Even though Jones converted a fourth and 16 on the final drive, the Bucs never panicked.

"Not too concerned, because I put that on me," David said. "I had a chance to end the football game and close it out, and that's expected of me. When situations like that come about, I've got to be able to make those plays. When you look at the history of football, when you don't finish plays like that, you give teams like that another chance.

"But if you want to be great, if I want to be great, if I want to be the player that I need to be, I need to finish those plays. I've been on the opposite side of this hundreds of times, a bunch of times. It's still good to be on the other side, get the win from it, even after an ugly football game. We didn't play our best at all, but it's something that we can still celebrate about, because we got a win."

Rick Stroud, Tampa Bay Times, published 3 November 2020