BUCS : AFTER THE DUST SETTLES : GIANTS
By Leo Haggerty
SOMETIMES IT’S BETTER TO BE LUCKY THAN GOOD
Yup, it’s a win and the Buccaneers will take it. Not a classic. Not a blowout. Just simply a win. At the end of the season, if you have more W’s than a majority of the teams in your conference, there’s a real good chance you’ll make the playoffs.
In the National Football League, there are no style points. Games, where you don’t play really well, count just as much as the ones where you do play well when it comes to wins and losses. In the grand scheme of pro football, you are what your record says you are.
It’s not how but how many when it comes to the final score. At the end of the contest, if you have scored more points than your opponent by any means, you are the winner.
K Nick Folk, who had missed an extra point as well as two 40-plus yard field goals, directed a “dying quail” from 34-yards just inside the left upright on the last play of the game to give Tampa Bay a 25-23 over the visiting New York Giants in a turnover-free tilt. #2, missing wide right on three previous attempts, made sure he would get through this kick and almost overcompensated.
The K ball went through, albeit rotating more sideways than end-over-end, and it wasn’t pretty but it didn’t have to be. For Bucs Nation, it could have been a spiral for all they care. All that matters was it was good.
On offense, Tampa Bay started fast by putting 13 points up in the first stanza. Jameis Winston hit WR Mike Evans on a 6-yard fade route. #3 also connected with TE O.J. Howard on a 58-yard catch-and-run for the first round draft pick’s initial NFL TD.
But the hero of the game from a receiving standpoint has to be TE Cameron Brate. First, #84 catches a 14-yard strike from Winston midway through the fourth quarter to put the Buccaneers up 22-17. Then, with Tampa Bay down a point late in the contest, the former Harvard product hauls in a 26-yard fade route down the right sideline to put the Pewter Pirates in position for Folk’s game winner as time expired.
There is major, and I mean major, disappointment on the other side of the ball and that has to be the Bucs pass rush. The fact that DC Mike Smith’s squad couldn’t find a way to sack at least once a less-than-mobile Eli Manning speaks volumes about the Pewter Pirates inability to get to the quarterback.
The fact that the Giants offensive line is in shambles and then, to make matters worse for New York, lost starting center Weston Richburg to a concussion in the second quarter. Still, Tampa Bay could not find a way to get #10 on the ground. Peyton’s brother and Archie’s kid even showed some new-found elusiveness by scrambling for a touchdown much to the chagrin of the Bucs defenders.
Also, the Tampa Bay defenders had a difficult time getting off the field. New York was a very respectable 8-of-17 on converting third down and, quite frankly, kept the G-Men in the game. The Giants had the football almost 10 minutes more than the Bucs and that kept the Pewter Pirates high-powered offense on the sidelines.
Again, it wasn’t perfect last Sunday. Heck, a torrential rain let loose for almost the entire first quarter after a beautiful Indian Summer day at Raymond James Stadium. That’s why you don’t play afternoon games in Tampa the first half of the season. Are you listening, NFL schedule-makers?
Look for the Buccaneers to make some minor adjustment as they prepare for a Thursday night meeting with the Patriots at Raymond James Stadium. Too short a week to put in any major changes. Hopefully, that will be good enough against the Tom-Brady led Pats.
All photos by It’s Sports Magazine photojournalist Steve Jacobson.