Well, for three periods the Bucs played a fantastic game, which would’ve been awesome if they were playing hockey. As fate would have it, they instead were playing NFL football, and it was during that pesky fourth period that the wheels came off the wagon.
Or, the keel came off the pirate ship, if you prefer.
It was like a game out of Tampa’s highlight reel from a decade or so ago, with the defense doing the bulk of the heavy lifting and giving the offense every opportunity to rack up points. Three interceptions by the Bucs D resulted in 21 points in the first half. By halftime it was 21-7 Tampa, which in any other universe would’ve been enough to call it a day.
Unfortunately, they still had to play that second half.
The third quarter was largely a defensive battle, with both teams keeping the opposing offense stagnant. A field goal to each team was the sum total of points scored during those 15 minutes, and then came the fourth quarter, at which time I’m certain a very aggravated Giants head coach Tom Coughlin set off a flash-bang under Eli Manning’s ass.
Manning went to work, marching the Giants down the field and notching a field goal to cap a drive that had begun very late in the third quarter, and then that was it for the sissy scoring. While the Bucs’ first drive of the final quarter shaved off nearly five minutes with nothing to show for it but a punt, Manning needed only 3 plays to run the Giants 88 yards the other way for a touchdown.
When the Bucs punted on their next stalled possession, Manning took 3–count ‘em, 3–plays to stuff it right back in their ass for yet another touchdown and the lead. Tampa, finally sensing that shit was for real, answered with a touchdown of their own, bringing us back to a tie at 34-34.
On the Giants’ ensuing drive, it took Manning–say it with me–3 plays to put the dagger through the Bucs’ collective heart, with the go-ahead score coming with less than a minute to play.
Tampa’s last-ditch attempt to tie things up one more time died when Bucs QB Josh Freeman threw a frantic interception right up the gut. One kneel-down by Manning put the whole thing to bed, and sent Tampa off to bed for a good cry.
Once Manning was firing on all cylinders, he starting putting on a clinic on how to fake Bucs defenders out of their jocks, running up nearly 300 passing yards in addition to those 3 touchdown passes. Hell, he had the second-best passing day of any G-men QB ever. The Bucs never sacked him, never really rushed him or got a hand on him. Well, that’s not entirely true. And since we’re on that subject, what the fuck was with the defense crashing the line on that last play, when it was obvious Manning was going to take a knee? Bullshit, Bucs D. You got beat, fair and square. Show some poise, for crying out loud.
There was some bitching about one Freeman pass being ruled an incompletion on review during that last frantic drive. I think it was a crap call, but the Bucs had their chances to put this game away early, and they blew it. One bad ref call can’t offset all of that.
The Bucs drop to 1-1 on the still-minty fresh season. New Orleans got spanked by Carolina today, dropping the Saints to 0-2 (WTF?) and moving the Panthers up to a tie with Tampa for second place in the NFC South. Atlanta plays tomorrow night against the visiting Denver Broncos, and who the hell knows how that one’s going to end up? Next up for Tampa? They travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys, who just came off a pretty good beatdown by the Seattle Seahawks.
Could be a good one. Let’s just hope the Bucs show up to play all four quarters, this time.