Giants 32 – Bucs 18
The Bucs hit their season’s official halfway mark today, and one thing I feel comfortable saying is that I think Jameis Winston is going to make a pretty damned good quarterback, one day. He’s continually improving, and today’s game marked his fourth in a row without an interception or a fumble. Even though there were a few flubs today, his decision making is getting better, and the kid’s managed to shake off a pretty rocky start and maintain his poise.
Now, if he could just get a little more help from his teammates, we’d be cooking with gas.
The New York Giants defense did its level best to contain Winston and the Tampa offense, keeping the Bucs out of the end zone for three quarters and some change. Only Connor Barth, the one-time Bucs kicker who was re-signed a couple of weeks ago, kept things from spiraling completely out of control while going 4-4 on field goals, including one from 53 yards out. Not bad for a salty vet.
Winston finally shook free and scampered for a touchdown late in the game to pull the Bucs within two points and a chance to tie it up, but the two-point conversion failed. Leading 20-18 with nine minutes to go, Giants QB Eli Manning marched his offense down the field to put up another field goal, then extended that lead by three more points after the Bucs were forced to punt on their next possession. Tampa got one last chance to make a game of it, but a fumble was recovered by New York and returned for a touchdown. Whoops.
The Bucs drop to 3-5 on the season and are the undisputed lone inhabitants of the NFC South Division cellar. Carolina sits high atop the division at 8-0 after knocking off Green Bay earlier in the day, while both Atlanta and New Orleans suffered losses. It’s pretty much Carolina’s division to lose now, and because of math and wishful thinking, the Bucs technically haven’t been eliminated from post-season play at this point, but the window for getting into position to have any sort of decent run at a wild card is closing rapidly. Next up? Hosting the Dallas Cowboys, who just endured an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. They’ll be looking for something to wash away the taste of a bitter season, too.
Here’s hoping the Bucs don’t end up being a palate cleanser.