Giants defense makes key stops in win over Bucs

New York Giants cornerback B.W. Webb (23) intercepts a pass intended for Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) late in the 4th quarter at MetLife Stadium.Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants defense stood tall, denying the Buccaneers four times as the Giants topped the Bucs 38-35 at MetLife Stadium.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There was no “FitzMagic” this week from Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who finished 13 of 21 for 167 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions before being benched in the second half for Jameis Winston.

The first of the Giants’ big defensive stop came on the Bucs opening drive, when Tampa Bay was trying to answer the Giants, who had scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to running back Saquon Barkley.

The Bucs drove 11 plays to the Giants’ 5-yard line, but on fourth-and-1, the Giants defense, led by down linemen Dalvin Tomlinson and Josh Mauro, stuffed the middle rushing lanes as Fitzpatrick tried to push it up for the first down up the middle.

After the Giants and Bucs swapped touchdowns in the second quarter — the Giants getting theirs on a 5-yard rush by Barkley at the top of the second quarter and the Bucs getting theirs on a 1-yard touchdown run by Fitzpatrick — the Giants defense again took control of the game.

The Giants recorded interceptions on consecutive possessions by the Bucs, the first coming with 30 seconds left in the half when Fitzpatrick’s pass intended for tight end O.J. Howard was picked off by Michael Thomas, and the Bucs’ opening drive in the third quarter when inside linebacker Alec Ogletree came up with his third career pick-six off a pass that was tipped by cornerback Janoris Jenkins to make it 21-7.

The Giants added a 52-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas to increase their lead 24-7, after which Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter pulled the plug on Fitzpatrick in favor of Winston.

Winston, who finished the game 12 of 16 for 199 yards, led the Bucs to a scoring drive on his first series, but it was a rather ugly affair. On 2nd-and-6 from the Giants’ 6-yard line, he scrambled on a 3-yard run before fumbling the ball before he was down on a hit by Giants defensive lineman Mario Edwards.

Fortunately for the Bucs, receiver Mike Evans was in the end zone and alertly fell on the ball for the touchdown and the Bucs were within 24-14.

Manning and the Giants answered with a touchdown of their own, this coming on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Odell Beckham Jr to make it 31-14 with 13:04 left in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs added 14 unanswered points to make it 31-28. The first of the two scores came on a 5-yard run by running back Peyton Barber to cap a 77-yard, seven-play drive. The second came on an 8-yard touchdown pass to receiver Adam Humphries from Winston with 5:11 left.

The Giants increased their lead when Barkley charged up the gut for his third touchdown of the day, his second on the ground. That score was set up by a 54-yard pass completion up the seam by Manning to tight end Evan Engram.

The scrappy Bucs made short work on their ensuing drive as Winston capped a six-play, 66-yard scoring drive with a 41-yard touchdown completion to Evans on a corner flag route to narrow the Giants lead to 38-35.

Manning finished 17 of 18 for 231 yards and two touchdowns, his 94 percent completion percentage a new single game career high.

Barkley meanwhile recorded his third 100-plus rushing performance of the year, finishing with 142 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns, while adding 10 yards on two receptions for his ninth game of the year with 100 or more all-purpose yards.

Beckham, who finished with 74 yards on four receptions a touchdown, now has three touchdown receptions in his last two games.

Former Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul recorded the only two sacks of his one-time quarterback, one of which came when Manning’s foot got caught up in the turf and he fell to the ground. Manning was sacked three times.

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