By Terrance Turner
“Monday Night Football” tonight was one for the ages. It was a lot closer than observers may have anticipated, but the result was exactly as expected. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers overcame a double-digit shortfall to run up the score and defeat the New York Giants, 25-23.
Things got off to a surprising start in the first half. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones hit Dion Lewis for a TD to make it 7-3 in the first quarter. Then he drove the team 77 yards, with Wayne Gallman running into the end zone from the 2-yard line with 1:46 remaining in the half. The Giants surprised viewers by scoring two touchdowns and stopping the Bucs from reaching the end zone. Brady was pressured and sacked, as drive after drive stalled. The Giants were up 14-3 early on, but Bucs kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to make the score 14-6 at halftime.
In the second half, Succop drilled another field goal, making it 14-9. Then Brady found one of his favorite targets — Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski. With 6:05 left in the third quarter, Gronk caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Brady. The Giants defender punched the ball out after Gronk took a couple steps, but the refs upheld the TD. It’s the third week in a row that Gronk has caught a TD from Brady — and it’s their 93rd touchdown together.
This gave the Bucs their first lead of the game. The Buccaneers attempted a two-point conversion, but it was unsuccessful. That left the score 15-14. But Brady and Gronk have nevertheless accomplished a singular feat: they have now passed Steve Young and Jerry Rice in the record books. The only QB-WR duo with more TDs is Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.
In the fourth quarter, Jones threw yet another pick. (He has 13 interceptions for the season — more than any other quarterback besides Philadelphia’s QB Carson Wentz.) On the next possession, Brady launched a crucial connection with Tyler Johnson.
The Giants added a field goal in the fourth quarter. But the team later got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit, putting the Bucs closer to the goal line with nine minutes left. Then Brady hurled the ball 8 yards to receiver Mike Evans, who made a highlight-reel catch for the go-ahead touchdown. That made it 22-17.
On their next drive, the Buccaneers moved down the field. Brady connected with Gronkowski for 18 yards. A would-be catch for Mike Evans got flagged for pass interference, helping the Bucs move forward. But they were again stymied by a stalwart Giants defense. Fournette was stuffed at the first-down line. Instead of going for it, Arians elected for a field goal, which Succop sent right through the uprights. It was now 25-17.
The Giants struggled after getting the ball back. Jones, under pressure, backed up and threw the ball on a prayer. The result was a miraculous catch by Darius Slayton. Later, Jones managed to convert on 4th and 16, keeping the drive alive. And out of nowhere, Jones launched a 19-yard touchdown to Giants receiver Golden Tate. With 28 seconds left, the New York Giants had sprung to life.
The score was now 25-23. All the Giants needed was a two-point conversion to tie the game. But it wasn’t to be. On the final play Jones’ pass to Dion Lewis hit Bucs player Antoine Winfield in the arm, bouncing off to land as an incomplete pass. The refs threw a flag, indicating possible pass interference. But the referees eventually decided there was no foul committed. “There is no flag for pass interference on the play,” the ref announced.
That sealed the deal. The Buccaneers won, improving their record to 6-2. This is Brady’s 30th win after trailing by 10 or more points — more than any other quarterback in the NFL.