Even as a battle hardened Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan used to seeing defeats, some hurt far more than others. There have been more losses, capitulations, embarrassments than I care to remember over the past decade. There is one that still stings more than most though. Week 3 of the 2019 season when the New York Giants came to Tampa.
Why is this relevant? Well tonight, or tomorrow morning for UK viewers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the chance to make amends for that stunning collapse in Raymond James Stadium as they travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the Big Blue.
As a memory jogger to those not affected by the scars of last seasons loss. Tampa were sitting at 1-1 as they entertained the Giants who were rooted at the bottom of the NFC East. Although in fairness, being winless at the bottom of the NFC East usually only means you are a couple of W’s away from leading the Division.
In 2019, New York had been thumped in Week 1 in Dallas before another beatdown in the Big Apple courtesy of the Buffalo Bills. This 0-2 start effectively ended the career of two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning. Enter rookie Quarterback Daniel Jones for his first NFL start against the Bucs in Week 3.
The Bucs came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders. Two drives, both ending in Touchdowns by Mike Evans, resulted in Tampa being ahead 12-3 after the first quarter (with both extra points missed by Kicker Matt Gay).
A second quarter touchdown, again by Evans, cancelled out an earlier Giants’ touchdown. Gay also added nine second quarter points with three successful Field Goals. As if being down 28-10 wasn’t bad enough, the Giants also lost star Running Back Sequon Barkley to injury in the second quarter. Game over. Or it should have been.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Bucs without some form of self-inflicted torture.
A one play, 75 yard touchdown from Evan Engram followed by another Giants touchdown before the end of the third quarter closed the deficit to 28-25 in Tampa’s favour as the Bucs Offense and Defense all but disappeared.
A fourth quarter Field Goal from Gay increased Tampa’s lead to six points. However, with barely over a minute remaining, the Bucs Defense parted like the Red Sea, or should that be the Pewter and Red Sea, as Danny Dimes waltzed into the endzone. Jones’ second rushing touchdown of the day combined with the converted extra point gave New York their first lead of the day with the score at 31-32.
Still there was more drama to come. Awoken from their slumber, Tampa’s Offense, with the help of a deep bomb from Winston to Evans, ended up on the Giant’s 9 yard line with one time-out remaining and 26 seconds left on the clock.
A spike by Winston on 1st down stopped the clock then the fun really began. Somehow, after spiking the ball and having a timeout at their disposal, the Bucs incurred a five yard delay of game penalty on second down. Third down was a two yard loss by Winston to ensure Gay was set up perfectly from the middle of the field.
What was originally a chip shot attempt from the nine yard line, was pushed back to the 16 yard line for a 34 yard attempt from Gay. Of course, now is probably not the moment to mention Gay’s earlier failed extra point attempts from the same end of the stadium.
Every Tampa fan watching the game, either at the stadium or at home knew what was coming. Gay pushed the kick wide right as time expired as the Giants left the field with an incredible and highly improbable victory.
As if the loss wasn’t bad enough, hearing Bucs Head Coach, Bruce Arians, claim afterwards that the five yard delay of game penalty was deliberate just rubbed salt into the seeping wound. Arians’ thinking was that his kicker was more accurate from further away. Ignoring the fact that Gay was a rookie facing his first ever game-winning attempt.
Not that the New York Giants cared as, for the first time since 1949, they overcame an 18-point half-time deficit. Throw in the fact that it was also with a rookie Quarterback and missing their star Running Back for more than half the game it’s no wonder the Giants celebrated in style.
So why exactly have I just re-lived through the above nightmare? Well this years Buccaneers are different. This year Buccaneers are play-off contenders. This years Buccaneers are on a roll. And their Defense is legit.
There are no easy games in today’s NFL. One only has to look at the results from yesterdays games. The Dolphins upsetting the Rams, the Bengals beating the Titans, the Vikings leaving Lambeau with a win. There is no way Tampa will be taking this game lightly. Bucs Quarterback Tom Brady has plenty experience of taking on the Giants when New York are the underdogs.
If the hype surrounding this Buccaneers team is to be believed then a dominate win in Met-Life Stadium will go a long way to convincing any remaining doubters out there, that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are truly back with the big boys of the NFL.
Image copyright – Buccaneers.com