Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bucs go deep— a little

Giants coach Tom Coughlin had strong words for Bucs coach Greg Schiano during the handshake at midfield after New York's 41-34 win. • Schiano, who is in his first year as an NFL coach after 11 seasons at Rutgers, instructed his defense to try to knock the ball from Giants QB Eli Manning as he took a knee with five seconds remaining in the game. The Giants players and Coughlin took exception to the tactic and some shoving ensued. • Coughlin approached Schiano after the game and was pointing to where the kneel down took place. After refusing to shake Schiano's hand, he returned and was seen yelling at Schiano for about 15 seconds. • "I don't think you do this at this level," Coughlin said. "You don't do that in this league. You don't just … you jeopardize the offensive line, you jeopardize the quarterback. Thank goodness we didn't get anybody hurt, that I know of." • Schiano was unapologetic to Coughlin, but some Bucs players confirmed the Giants thought the tactic was "bush league." Manning said the Bucs took "a little bit of a cheap shot." • Said Schiano: "I don't know if that's not something that's done in the National Football League. What I do with our football team is that we fight until they tell us game over. … We crowd the ball like a sneak defense and try to knock it loose. If people watched Rutgers, they would know that's what we do at the end of a game. We're not going to quit, that's just the way I coach and teach our players. If some people are upset about it, that's just the way it goes. I don't have any hesitation. That's the way we play. We play clean, hard football until they tell us the game is over." • The Giants don't agree. • "As professionals, you understand what this game is," WR Victor Cruz said. "You don't take a cheap shot like that. There's a slim chance of a fumble, but it felt more like a cheap shot." • Added Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck: "It won't be forgotten."

Trailing 41-34 on the Giants 45 with 18 seconds to play, the Bucs' Josh Freeman lofted a pass down the left sideline to WR Mike Williams for what was initially ruled a 29-yard gain. Despite starting from its 36 with just 25 seconds left, it appeared Tampa Bay would have a chance for some throws into the end zone. • But the call on the field, a catch, was challenged by the replay assistant and overturned after review by referee Jim Core. It was ruled that Williams did not make a "football move" before losing the ball out of bounds after getting jarred loose by S Antrel Rolle. • Williams appeared to have possession, and he got the required two feet down in bounds. But Rolle's hit knocked the ball loose as Williams was falling to the ground out of bounds. • The decision derailed the Bucs' comeback efforts and left Williams wondering. • "I guess I have to get three (feet) down," he said. "I didn't bobble it at all." • Williams said during the review, he consulted with one of the officials near the call and got a surprising response. • "I said, 'It's a catch. I got two (feet) down,' " Williams said. "He told me, 'If you got two down, it's a catch.' But it wasn't a catch (after the review)." • Former NFL supervisor of officials Mike Pereira, an analyst for Fox Sports, said Williams needed to make "an act common to the game" before losing control. He defined such an act as "maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it or avoid or ward off an opponent." • "I look at it like I guess I have to go all the way to the ground with it," Williams said. "That's a situation I have to learn from right there. (Rolle) kind of popped up in my view real late. I couldn't get it all the way up to my chin and it bobbled out. One thing I have to do is hold it more."

. If Bucs CB Eric Wright didn't seem all that excited about his 60-yard interception return for a touchdown off Eli Manning, it might be because it wasn't the longest of his career.

In fact, it wasn't even his longest return off Manning. • In 2008, while playing for the Browns, Wright picked off Manning and returned it 94 yards for a score. • "I undercut a route," Wright said. "But it wasn't the same result." • No, the Browns went on to win that game. But what allowed Wright to make it to the end zone this time, zigging and zagging along the way, is the same mentality that led to the 2008 play. • "I just had to get to the house," Wright said, "any way I could." • It wasn't easy. After making the interception, Wright started toward the end zone but stopped quickly to elude WR Victor Cruz. By the time Wright finished darting around the field, he had eluded four would-be tacklers. Bucs DE Adrian Clayborn took care of the last man, Manning, who was running down the sideline trying to stop Wright. • Wright just wishes the game could have ended as gloriously as his big play. • "We have to finish," he said.

. When Vincent Jackson signed the biggest contract given to a receiver in this year's class of free agents ($55 million over five seasons), you probably assumed the Bucs would look to make the deal pay off. • On Sunday, a week after Jackson had four catches for 47 yards against Carolina in the opener, the Bucs went to him in a big way. • Jackson had five catches for 128 yards, including a 41-yard deep ball down the sideline and a 29-yard touchdown. WR Mike Williams also went deep, making a leaping 41-yard catch for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. • "We want to run the ball and, of course, when we have the chance, we want to be aggressive in the passing game as well," Jackson said. "We have good receivers, and we have a quarterback who can make all the throws as well." • The problem, however, was that on a day when Eli Manning threw for 510 yards, the Bucs didn't have spectacular offensive results nearly enough. After a number of big gains early in the game, the Bucs went a long stretch without any. • In fact, the Bucs didn't convert a third down between the 13:55 mark of the second quarter and the 10:57 mark of the fourth quarter. • "Looking back … that's definitely an area where we're going to have to find a way to stay going," Bucs QB Josh Freeman said. "We started out the game making some plays, we were moving the ball, then we hit a bit of a lull."

CB Aqib Talib gladly accepted the challenge, but it was no small chore. Playing single coverage against WR Hakeem Nicks numerous times Sunday, it's hard to argue that Talib lost most of the battles. • Nicks had 10 catches for 199 yards, including a 50-yarder from Eli Manning with 1:28 left that set up the winning TD. • "We made some plays, but we didn't make enough," Talib said. "Hopefully we get to see those boys again." • Nicks picked up 93 yards in the first half, including a 40-yarder on the game's second play. He added 106 in the second half, including six catches of 10 yards or more. • On the 50-yarder, Talib tried to disrupt Nicks' release off the line. That allowed Nicks to get a step on Talib and catch the perfectly thrown pass over his shoulder. • "I did get a hand on him, but he just made a play," Talib said. • Nicks and Manning relished the single coverage. • "Single coverage doesn't come often for us," Nicks said. "They matched us up on single coverage … and me and Eli just kind of took advantage." • Manning shredded the Bucs blitz: 9-for-14 for 228 yards and two TDs when Tampa Bay sent a defensive back on the rush, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Of those 228 yards, 164 were in the fourth. And Nicks was the primary outlet on the blitz: seven catches for 143 yards on the 11 times Manning targeted him on blitzes.

Benn makes debut

. WR Arrelious Benn hadn't taken a hit as brutal since the end of the 2011 season. After missing all of training camp, the preseason and Week 1 with a knee injury, Benn made his debut Sunday.

And things didn't start well at all.

Benn, assuming the role of kick returner for the first time in his pro career, fielded a kickoff from the Giants on the Bucs' first possession, turned upfield and promptly fumbled after being blasted by DE Adrian Tracy. The Bucs would recover, but the question is whether Benn would.

"There's no excuses," he said. "I should have (cradled) the ball and held it high and tight. But I didn't. I was so psyched up to hit it and just to be out there. But I calmed down."

After he did that, the Bucs just might have found a kick returner. With RB Michael Smith left inactive — Tampa Bay has found it hard to activate four running backs on game day and played D.J. Ware as its third back — the Bucs turned to their latest kick returner (they've been trying several options since the preseason).

Benn opened the second half with a 55-yard return to the Giants 47-yard line, setting up a drive that resulted in a 52-yard Connor Barth field goal.

It's the first time Benn's done it since college, but he's ready for more.

"I like getting the ball in my hands," he said, "and making a play."

Quick hits

. Eric Wright's 60-yard interception return was the 40th defensive touchdown scored by the Bucs since 2000, third most in the NFL during that span (behind Baltimore and Green Bay, both with 42).

. Vincent Jackson's 128 yards (and one TD) was the 15th 100-yard receiving game of his career.

. Connor Barth extended his team record consecutive FG streak to 20 with kicks of 45 and 52 yards.

. The Giants punted on their first possession of the second half, then put together five consecutive scoring drives (two field goals and three TDs) to end the game.

Line holds up

The Bucs couldn't be sure what they were going to get from Demar Dotson. But the backup right guard, starting for the injured Jeremy Trueblood (ankle), didn't give up a sack against what some consider the NFL's best defensive line.

Dotson committed a false start but otherwise performed impressively, alternately blocking dominant pass rushers Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.

"Man, those guys are good," Dotson said. "Hands down the best defensive line in the NFL. What a coming-out party, man."

The Bucs got solid overall offensive line play, holding the Giants to two sacks, one when QB Josh Freeman held the ball too long and pass coverage was tight.

The other appeared to be a communication issue.

"I think one of the sacks we gave up, we thought it was a running play," LG Carl Nicks said.

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