TAMPA — Having already proven his team will fight to the finish, Greg Schiano didn't back down from a raging dispute that became the talk of the NFL Monday.
It seemed everybody wanted to weigh in about the Bucs coach's decision to order his defense to attack Giants quarterback Eli Manning, trying to cause a fumble, as Manning prepared to take a knee with five seconds left in New York's 41-34 win.
Schiano, who coached 11 seasons at Rutgers University, said his Scarlet Knights team caused a fumble four times in the past five seasons using that technique during kneel downs at the end of games.
"To me it's a clean, hard, tough finish-the-game play,'' he said. "Some people disagree with that. That's certainly what makes the world go round. Everybody has opinions. But I don't have any remorse or regret.
"It's clean, hard football. It was no sneak attack. We were down, ready to go and that's how we do it all the time. If you've studied any tape of us, that's how we do it."
Schiano got a stern rebuke from Giants coach Tom Coughlin when they met at midfield after the game. Manning, who passed for a career-high 510 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, called the play a ''cheap shot.''
The controversy overshadowed a remarkable game in which the Bucs blew a 27-14 lead in the third quarter. Manning's last six completions produced 221 yards and two touchdowns.
While the Bucs defense allowed a franchise-record 604 yards, it was the minus-1 Manning absorbed by taking a knee to end the game that provided fodder for analysts nationally.
Among those defending Schiano were former Bears coach Mike Ditka, Vikings receiver Cris Carter, Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski and former Jets and Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, the hero of the original "Miracle in the Meadowlands."
Schiano also had detractors. Former Ravens coach Brian Billick said the first-year NFL coach "went all Jersey Shore on us." Former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci and former Vikings coach Denny Green also seemed to disagree with the decision.
"I have thoughts, but it's not pertinent to me right now, and it's not something that you're going to see us do," Chargers coach Norv Turner said.
Meanwhile, Ditka and Jaworski said Coughlin's postgame lecture was inappropriate.
"Hey, you've got pads and a helmet on, the game's not over. Play," Ditka said. "Tom is wrong about this, no matter what he says. He's wrong. You never go out with the intent of hurting anybody, but you do try to get the ball back."
Jaworski, whose Eagles team beat the Giants when Edwards returned a fumble 26 yards for a touchdown on a botched attempt to run out the clock in 1978, agreed with Schiano.
"Oh, there's no doubt that Tom Coughlin owes Greg Schiano an apology for the way he reacted after the game," Jaworski said. "I will give you a real life example of why. Remember the Miracle in the Meadowlands with (Giants quarterback) Joe Pisarcik?"
In that game, the Eagles trailed 17-12 with no timeouts. "Our situation in '78 was this: The Giants actually ran a play and then they turned around the next play and kneeled on it," Edwards said. "A skirmish occurred. We kind of knocked the center over, knocked Joe Pisarcik over.
"Once the skirmish started, when they kneeled on the ball, they get back in the huddle, they run another running play," Edwards said. (Center Jim) Clack is nervous because the 40-second clock is running down and he hikes the ball before Joe is ready. Joe gets the ball, the timing of the run is off, (running back Larry) Csonka comes through the line, it hits off his hip and I'm going, 'If I can get this ball off the bounce I can score.' "
The NFL said Monday the Bucs' play was legal, but it would determine whether any players should be disciplined for the ensuing scuffle. Giants center David Baas appeared to throw three punches.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, whose team hosts Tampa Bay Sunday, did not sound wary of the Bucs' tactics.
"Certainly, there's a style of football they're trying to implement down there in Tampa and feel like that's in some ways indicative of how they want to play, how they're going to handle an end-of-the-game situation," Garrett said.
By the end of Monday, Schiano appeared ready to turn the page.
"This is not going to be the topic of conversation because we had a football game that we should've won and we didn't and that's what I'm most frustrated with right now," he said.