EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When Jason Pierre-Paul was asked Wednesday about finally having the chance to sack longtime Giants teammate Eli Manning, he playfully looked into the TV cameras around him and said, "I'm coming, Eli."
Pierre-Paul's much-hyped return to the Meadowlands lived up to the buildup Sunday. Pierre-Paul was received well, even cheered by Giants fans at times, while he logged 1-1/2 sacks of Manning and seven tackles.
But the Bucs' 38-35 loss to the Giants, their seventh in eight games, was Pierre-Paul's biggest takeaway from his return. Ultimately, he wanted to beat the team that abruptly traded him last March.
"Fell short, but that's OK," Pierre-Paul said. "Defense battled, everyone battled. We just need to find those things that keep on making us lost the game because I hate losing man. I hate it with a passion."
Both Pierre-Paul sack plays stalled Giants drives. After the Bucs fell behind 14-0, Pierre-Paul was initially credited with a full sack on a drive-opening play that led to a three-and-out. (He was later credited with a half-sack, the other half going to end Carl Nassib).
After that sack, Pierre-Paul helped Manning up.
"I was telling him, 'Get up, man. Stop falling,'" Pierre-Paul joked. "I was just helping him up because that was my old teammate and I ain't trying to hurt him. I'm just playing football."
Pierre-Paul sacked Manning in the third quarter to force the Giants into a third-and-long and made them settle for a 52-yard field goal.
"I saw him afterward and he let me know he got me a few times," Manning said. "He went easy on me, didn't give me any extra push into the ground or an extra hit. A lot of respect for JPP, he was a great teammates and is playing at a high level this year. He is one of the good guys in the NFL."
Pierre-Paul is now a half sack short of becoming the first Bucs player to record double-digit sacks since Simeon Rice in 2005.
"I'm not looking to really beat a sack record," Pierre-Paul said. "I'm just playing some great ball, trying to get my teammates going."
Pierre-Paul admitted that the trade didn't sit well with him, emphasizing that his career unexpectedly changed with one phone call, but left his old home with no hard feelings.
"Coming back here there was a lot of memories for me and a lot of people I touched," he said.
"At the end of the day, losing sucks, but you've got to make the best out of it. We'll snap out of it. I thought it was this game, but it will be the next game for sure."
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.