EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Bucs' muddled quarterback situation became even more messy Sunday, and in the process, their season continues to head south following an 38-35 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium
In his first game action since being benched three weeks ago in Cincinnati, Jameis Winston drove the Buccaneers back, but his comeback wasn't enough to beat a Giants team that spent most of the afternoon dismantling the Tampa Bay defense.
After sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter — emphasizing he was the quarterback who would give the Bucs the best opportunity to beat the Giants on the road —Fitzpatrick was benched in favor of Winston after throwing interceptions on three straight possessions.
With Winston at the reins of the Bucs' offense, he orchestrated touchdowns on four consecutive drives, cutting a 17-point deficit to three with 2:22 left in the game.
With the loss, the Bucs (3-7) have lost seven of their last eight games.
For the second straight game, the Bucs accumulated more than 500 yards of total offense in a loss, totaling 510 yards, including 359 yards passing.
Winston, who hadn't played since a four-turnover game in Cincinnati on Oct. 28, threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns, completing 12 of 16 pass attempts.
He hit Mike Evans in the end zone on a 41-yard pass in the left corner with 2:30 left in the game to make the score 38-35. After a failed onside kick attempt, the Bucs defense held and Tampa Bay received the ball back with 20 seconds left. Winston threw a deep ball for an interception to end the Bucs' hopes.
The Bucs cut the lead to three with 5:11 left in the game after an 8-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Humphries, but the Giants answered with rookie running back Saquon Barkley's third touchdown of the day on a 2-yard run. Barkley ran for 139 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry against a Tampa Bay defense without three key starters.
Fitzpatrick was benched after throwing his seventh interception, and his eighth turnover overall in the past three games, on second-and-2 from the Giants 32. He floated a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by safety Curtis Riley with 9:58 left in the third quarter.
That pass might not have been his worst of the game. On the Bucs' previous possession, Fitzpatrick threw a low pass intended for DeSean Jackson that was deflected by Janoris Jenkins and into the hands of linebacker Alec Ogletree, who returned it for a 15-yard touchdown.
Fitzpatrick was driving the Bucs for a potential game-tying touchdown score late in the first half but underthrew tight end O.J. Howard over the middle and was picked off by Michael Thomas at the New York 13.