Buccaneers 25, Giants 23: Immediate observations and reactions

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 1: Wide receiver Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hauls in a pass in front of cornerback Eli Apple #24 of the New York Giants for a touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL football game on October 1, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 1: Wide receiver Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hauls in a pass in front of cornerback Eli Apple #24 of the New York Giants for a touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL football game on October 1, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

The Buccaneers (2-1) returned to Raymond James Stadium- and the win column- on Sunday afternoon against the Giants (0-4). Here, we have immediate observations and reactions from Tampa Bay’s come-from-behind win.

31. 25. 48. Final. 23

The Buccaneers got out to a quick start on Sunday afternoon. After getting an early 13-0 lead, they lost momentum for quite some time, but outlasted the Giants in a crazy fourth quarter to win 25-23 on a last-second 34-yard field goal by Nick Folk.

Observations and Reactions- General

-The Bucs started fast on both sides of the ball, which is always encouraging. New York couldn’t move on the Tampa Bay defense at all in the first quarter, while its defense also couldn’t come up with stops.

-Unfortunately for the Bucs, they lost momentum pretty quickly. The Giants went on to dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 18:58 in the first half. The second half was a little more back-and-forth, which really tested the team on both sides of the ball.

-The Bucs did a good job staying way from penalties on Sunday, only getting flagged four times for 19 yards. The Giants (somehow?) were only flagged once.

-After a highly disappointing loss last week, it was encouraging to see Tampa Bay pick up a come-from-behind win on Sunday. The way they did it, while more dramatic than it could have been, was huge. It was especially important considering the team has to turn around and host New England on Thursday.

Must Read: What We Saw on Giants Film

Observations and Reactions- Offense

-Tampa Bay got its offense going early, doing exactly what it needed to do for the unit to be successful. It established the run, which was something that didn’t happen in last week’s loss. Jacquizz Rodgers had a few solid runs early before breaking off a 36-yarder. He finished the day with 83-yards on 16 carries.

-Of course, when the Bucs establish the run, the play-action is much more effective. Because of that, they were able to put together some big plays. One of those was a 58-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to rookie O.J. Howard to extend the lead to 13-0.

-Speaking of Winston, he stayed turnover-free on the day and threw for 332-yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-38 passing.

Mike Evans is just unbelievably good at football. He finished the day with five catches for 67-yards and a touchdown. The six-yard score in the first quarter was the 29th of his career, which now ranks third in franchise history.

-Despite a nice day from Rodgers, it will be great to get Doug Martin back on Thursday. Right before halftime, the Bucs failed to find the end zone from inside the five on three straight plays. I couldn’t help but think Martin would’ve punched it in there.

-Really, as good as the offense looked in grabbing an early 13-0 lead, it looked terrible the rest of the day. There was no sense of rhythm from the second quarter on. Part of that is on the players, sure, but Dirk Koetter deserves some of the blame. His play-calling on Sunday was downright puzzling at times. After falling behind 17-16, the Bucs needed a statement drive. Instead, Koetter abandoned the run and the offense went three and out. Something just felt off.

-With all the flash from Evans and DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries is underappreciated. He is a straight-up playmaker. His 38-yard catch set up a big Bucs touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Cameron Brate finished the day with four huge catches for 80-yards and a touchdown. His 26-yard catch on 3rd & 1 set up the game-winning field goal.

-As shaky as Tampa Bay looked on offense, Winston and Co. finally clicked on the game’s final drive. The third-year quarterback looked comfortable, made his throws and set up the game-winner.

Must Read: Bucs Responding

Observations and Reactions- Defense

-Early in the game, the pass rush looked much better than last week. But as the game rolled on, we saw more of the same. New York fields the worst offensive line in the NFL, yet the Bucs failed to pick up a sack and allowed Eli Manning to sit back in the pocket for most of the day.

-Speaking of Manning, as seasoned as he is and as good as he can be, he is very prone to making mistakes. However, Tampa Bay failed to force him into any on Sunday. The defense flew to the ball and created turnovers early in week two, but has failed to force a turnover since the first half of that game. In 10 quarters since that half, the defense has no sacks either.

-It wasn’t all negative. Gerald McCoy was all over the backfield in the first quarter. He finished the day with three tackles for loss and a quarterback hit.

-Rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith has really come a long way since struggling in his first preseason game. He tied for the team lead in tackles on Sunday with nine.

Vernon Hargreaves had nine tackles on the day, but still looked suspect throughout the day. His struggles aren’t concerning just yet, but he needs to step up in the coming weeks.

-Having Brent Grimes on the field makes such a difference for the Tampa Bay defense. The unit sorely missed him last week, and he showed why on Sunday. His advanced age means nothing at this point. He’s the best defender in the Tampa Bay secondary and it’s not even close.

-After the Bucs took a 22-17 lead, it was disappointing to see the defense give up a 10-play, 75-yard drive and the lead. Luckily, the offense bailed them out.

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Observations and Reactions- Special Teams

-Well, Nick Folk had himself, uh, an interesting day.  Folk was fine in the team’s first two games, but left seven points on the field this week. He missed an extra point early before failing to connect from 46 and 49. But then, when it came down to it, he connected- just barely- on a 34-yard game-winner as time expired.

-Now, there were still some positives on special teams this week. And of course, those were courtesy of the best punter in the world. Bryan Anger had another great day, averaging 49.8 yards on four kicks. He pinned the Giants inside their 20 twice, including once at the 3. On that play, he was aided by excellent coverage from Ryan Smith and Josh Robinson. His longest punt of the day went for 62-yards. Flipping the field on the opposition the way he can is a fantastic asset for Tampa Bay.

Final Thoughts

Well, that was certainly a ride. That seems to be the Buccaneers experience, as the team will frustrate you to the point of hating football before coming back and making your day. There is so much promise on this team, but it’s not all clicking yet. The connection between Jameis Winston and DeSean Jackson isn’t quite there yet, the defense is still not where it should be and the kicking game is still a major question mark. But despite all that, the Bucs sit at 2-1 and 2-0 at home.

With a short week coming up, this was a huge game. And no matter how they did it, the Buccaneers pulled it out. It was a monumental win, as they will now have to get re-fueled for a match-up with the defending Super Bowl champions.

The thing is, though, the Bucs should be feeling pretty good about where they are right now. The Patriots, on the other hand, are coming off a loss to the Panthers. That doesn’t mean Tampa Bay suddenly has some big advantage, but the fact that they were able to pull out this win before turning right around for another game in four days is absolutely great. The most promising thing, at this point, is that we haven’t even seen what the Buccaneers are fully capable of. And yet, this team is 2-1.

Past Tampa Bay teams would not have won this game. Past Bucs teams would have folded after the defense gave up a late lead. But not this one. That says a whole lot about the leadership and maturity on this team.

Next: Spotlight on Robert Ayers

The Buccaneers host the New England Patriots on Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 8:25 p.m.