So much for a letdown after that emotional, pulsating finish in Dallas. As it turned out, the Giants had a beach day in Tampa despite starting half a secondary and using Justin Tuck sparingly up front. The 24-0 shutout, accomplished on a nice fourth-quarter goal line series that included end zone breakups on third and fourth down, was the Giants' first since Oct. 30, 2005, a 36-0 win over Washington at home. It was also their first road shutout since Nov. 20, 1983 in Philadelphia, 23-0. Of course, that first Bill Parcells' team gladly would have traded the shutout for where these 3-0 Giants stand now, considering that squad finished 3-12-1.
The Giants did exactly as they planned, and what they should have done, against an undersized defense. They ran the ball. And they threw it around, too. And they stopped the run. Can't beat holding an opponent to five first downs, four of which came on the Bucs' final drive. Twenty-eight yards rushing, 58 yards passing, 86 total yards. Gonna be a lot of happy film watchers tomorrow.
Okay, maybe not everybody. Lawrence Tynes missed a 21-yard chippie, the second time he's missed inside 30 this year. Don't believe Tom Coughlin will do anything about that, though, since he's been hitting the truly big ones. Or, at least, he'll wait until Tynes does something really bad, like cost them a game, to make a change. But certainly the offense should be happy as it got to use all three running backs and put Ahmad Bradshaw over the 100-yard mark at 104, and Brandon Jacobs close enough to it at 92 yards. Gartrell Johnson did a nice job in garbage time, too. The run-pass ratio was 49-27, a testiment to just how well the offensive line handled the Bucs' front 7.
A quick look at the schedule shows Kansas City and Oakland up next, neither of whom should scare this team. So if they hit New Orleans at less than 5-0 now, it'll be a surprise. Not that anyone should get excited here. Tampa Bay came into the season rated as one of the NFL's worst teams. The Giants simply did what they should have done to inferior competition, and even at that they let the Bucs hang around way too long into the third quarter. But they did put them away, and that's something they don't often do against anyone.
So, hey, be happy, everybody! Celebrate those 397 yards of total offense, no turnovers for a second straight game, and possession advantage of 43:38 to 16:22.
THE BIG PLAYS:
Eli Manning's needle-like pass to Steve Smith for a 12-yard gain to the Tampa Bay 20 setup the first touchdown, a 7-yard walk-in by Jacobs in the first quarter. It looked then like the Giants would mix the run and pass well.
Terrell Thomas' first-quarter interception off Byron Leftwich gave the Giants possession at their 34, but it was Bradshaw's 38-yard run around right tackle on which he shook a linebacker that set up a second touchdown. That, by the way, came on short-yardage (third-and-1), a troublesome down-and-distance in the past. But they did convert three of those in the first two drives, one which produced Jacobs' 4-yard touchdown run.
Ahmad Bradshaw: Can't credit him enough, as he actually ran better and strong than Jacobs. He killed the inside defense with his short cutbacks up the middle. Jacobs didn't do poorly, but he didn't look as sharp as Bradshaw.
Fred Robbins: The whole defensive line contributed well; even Osi Umenyiora, who looked more active despite his failing to record a tackle. But Robbins was the best as he fought off those inside double-teams to apply pressure on Leftwich. Plus, he made a great play against the run, dropping Derrick Ward for five yards in the second quarter.
Steve Smith: Nice 4-yard catch for a touchdown, and he led the receivers with seven catches for 63 yards. Outstanding grab on a diving 10-yard throw that was challenged, but upheld, to keep a fourth-quarter touchdown drive going on third-and-8.
Sinorice Moss: Wondering where he's been hiding? Wonder no more. They put in in on that touchdown drive, ran him past Aquib Talib, and then watched him leap over Talib for his first reception of the year, an 18-yard touchdown catch. Might just have earned himself a little more time with that.
Kevin Boss: His 24-yard catch set up Tynes' 26-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead, and he made several nice blocks along the way, too.
Antonio Pierce: His deflection as Jerramy Stevens was coming free at the goal line saved the Giants the shutout.
Travis Beckum: Nice to see the third-round tight end come out a little bit with his first two catches of the season for eight yards.
Bruce Johnson: Another nice shoestring tackle, but got called for holding on a punt return and missed a tackle. No harm done, though.
Will Beatty: The second-round tackle came in after Kareem McKenzie went off with a knee injury in the fourth quarter and pass protected well.
The Ugly Stuff:
After that kind of performance, this catagory goes almost naked. But let's put Tynes in there, just for giggles. I don't hate this guy as much as many of you do. Yeah, he missed a 21-yarder, but he hit another to put the Giants up 17-0, basically out of reach for the hapless Bucs.
It's really on anyone who shut the game off before Gartrell Johnson came in. Did a real nice job on running the clock, picking up 23 yards on six carries.
Probably should be worried about McKenzie because he never returned. Have to find out what that's all about tomorrow.
G Rich Seubert also went off for good with a fourth-quarter shoulder. He's had problem with the right shoulder this week, so he probably just aggravated things. But if it doesn't get better, we could see both Beatty and Seubert's replacement Kevin Boothe in the starting lineup.