Bucs win as Winfield stops conversion

by Gary Shelton on November 3, 2020

in general

Evans made a diving catch for a score./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

It was as harrowing a flag that was dropped before being picked up. It was as scary as officials, huddling to discuss what they had just seen. It was as frightening as a pass that deflected off of Antoine Winfield's right arm.

Yeah, this was what the movie producers meant when they came up with the title "Escape From New York."

The lethargic Tampa Bay Bays, playing about three floors below what we have seen over the last month, beat the New York Giants Monday night. Barely. It was an edge of the fingernails, photo-finish, disputed finale as the Bucs narrowly escaped disaster. They held off the Giants 25-23 in their least impressive win of the season.

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Quarterback Daniel Jones led the Giants 70 yards downfield, converting on a fourth-and-five and a fourth-and-16, to make the game boil down to a two-point conversion by the Giants. Jones tried to throw to Dion Lewis, but Winfield and the ball arrived at the same moment. The ball ticked off Winfield's arm, and contact was made, and a penalty flag was thrown.

After the officials huddled to discuss the play, the flag was picked up. The Bucs recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock to win.

“The ball hit Antoine in the back," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "To me it was no pass interference. It was a good call. I don’t know why it took so long. He had his hands out, there was no contact. The ball hit him in the back.

The Bucs, considering their talent, were outplayed by the Giants, considering theirs, for most of the night. Tampa Bay didn't score a touchdown until the second half. The Giants were able to run the ball. The New York defensive line won a lot of battles against the Bucs' offensive line.

So how did the Bucs win? Well, they got three big plays from the secondary -- interceptions by Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting and Winfield's play at the end.

"We didn't play anywhere near our best," said quarterback Tom Brady. "We're going to have to play a lot better than that."

Arians admitted that, too.

"We didn't play our best, but we made enough plays to win," Arians said. "You never apologize for winning.

"We did not find our energy fast enough. We got hit in the mouth. We were slow to start offensively. I don’t like to see anyone run the ball on us."

Brady was better in the second half, throwing touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans. For the game, he hit 28 of 40 passes for 279 yards. He had a rating of 106.1.

Still, the game came down to that final play with Winfield. 

“He’s been consistent since the day he got here," Arians said. "He verbalizes so much on the field, which most rookies will not do. He’s a baller. He’s got it in his bloodlines. No stage is too big for him."

On both of the Buc' interceptions, Shaq Barrett had his hands on Jones.

“He caused both of them," Arians said. "His numbers aren’t the same, but he's getting a lot of push. He had the quarterback in the grasp both times. The young quarterback is still trying to do too much. Gold bless him, he is hard to handle."

After this game, the Bucs need to tighten up a bit. They need to plug their holes in the secondary, which was susceptible to the double-move all night. They need to tackle better. They need to open wider holes in the running game. They need not to give away touchdowns on fumbles.

The Bucs, so far, haven't adjusted well to their prime-time games. They lost to Chicago earlier, and this time, they barely beat a 1-7 Giants team.

“The last time we had a close call, we lost," Arians said. "This one, we won. We've grown some as a team. It wasn’t our best effort but it was enough to win."

Given the high standards of the season, was that enough?

We will find out Sunday night, when the Bucs again barge the darkness to play at home against the New Orleans Saints.

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