TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The stat sheet didn't reflect the impact of Jason Pierre-Paul's return to the New York Giants.
The star defensive end made his season debut Sunday during a 32-18 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making two tackles and being credited with two quarterback hits in his first action since losing his right index finger and suffering additional damage to the hand in a July 4 fireworks accident.
The Giants didn't have any sacks. But Pierre-Paul's value was evident during the fourth quarter, he was able to put enough pressure on Jameis Winston to make the rookie quarterback rush several throws with the Bucs in catch-up mode.
''It was time to close the game. When it comes down to the fourth quarter, you have to give it everything you got,'' Pierre-Paul said. ''You have to beat the man in front of you.''
The Giants said Pierre-Paul played 46 of 63 (73 percent) defensive snaps, which is more than coach Tom Coughlin anticipated him working this soon.
''I think the players were excited to have him as a part of our team and have him active tonight,'' Coughlin said.
''I think he made a couple of outstanding rushes, particularly at the end when the quarterback was forced to roll right and heave the ball up. It was critical at that time,'' the coach added, referring to a sequence when New York forced a punt while clinging to a 23-18 lead with five minutes remaining. '' We didn't get the sack but it was good pressure. He needs to get his timing down. ... He's just going to get better and better.''
Pierre-Paul returned to practice two weeks ago and was believed on track to be activated next week against the Patriots. He progressed enough during workouts that the Giants decided to speed up the timetable.
''If it was up to me, I would have never come out, but that's not possible,'' Pierre-Paul said.
''I just know I'm happy that I'm back out here doing what I love to do. I got a second opportunity,'' he added. ''I think I played good. I've got some errors I need to take care of. I know I'm not perfect, but I'm going to try my hardest to take care of them and move on to the next game.''
Sunday was a homecoming of sorts for Pierre-Paul, who played in college at South Florida. The Bulls play home games in Raymond James Stadium, which is also home to the Bucs.
Pierre-Paul had 12 1-2 sacks in 2014 and rejoined a defense that's last in the NFL with nine sacks through nine games. He's playing on a one-year contract that with incentives could be worth more than $8 million for the remainder of the season.
''It was fun to see him out there chasing the quarterback,'' Giants star Eli Manning said.
'' We wanted him to get a sack. I definitely saw him chasing the quarterback around, getting him out of the pocket, making him move. He was a presence,'' Manning added. ''That's after two weeks of practicing. The more practices he gets, the more playing time will help him. He was definitely disruptive today. It was good to see that.''
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