JPP returns, helps Giants beat mistake-prone Buccaneers
The defensive end's season debut went about as well as could have been expected Sunday, with the sixth-year pro helping the NFC East leaders rebound from a disappointing loss with a 32-18 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pierre-Paul didn't have a sack in his first action since losing his right index finger and suffering additional damage to the hand in a July 4 fireworks accident. However, he did finish with two tackles and a pair of quarterback hits while handling a bigger workload than the Giants anticipated this soon.
One of coach Tom Coughlin's goals was to keep Pierre-Paul fresh enough to be effective in the fourth quarter. That objective was met, even though the 6-foot-5, 278-pound end played 73 percent (46 of 63) of the team's defensive snaps.
''I had fun out there. Just being with my teammates and help them win the game, I felt great,'' Pierre-Paul said.
''Its not normal for me to come out of the game, but it takes time,'' he added. ''If it was up to me, I would have never come out.''
The Giants (5-4) are last in the NFL with nine sacks. Pierre-Paul showed what kind of an impact he can have, especially late in the game with Jameis Winston trying to rally the Bucs (3-5).
''That was probably more than I expected him to play. He was at his best in the last drive,'' Coughlin said, noting the Pierre-Paul's superb conditioning was a factor. ''He did help us at the end. You saw him chase the quarterback at the right a couple of times. That helped tremendously.''
Eli Manning threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense showed resiliency to rebound from the previous week's 52-49 loss at New Orleans.
The Giants recovered three fumbles, and Trevin Wade returned one of them 2 yards for a touchdown with no time remaining.
Winston threw for 247 yards without an interception, but Tampa Bay didn't get into the end zone until the No. 1 overall pick in the draft scrambled 10 yards for a touchdown that trimmed New York's lead to 20-18 early in the fourth quarter.
The rookie's 2-point conversion pass to the rear of the end zone was caught out of bounds. The Giants sealed the victory with Josh Brown kicking two of his four field goals over the next 9 minutes. Wade scooped up an errant lateral to punctuate the finish.
''Thought we were ready to get over the hump, but we're not quite there yet,'' Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said, lamenting dropped passes, untimely penalties and other mistakes that undermined his team.
''When you have an opportunity to win and you lose it based on things you did, correctable things,'' the coach added, ''it's disappointing.''
Some reasons why the Giants are back over .500, and the Bucs failed in a bid for their first two-game winning streak since 2013:
BUTTERFINGERS: Tampa Bay's Mike Evans had eight receptions for 152 yards, but also had several key drops while being targeted 19 times. Winston, who hasn't thrown an interception or fumbled in his past four games, threw 17 times combined to six other receivers.
THE DRIVE: Clinging to a 23-18 lead, the Giants forced a punt to get the ball back with 4:57 to play in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning extended what turned into a 10-play, 54-yard drive with a 9-yard completion to Odell Beckham, Jr., who made a nice sliding catch. Brown's 44-yard field goal made it 26-18 and left Tampa Bay with just 26 seconds to respond.
STOPPING DOUGIE: The Bucs ran for 136 yards, but a big chunk on that came on Charles Sims' 59-yard burst in the fourth quarter. Doug Martin was limited to 31 yards on 11 attempts after beginning the day as the NFL's fourth-leading rusher.
RESILIENT BUNCH: The Giants defense entered ranked 32nd in total defense. A week after allowing 608 yards, including 505 yards and a record-tying seven touchdowns passing to Drew Brees, the unit held the Bucs to three first-half field goals - one after Tampa Bay's Sterling Moore returned an interception 18 yards to the Giants 13 and another after Winston and Evans teamed on a 68-yard catch and run to the New York 12.
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