Stat worth noting: The last time the Giants won the turnover battle, which they did in Tampa Bay, came against Detroit on Nov. 18.
Stat worth noting II: Very surprising is the success that Tampa had on third downs. They converted nine-of-14 third-down tries, yet couldn’t convert that stat into nearly enough points.
Turning point: After an awful first quarter, the Giants offense was starting to get into gear. With the score tied at 7 and the Giants facing a third-and-two from the Bucs 38-yard, Eli Manning dropped back and calmly connected with rookie Steve Smith for a 21-yard gain. Two plays later New York was in the end zone with a 14-7 lead they would not relinquish.
Plays to remember: After playing very well in the first half, Corey Webster put together quite a third quarter of play. Subbing for the injured Sam Madison, Webster recovered a fumble deep in Tampa territory to set up a Giants field goal to extend the lead to 17-7. Then toward the end of the quarter, Webster had perfect coverage on Joey Galloway and picked off Jeff Garcia’s pass in the end zone to thwart another Bucs threat.
Play to forget: On the first play of the Giants’ third possession, Brandon Jacobs was dropped for a four-yard loss by Bucs DT Jovan Haye. Haye sliced right through the Giants O-line to make the big play.
By the Numbers
-2 – Total yardage for the Giants in the first quarter
1 – Number of catches by Tampa WR Joey Galloway, who lost four yards on his lone reception
117.1 – Eli Manning’s QB rating in his second consecutive outstanding game
“I would just like to congratulate the Giants. They are a very good football team, very physical. I tip my hat to them.” – Bucs coach Jon Gruden
“People didn’t even expect us to make the playoffs this year and here we are winning our first playoff game.” – Giants LT David Diehl
What went right
Eli Manning played about as good a game as anyone could have hoped. He was very accurate and patient and managed to get through the whole game without a huge, costly mistake. Manning finished his afternoon completing 20-of-27 passes for 185 yards and two TDs.
Manning put together an epic drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters and all but officially salted the game away. New York marched 92 yards in 15 plays and milked 8:37 off the clock in the process of taking a 24-7 lead.
Amani Toomer, who capped that monster drive with a four-yard TD catch, finished with a team-high seven catches for 74 yards.
Corey Webster had the game of his life playing for Sam Madison. Webster blanketed dangerous Tampa receiver Joey Galloway all game long, including a key end zone interception. It’s been a rough year for Webster for sure, but he came up the biggest in the biggest spot.
The Giants were on the road. Big Blue is now 8-1 away from Giants Stadium and has a chance to rectify the one road game they lost this season in Dallas.
What went wrong
New York’s offense couldn’t get out of its own way in the opening period. The Giants went three-and-out on all three first-period possessions and obviously didn’t look so well doing so. On four of their nine plays during the first quarter, the Giants lost yardage.
They couldn’t quite shake the injury bug. Of the three starters injured against New England, only LB Kawika Mitchell was able to suit up. New York was forced to play without C Shaun O’Hara and CB Sam Madison.
On their second possession the Buccaneers knifed right through the Giants defense for a touchdown. Earnest Graham capped the 10-play, 54-yard drive with a one-yard score.
Despite scoring on both a run and a catch, Brandon Jacobs wasn’t too effective running on the vaunted Bucs defense. Jacobs averaged only 2.6 yards per carry on his 13 totes. I know, I know, we’re nitpicking here a little. But you go ahead and try to come up with too many things that went wrong in a very solid playoff victory.