Manning, Giants Rally to Sink Buccaneers

Samantha Bunten, CineSport—Eli Manning threw for a career-high 510 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants' 41-34 comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The New York Post's Paul Schwartz reports from MetLife Stadium.

Ah, the Super Bowl Hangover. Such a charming, yet belittling way to quietly imply that a team like this year’s now 1-1 Giants just ain’t what they used to be. Toto, we aren’t in 2011 anymore.

But before slapping the Giants with a Destined Not To Repeat condemnation, recall that this is a team that, in its recent successful seasons, has more than once gotten off to a horrendous start only to wind up a playoff team or even a Super Bowl champion.

After falling to a tough Dallas team in Week 1, they barely got out of Week 2 alive, but get out of it they did, 41-34 over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Worried about the Giants early struggles? Before panicking, recall the 2008 Super Bowl champion squad, who for the first half of that season, were positively awful.

Their defense was a train wreck. At the time the literal and figurative red-headed stepchild of the Manning family, young QB Eli, could complete a pass to anyone you wanted…as long as they were on the opposing team.

But something happened to the Giants that midseason, and they went from sloppy to unstoppable. They had to play their entire playoff schedule on the road, thanks to that lousy start that resulted in a 9-7 finish and barely let them sneak into the playoffs. But somehow, they survived.

And today in New York, where a mere 30 minutes of play prior to the Giants’ eventual victory, things looked bleak, New York once again did what they needed to in order to survive, and may have already thrown the proverbial post-Super Bowl monkey off their back.

Are they a weaker squad than the one that won the Super Bowl last season? Possibly. But are they careening off track and headed for a losing season after starting out 1-1? That seems highly doubtful.

Defensively, they are far better than they have played thus far. Offensively, the holes created by age, inury and free agent defections are taking a predictable toll.

However, despite some weakened links in the chain, it’s hard to believe that Eli Manning and his offense's season will, in the end, be better defined by today’s three interceptions and early-game botched receiving routes than it will be by the comeback they engineered in the second half.

The bigger problem might be the running game, literally hamstrung by leg and foot injuries to struggling RB Ahmad Bradshaw, who left today’s game with yet another injured body part (this time,a neck issue.) The New York rushers behind Bradshaw on the depth chart appeared at first glance woefully underqualified, yet also not completely hopeless.

With Bradshaw constantly plagued by myriad nagging injuries, Andre Brown and David Wilson had to step up, or opposing defenses would be able to – as Tampa Bay did for the first half of the game today – largely ignore any rushing threat and focus all their effort on disrupting the passing game.

But Brown wound up coming up big at the end, showing that the Giants can absorb the injuries to Bradshaw and certainly the departure of Brandon Jacobs.

New York had no trouble putting up yardage today – in fact they nearly doubled the production of Tampa Bay’s offense.

Eli Manning did what he does best, which is bounce back. Those three interceptions will be largely forgotten, thanks to a comeback victory (the 21st of Manning’s career), especially one accented by three touchdown passes, a staggering 510 passing yards and a phoenix-like ability to just keep coming back.

Manning and his receivers repeatedly throttled the Tampa Bay secondary downfield late in the game, and the running game, which appeared shaky at first, ended up delivering the knockout punch to the Bucs.

The Giants have their work cut out for them in 2012, but today proved it’s easily conceivable that they’re up to the task.

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