By Paul Dottino
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Tom Coughlin must have thought he was riding a roller coaster. The Giants’ 41-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers produced as many thrills as anxious moments for the team as any wild amusement park ride.
We’ll spare you all of the stats and records that were either broken or challenged and simply tell you that Eli Manning led the Giants on four straight fourth-quarter scoring drives in the come-from-behind victory. He did not get sacked despite taking the game on his shoulders, going 31-of-51 for 510 yards (second-most in team history, but a record for a Giants’ home game) with three TDs.
He also put the Giants in a big hole with three first-half interceptions while being let down by his teammates, who had three early drops.
Offense-WR Hakeem Nicks. We could go many places here – starting with Manning, WR Victor Cruz (11-for-179 and a TD) or RB Andre Brown (13-for-71 yards and a TD) because the Giants scored 41 points. But we’ll stick with Nicks because it was clear his sore foot was an issue, given how many times he was seen hobbling throughout the game. Yet, he hauled in a 50-yard pass down the right sideline with almost a minute left to set up the winning TD and finished with 10 catches for 199 yards (including a 23-yard second-quarter score).
Remember, Nicks has been put on a once-a-week (Thursday) practice schedule because of his sore foot and was not much of a factor in the opener against Dallas, but he was spectacular in this one.
Defense-CB Jayron Hosley. Should there be any accolades for a team that gave up 34 points?
We will go with third-round pick Hosley, who was given his first pro start in his second pro game. Michael Coe (hamstring) was reduced to a part-time role.
Prince Amukamara (ankle) was scratched. Justin Tryon had a rough preseason and continues to struggle in a part-time role. So Hosley got the call and – upon initial inspection held up well – allowing one obvious completion to Vincent Jackson and finishing with five tackles.
Special teams-PK Lawrence Tynes. He drilled all four of his field goal opportunities, even though his long was only 37 yards, in a game where every point mattered.
Offense-LT Will Beatty. No, we’re not doing this for his play on the offense line – he played well after entering the game upon David Diehl suffering a knee injury. But a wide-open Beatty dropped a 2-yard Manning pass in the end zone with about 4 minutes left in the first quarter and, two plays later, Beatty was called for a false start. The Giants had to settle for a field goal and a 6-3 lead.
Defense-CB Justin Tryon. There are many choices, given the Bucs scored 34 points, but we’ll go with Tryon since he was victimized by Mike Williams on a 41-yard TD pass to make it 34-all with 1:58 remaining. Williams outbattled Tryon for the pass down the left sideline.
Special teams-Kickoff coverage unit. We’ll have all of them run because nobody was able to pick up the fumble that LB Adrian Tracy caused with a huge hit on WR Arellious Benn following the Giants’ first score. The unit also permitted Benn to take back the second-half kickoff 55 yards to the Giants 47, setting up a FG drive that put the Bucs up, 27-13.
Who gets your top game ball and gasser? Be heard in the comments below!