By Paul Dottino
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The Giants were finally able to capitalize on a feel-good moment this season.
They recorded a 32-18 road victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while celebrating the return of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the lineup, more than four months after his July 4 fireworks accident.
Although they welcomed back the veteran pass rusher, the Giants also will wait for Monday’s MRI to find out how long they may lose defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins, who suffered a pectoral injury.
Perhaps of greater significance is how the Giants improved to 5-4 while holding on to first place in the NFC East, guaranteeing their relevance for at least another three weeks. They play the Patriots, then have a bye and then meet the Redskins. At worst, the Giants will visit Washington with a .500 record after 10 games.
Offense — WR Odell Beckham Jr. He finished with nine catches (on 14 targets) for 105 yards. Beckham also registered seven first downs, including four third-down conversions on his way to the fourth 100-yard game of the season.
Defense — DE Jason Pierre-Paul. Did you really expect anyone else? After just three practices, he took 46 snaps out of 63 plays, finishing with three pressures, two QB hits and two tackles. He played stand-up defensive end seven times, including the only snap he took at left end, and took two snaps as a defensive tackle. His damaged right hand was wrapped as is if he had a soft cast on a broken wrist.
Special teams — PK Josh Brown. Given how the Giants have had trouble putting away opponents, Brown needs to be perfect every week, as was the case Sunday after he made all four of his field goal attempts. He hit from 35 (twice), 53 and 44. Brown’s final two gave the Giants fourth-quarter leads of 23-18, and then 26-18 with 23 seconds left. Brown has made a team-record 22 straight, dating to last season.
Offense — TE Will Tye. Eli Manning wasn’t very sharp, yet was sharp enough. He hit Tye with a first-quarter slant that would have gone for a TD if Tye hadn’t dropped the ball. Two plays later, the Giants settled for field goal and a 3-3 tie.
Defense — Safeties. They had a big hand in allowing Tampa Bay’s two biggest gains of the day — and both set up scores. On the Bucs’ second possession of the afternoon, WR Mike Evans caught a short slant that went for 69 yards. Starting FS Landon Collins was late and took a horrible angle on the ball, opening up the middle of the field for the receiver to take off before LB Jonathan Casillas tracked him down at the 12. Four plays later, Connor Barth kicked a 20-yard field goal. then on first down from the Bucs’ 13 with 11:36 left in the game, RB Charles Sims found a crease in the left side. However, what should have been no more than an 8-yard gain turned into 59 because he broke through attempted tackles of third S Craig Dahl and then starting SS Brandon Meriweather before finding open field.
Special teams — None. All ends of the operation were clean, without any glaring miscues that warrant criticism.
Follow Paul on Twitter at @GiantsWFAN