Tom Brady has most certainly had some memorable tussles with the New York Giants. Despite facing a one-win Big Blue squad, Monday night proved no different. But it was Brady's bunch who prevailed in the end, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers withstood a valiant comeback bid from Daniel Jones and the Giants on the strength of a controversial Antoine Winfield pass break-up to win, 25-23.
1) Maybe it was those classic unis the Giants had on. More than likely it was New York's underrated defense, but for whatever reason, this didn't play out with a Buccaneers blowout like many prognosticated. Tom Brady surely has had troubles with the Giants, but the end result kept the Buccaneers sailing along as they won their third straight and stayed atop the NFC South at 6-2. Brady retook the top spot for career TD passes (no big deal) from Drew Brees when he hit Mike Evans, who laid out for a beautiful grab, for the go-ahead score in the fourth. Many viewed the Bucs as the NFC's best team coming into Monday. Should that change? The NFL's never predictable, every team has missteps. Tom and Tampa stumbled a bit, but still prevailed. Even the best teams win ugly -- it's an important trait that the elite teams must all possess. The Buccaneers trailed most of the game, rallied and then held on thanks to an Antoine Winfield Jr. pass break-up on a game-tying two-point try that was controversial, but nonetheless concluded Monday's affairs. For all the pageantry and legendary production that comes with Brady, more than anything else, he's one of the greatest winners in sports chronicle. This wasn't what we expected, but Brady's Bucs won. Last season, the Buccaneers didn't win these games, they lost them more often than not due to Jameis Winston turnovers. For all that Brady's brought to the Buccaneers, that winning edge and experience is the most valuable. It showed Monday.
2) Silver linings are a hard sell in the NFL. It's a results-based business and the Giants (1-7) and Daniel Jones failed to get it done. Nobody expected them to, of course. And for a good portion of the night, Jones looked solid, the Giants were leading, the defense was excellent and the opportunity was for the taking. Alas, Jones had two crippling interceptions, the offensive play-calling was clearly inhibited due to Jones' limitations, the second-year QB was off consistently on downfield throws and ultimately the conclusion was predictable, no matter how controversial one wants to color Winfield's pass break-up. Jones was 25-for-41 for 256 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 74.8 rating. Against a stellar Tampa defense, maybe that's impressive to some, but Brady (28-for-40, 279 yards, two TDs, no interceptions, 106.1 rating) easily outplayed him in a game that many will view as an off-night for TB12. Jones continues to show those moments that convince you not to give up on the 2019 first-round pick. But for a troubled franchise, Jones and Saquon Barkley were set to bring about this new era in N.Y. Barkley has been lost to injury and Jones' negatives continue to outweigh his positives and potential.
3) We've likely had the question answered already as to just how prolific Rob Gronkowski can be in his second life with the Buccaneers. A toll has no doubt been taken on his body over a Hall of Fame career. But he's still reliable in the clutch and after such a storied run together, he and Brady clearly have a trust within each other that has extended into another state and conference. It played out after a frustrating first half when Gronkowski hadn't even drawn a target. Gronk caught all four of his targets for 41 yards, his second catch a 16-yard gain and three plays later, Brady found Gronk in the end zone to finally find paydirt. It was a tipped ball that Gronkowski tracked and hauled in, a sigh of relief as much as a highlight, rescuing an offense from the doldrums and bestowing the Bucs with their first lead of the night. The lumbering Gronk has now tallied TDs in three straight games for the first time since Weeks 6-8 in 2016, per NFL Research. When Brady and the Bucs need him, Gronk can still come up big.
4) Brady's swansong of a season in New England was one marked by an offense that was inefficient too often, while a terrific defense carried the load. Monday was very much a similar situation for the majority of the night. The NFL's No. 3 overall defense coming in, the Buccaneers, despite getting a surprising fight from the Giants, were still formidable. Devin White had his fifth sack of the season -- all of them coming over the last three games -- and the 2019 draft's fifth pick is playing like it. Much has been made about Shaquil Barrett not getting the sacks he did last season, but it's mattered not. The Bucs had three sacks Monday (none from Barrett), two takeaways and allowed 357 yards of offense. Much as it was in New England, when Tom Brady is on a team, the spotlight doesn't move far from him, but the Bucs' defense has been a rough-and-tumble unit throughout the season and has played just as pivotal a role, if not more of one, as the team's high-profile offense in making Tampa one of the league's top teams.
5) As the Giants honor the 30th anniversary of the 1990 title team, they donned their classic uniforms for Monday night. It served as a reminder of the glory days of a storied franchise. But it was also a stark reminder that it's been quite some time since the Giants have been a contender, much less a winner. Big Blue might well be a few weeks away from clinching its fourth consecutive losing campaign. Joe Judge is the third full-time head coach for the club over the last four seasons, yet there's really no feeling of a fresh start, just the same storyline. There are no easy answers as to how fortunes can be reversed, only the reality that much must still be changed. There were positives found in the fight displayed by the Giants and the close game had against one of the league's best. But the losses just simply continue to pile up for a franchise that has tallied double-digit defeats for three seasons running. As the Giants' struggles carry on, the closest they can come to the triumphs of yesterday is by wearing different uniforms.
6) Highlighted by a phenomenal deflection in the second quarter, Giants cornerback James Bradberry had another noteworthy showing as he is quietly turning in a terrific year. Obviously his night wasn't perfect, as he drew a big DPI and also gave up a TD to Evans, though it came on a stellar effort from the Pro Bowl wideout. Bradberry leads the league with 12 passes defensed and is among those on an underrated Giants defense that deserve their due. One win or not, Bradberry's been brilliant more often than not for the Giants.
7) This game wasn't the Tampa scoring parade most expected. And while Brady and Co. came through in the second half, kicker Ryan Succop consistently produced. For the fourth consecutive game, Succop was perfect on his kicks, hitting his one point-after attempt and on all four of his field goals. There has been no shortage of much-ballyhooed veteran additions for the Bucs, but this former "Mr. Irrelevant" has steadied the kicking game and been a valuable and consistent contributor.