TAMPA, Fla. — We have seen enough of the NFL to know that even now, two days before Thanksgiving, it is impossible to make a definitive statement about anything or anybody. You want to believe the Giants can attack the final seven games of the schedule, somehow turn 3-7 into 9-8 and a crack at the 7 seed?
Knock yourself out.
But one more time Monday night, we were treated to an example of just how vast the chasm is between the Giants and true legitimacy. The Buccaneers, frankly, weren’t all that sharp, and against a different team might’ve lost a third straight game, the first time that would’ve happened to their quarterback, Tom Brady, since 2002.
Against this team, however?
Against this team, the Dave Gettleman Giants, they were plenty good enough to win, 30-10, to improve to 7-3 on the season, to recalibrate and reload and get back on track for an encore run at a second straight Super Bowl.
Against this team, the Daniel Jones Giants, the Tampa defense was able to keep the Giants muffled and muted except for one second-quarter brain cramp when an interception set the Giants up with a short field, and they executed a two-play, 35-second drive. Otherwise Jones took another quantum step backward, tossing two inexplicable interceptions when he wasn’t guiding one pedestrian possession after another.
Against this team, the Jason Garrett Giants, their last real chance to keep things in the realm of the competitive died on a fourth-and-1 at the Tampa 25, first drive of the second half, still only down a touchdown, when Joe Judge eschewed a field goal and Garrett called for a rollout and … well, let’s just say it didn’t go well.
Yes, the Giants may indeed have a soft home stretch, although it bears repeating, always: if the Giants think these next seven opponents are weak and vulnerable, what in the world do the opponents think about the Giants?
And the prize isn’t supposed to be about squeaking into the playoffs anyway, not this far into the latest rebuild, not this deep into the Gettleman Era. Maybe it really was too much to ask the Giants to beat the Buccaneers on the road, in prime time, with Brady more than a little salty after those back-to-back losses to the Saints and the WFT.
But it shouldn’t be such a yeoman task to stay in the game for longer than 2 ½ quarters. It shouldn’t be that the Peyton & Eli Show is the only thing keeping anyone interested by the fourth quarter. It really shouldn’t have been a frat party all night long at Raymond James Stadium except that it was, a 60-minute kegger for the locals to feel good about themselves.
What do the Giants have to feel good about?
Well, there was the Big Play, the pick by Adoree’ Jackson (after the ball bounced off Mike Evans) that set the Giants up first-and-goal at the 5 early in the second half, allowing them to briefly knot the game at 10-10. There was Andrew Thomas’ 2-yard tackle-eligible catch, the first TD catch by a Giants offensive lineman since 1950. There was …
There was …
There was …
Yeah. That was about it. The rest was a neatly packaged highlight reel for the Bucs, and a few drives that ended short of the end zone mostly because it seemed like they lost interest after awhile, and weren’t interested in a pummeling so much as a comfortable getaway.
Which, right now, is what the Giants seem to specialize in. There was some good feeling surrounding this team, which had won two of three and then had a week off to savor that and let their imaginations run free with thoughts of the playoffs. Of course those wins had come against the Sam Darnold Panthers and the Raiders, at the very start of what is now a vertigoes three-week free fall.
After watching Monday morning, Giants fans could be forgiven if, to feel better, they met around the water cooler and the coffee maker and instead channeled Jim Mora.
“… what’s that? Playoffs? Don’t talk about — PLAYOFFS? You kidding me? PLAYOFFS? I just hope we can win a game …”