New York flourishes on the road
Manning’s short, sharp passing game carves up favoured Tampa team
Giants 24 Buccaneers 14
TAMPA,FLA.— First stop, Tampa. Next stop, Texas. As long as it’s on the road, the New York Giants can’t complain. The Giants moved to 8-1 away from their home field with a dominating 24-14 NFC wild-card playoff victory over the favoured Buccaneers yesterday. New York has won every away game since falling in its season opener against Dallas and it gets a chance to diminish that blemish in a much bigger matchup next Sunday, with the winner going to the conference title game. “We love playing there, we love going down to Dallas,” Eli Manning said. “There are no secrets. It’s a tough challenge against Dallas, we know that. We played them two times; maybe the third will be the charm.” As for concerns the Giants left too much on the field in futilely trying to stop New England’s perfect season on Dec. 29, well, forget it. After a lacklustre first quarter, New York bullied the NFC South champions, who lost three of their last four regular-season games, including the final two when coach Jon Gruden rested many starters. “We weren’t sluggish, but it was not like we were the week before,” said Giants veteran receiver Amani Toomer, who had a big game. “We needed one play to get us going and for me to be the guy, I was excited.”
He was the guy often, making seven receptions for 74 yards and a TD.
It was the first post-season win after two defeats for Manning, who efficiently outplayed his counterpart, Jeff Garcia. Manning went 20of-27 for 185 yards, with almost all the damage coming after a forgettable opening period in which New York had minus-2 yards of offence. The oft-criticized Manning should draw nothing but praise for his performance, which included touchdown passes of five yards to Brandon Jacobs and four to Toomer. The score by Toomer completed a clinching 92-yard, 15-play drive.
“Eli had a great game today,” Toomer said. “He took what was out there and didn’t force anything.” The defence also showed up with a superb effort. Cornerback Corey Webster’s interception and fumble recovery and Michael Strahan’s nine tackles and a sack led the way. Tampa Bay gained only 166 yards before a late 88-yard drive made it 24-14.
“I think as a team we seem to perform better on the road,” Strahan said. “I didn’t know we won eight in a row. That’s a great thing, because when it’s the playoffs, if we’re going to go as far as we want, we have to win every game on the road.”
The Bucs didn’t seem particularly impressed by Manning or the Giants’ offence.
“He made little, annoying thirddown conversions when he needed to,” Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud said. “If it is third-and-eight, he gets 81⁄ yards. That was frustrating.”