The term “must-win game” gets bandied about with gross overuse in sports, but there’s no other way to describe Sunday’s matchup as the New York Giants visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Big Blue, a team which harbored realistic Super Bowl aspirations, is 0-3. Extending their season-opening winless run to four games would effectively end their postseason hopes, barring a once-in-a-generation turnaround.
Here’s what has to happen on the Gulf Coast if the Giants are to put an end to their nightmare start.
The Giants’ offense has been catatonic at the start of games, allowing all three of its 2017 opponents to jump out to early leads. They’ve yet to score in the first quarter, have one first-half touchdown and have posted 13 points total in the first three quarters of games. It took a torrid, 24-point fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday to nearly steal a win, although a 61-yard field goal as time expired nixed that as they fell, 27-24.
It’s time for Eli Manning to quarterback his G-Men to a first-half lead, for once.
Stop the run
No team has surrendered more yards on the ground than the Giants. That’s unacceptable for a team whose strength in last year’s surprising postseason run was on defense — even if part of the blame falls on an anemic offense.
The Bucs (1-1) are playing without suspended starting running back Doug Martin, and as a result rank near the bottom in rushing yards per game. If Damon Harrison and the defensive line allow Tampa Bay to become the fourth consecutive foe to cross the 100-yard rushing mark, don’t hold out much hope for a victory.
On the line
Just about all of the Giants have problems on offense — a woeful ground attack, Manning’s trouble getting the ball to his talented receivers — can be traced to the five men up front. Even as Eli managed to not be sacked in Philly, three running backs could muster only 49 yards on 17 carries.
Without any holes to run through, it wouldn’t matter if running back Paul Perkins was Jim Brown because there’s nowhere to go. That has to stop, but it won’t be easy against a stout Tampa front four led by standout defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.