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Big plays help Giants defense survive flawed performance

There were four turnovers, four essential plays that provided the impetus for Sunday’s victory. But there were also several mistakes, blown assignments and an absentee pass rush that allowed the Buccaneers to roll up 510 yards of offense.

Fortunately for the Giants, the big plays outweighed the mistakes in significance. Otherwise, the Big Blue defense would have lamented another hard-fought loss rather than talking about some areas to clean up following a second straight win.

“We made some plays when they needed to get made, and that’s what we needed to win the game,” outside linebacker Olivier Vernon said after Sunday’s 38-35 win. “You don’t want to give up points like that when it comes down to any game. When you want to seal a win, you want to seal it the right way. There’s some things we have to go back and fix.”

The Giants were the recipients of a few Ryan Fitzpatrick gifts, two dreadful interceptions deep in enemy territory that cost Tampa Bay points, and a third pick that Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree returned 15 yards for their first defensive touchdown of the season. And with the game in the balance, B.W. Webb picked off Jameis Winston to seal the victory in the waning seconds.

“It’s very big, honestly,” safety Landon Collins said of the season-high four turnovers, as many as the Giants had produced in the previous three games. “It changed the momentum of the game. It gave our offense plenty of opportunities to score, and they did that most of the time when they got the ball.”

Ogletree produced the biggest play, an acrobatic touchdown to give the Giants a 21-7 advantage early in the third quarter. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins nearly made the interception, but couldn’t come up with the ball. On a deflection, Ogletree snagged it and scored.

They were able to laugh about it afterwards, but the fourth quarter was tense. The Giants made it tough on themselves, unable to slow down Winston once he relieved an ineffective Fitzpatrick early in the third quarter. He carved them up, completing 12-of-16 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, rallying the Bucs back from a 31-14 deficit to twice get within a field goal. In the fourth quarter alone, Tampa Bay had 206 yards of offense, turning a laugher into a narrow victory.

“We got to work on finishing,” said safety Michel Thomas, who picked up his first interception of the year late in the first half. “We got something to work on. We just got to find a way to finish.”

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