A Giants season that was slipping away just a couple weeks ago has suddenly taken a positive turn — albeit too late.
The Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, where they entered the day 0-4 this season, won their second consecutive game, 38-35 over the Buccaneers.
The win, the second in six days for the Giants, gives them a 3-7 record and, for the moment, has made everyone forget about the five-game losing streak they took to the West Coast for Monday’s 49ers game.
Before Sunday, the Giants had scored 30 or more points in just one of the previous 41 games. The 38 points were the most the Giants have scored in a game since Nov. 11, 2015, when they lost 52-49 in New Orleans.
The Giants defense feasted on a turnover-prone Buccaneers offense, intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick three times before Fitzpatrick was benched in favor of Jameis Winston in the third quarter.
The Buccaneers, whose defense represented a Pop Warner unit, own the worst turnover ratio in the NFL. These two elements provided an excellent elixir to the Giants.
The Giants were led by Eli Manning, who completed 17-of-18 for 231 yards and touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie running back Saquon Barkley, who also scored two rushing touchdowns.
Barkley finished with a career-high 142 rushing yards on 26 carries. It was his third 100-plus-yard rushing game this season.
The win was not complete before the Giants endured some late-game stress created when Winston brought the Bucs back from a 24-7 deficit to 31-28.
But the Giants iced the game with Barkley’s second scoring run of the game, a 2-yarder on third down with 3:52 remaining for a 38-28 lead.
The key play was a 54-yard Manning pass play to tight end Evan Engram that gave the Giants a first down at the Tampa Bay 11.
The Bucs cut it to 38-35 on a 41-yard Winston touchdown pass to Mike Evans with 2:22 remaining in the game. The Bucs got the ball back one final time at their own 20 with 23 seconds left, but a long Winston pass was picked off by Brandon Webb.
The Giants took a 14-7 lead into halftime thanks, in large part, to Barkley, who scored both touchdowns.
The Giants took a 7-0 lead on a 6-yard Manning scoring pass to Barkley to climax their six-play, 63-yard opening drive that was sparked by a 41-yard Manning pass to Beckham on the fourth play from scrimmage.
The Buccaneers looked like they might answer on their first offensive possession, but the drive was halted on the Giants’ 5-yard line when Tampa Bay failed to convert on a fourth-and-1. Fitzpatrick tried a quarterback sneak and was stuffed.
It wasted a 12-play, 68-yard Tampa Bay drive that ate 6:24 off the clock.
The Giants offense took the defensive stop and made the Buccaneers pay, driving 95 yards on 12 plays in 6:36 and taking a 14-0 lead on a 5-yard Barkley scoring run with 13:37 remaining in the first half.
The Buccaneers cut the Giants lead to 14-7 on a 1-yard designed quarterback draw by Fitzpatrick, whose initial hole wasn’t there so he improvised and ran around right end into the end zone with 4:56 remaining in the first half.
A punt gave Fitzpatrick the ball at the Tampa 14-yard line with 1:17 remaining in the half. He drove the Bucs to the Giants 30-yard line before, threatening to get the Bucs in the game, but safety Michael Thomas picked off a pass with 23 second remaining in the half. Thomas stepped in front of Bucs tight end O.J. Howard and ended the Tampa Bay threat.
That turnover was just the beginning for the Giants.
On the Bucs first drive of the second half, Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree got an interception that bounced off the chest of cornerback Janoris Jenkins and he returned it 15 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 Giants lead just 47 seconds into the third quarter.
Later in the third quarter, Fitzpatrick was picked off for a third time in the game when Giants safety Curtis Riley beat Bucs receiver DeShaun Jackson to the ball in the end zone and returned it 46 yards to the Giants 40-yard line with 9:42 remaining.