Jenna Laine, ESPN Staff Writer 21d

Bucs show grit in bouncing back -- twice -- in last-second win over Giants

TAMPA, Fla. -- The verdict is still out on what kind of team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be in 2017, even after a 34-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired on a gutsy, last-second 25-23 win over the New York Giants on Sunday. The Buccaneers' two wins have come against two of the worst scoring offenses in the league with a combined record of 1-7. But records aside, the Bucs did something very difficult to do in the NFL: They lost momentum, got it back, lost it again and got it back.

“We showed up tonight,” said quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. “We showed we are never out of it. I’m proud of our team, that we kept fighting.”

What it means: The Bucs are now 2-1 and can keep pace in their division with the 3-1 Atlanta Falcons and 3-1 Carolina Panthers. The New Orleans Saints are 2-2. This also means that the Bucs are 2-0 at home for the first time since 2008. They've also won six straight at home dating back to last season. Just how big is that? Last year, they started off 0-4 at home. They have the NFL's worst home record since 2009 at 22-43.

"We are really trying to emphasize winning at home this year," tight end Cameron Brate said. "To win our first two home games this year is huge. Going into a short week, too, gives us so much momentum going into the [Patriots] game. We are all looking forward to Thursday night."

What I liked: The Bucs were on fire in the first quarter and looked like a completely different team than the one we saw last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Winston threw touchdowns on consecutive drives to jump out to a 13-0 lead. Jacquizz Rodgers had a monster 36-yard run -- more rushing yardage in one play than the Bucs had on the ground all of last week. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was in the backfield three times, exploiting a very weak Giants offensive line that gave up eight sacks in the first two games.

What I didn't like: After such a strong first quarter, the Bucs allowed the Giants to score 17 points while only mustering 3. Wide receiver Mike Evans' touchdown catch just before halftime was overturned, and despite being inside the 2-yard line, the Bucs couldn't score in three attempts at the end zone.

"We'd love to have finished out the half with a touchdown," coach Dirk Koetter said. "We left plenty of points out there. I mean, the game didn't have to be that close, but it was. It was that close and we got behind and we came back and won. [We] got tested and we passed. We passed the test tonight."

After falling behind 17-16, the Bucs regained the lead on a 14-yard touchdown by Brate to make it 22-17 in the fourth quarter, but they couldn't hold on to it. Vernon Hargreaves surrendered a 42-yard catch to Odell Beckham Jr. Hargreaves did everything he could on the play, but those are the types of plays that will lose games. And it nearly did. The Bucs gave up four explosive plays on defense though, an improvement from the 11 they gave up last week.

Third down: Once again this week, the Bucs' defense could not get off the field on third down. The Giants converted on 8 of 17 third-down attempts -- a 47 percent conversion rate. The Bucs had the best third-down defense in the league last year, but they've struggled to get those stops this season. In fact, their 50 percent third-down conversion rate is the worst in the NFL.

The focus this week was getting pressure up front and getting bodies on receivers in an effort to help. At times that happened, although there were no sacks. Brent Grimes made some acrobatic plays to keep the ball away from Beckham. But as a whole, third down has to improve, especially with two of the league's highest-scoring offenses from last year in the Bucs' division.

Kick in the butt: The Bucs have another kicking situation on their hands. Folk missed a 46-yard field goal attempt in the first half and a 49-yard field goal attempt in the second half. Those are no easy kicks to make, but Folk also missed an extra-point attempt in the first quarter.

Two of the reasons Folk was signed was his ability to make big kicks in big games and his accuracy from 40-plus yards. In such a close game, those kicks absolutely mattered. The one that mattered most, though? The 34-yarder that he made in the final seconds.

"I left seven points out there today," Folk said. "This was probably the worst you can feel after a game winner. But we came back and what a great team win all the way around. It was fun in the end. A rough middle part, but it was fun in the end."

Fantasy fallout: Brate, who has now caught a touchdown in two straight games, had four catches for 80 yards. Evans had three catches on eight targets for 49 yards and a touchdown. Tight end O.J. Howard had two catches on four targets for 65 yards, including a spectacular 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Howard owners might get frustrated because he's used so much as a run-blocker, but that's the very reason he was wide open on that play. Rodgers had over 100 total yards.

What's next: The Bucs have the Patriots up next, and that coincides with running back Doug Martin's return from a three-game suspension. After Thursday night, they'll have four days off before two games on the road, visiting the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. Because of Hurricane Irma, that will be their pseudo bye week. They'll face their first divisional opponent -- the Panthers -- when they return home on Oct. 29.

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