TAMPA, Fla. -- After enduring two straight losses for just the second time in his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Tom Brady got back in the win column with a 30-10 victory over the New York Giants at home on Monday Night Football.
"Losing two straight sucks in the NFL," Brady told ESPN's Lisa Salters postgame, "just glad it's not three straight."
The Bucs improved to 7-3 to take a two-game lead in the NFC South, looking much more like themselves thanks to the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski.
It could have been Brady's first three-game losing streak since 2002 after suffering a demoralizing loss at Washington and a heartbreaker in New Orleans, with coach Bruce Arians calling players out this week for lacking passion.
But this game wasn’t even close, to the point that Brady’s night ended with more than six minutes left in regulation.
"Thanksgiving turkey's gonna taste a hell of a lot better," Arians said. "I don't drink wine or that would taste pretty good too."
Said receiver Mike Evans: "We were real desperate to get a win today. I’m happy we got it. We lost two in a row. A team of this caliber -- that’s not acceptable. We wanted to win very bad, and we came out and we showed that."
Quarterback breakdown: Brady completed 30 of 46 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, with Gronkowski hauling in seven catches on eight targets for 71 yards in his first real action since suffering cracked ribs and a punctured lung at the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3. His most impactful play was a 35-yard reception on third-and-3.
"Gronk always comes out with the big plays," Brady said. "He's just consistent, dependable -- he's been my teammate for a long time. It's a real privilege to play with such an incredible player and person."
Said Gronkowski: "It was just a joy to be back out there with the guys. I know what it's like to play every single game. And I was like the new guy -- fresh. I felt like they were counting on me a little bit to make some plays, which was good."
Brady’s first touchdown came off play-action to an in-motion Chris Godwin, who slipped by two defenders for a 13-yard score. His second came in the third quarter on a 5-yard strike to Mike Evans, making Evans the Bucs’ franchise leader in touchdowns with 72.
His one interception came on a swing pass that bounced out of Evans’ hands and into the hands of cornerback Adoree' Jackson. Running back Ronald Jones tacked on a third touchdown on the ground, kicking out on a 6-yard run off a block from right guard Alex Cappa.
Promising trend: After surrendering a winning 19-play drive at Washington, the Bucs' defense gave up one third-down conversion to Giants quarterback Daniel Jones & Co., and it came on the opening drive. The Giants’ lone touchdown came after Brady’s pick at the Bucs' 5-yard line.
In the third quarter, defensive lineman Steve McLendon, who, along with Rakeem Nunez-Roches, stepped in to help offset the loss of Vita Vea, intercepted a short pass from Jones intended for Chris Myarick, at 35 becoming the second-oldest player in NFL history to record his first NFL interception. Then in the fourth quarter, lining up as a nickelback, Mike Edwards picked off Jones on a tipped pass by inside linebacker Devin White.
"I thought it was outstanding," Arians said of the defense's performance. "I thought the coverage unit disguised extremely well and had Daniel confused some, and he's not an easy guy to confuse."
Looking around the league: Unlike last week, the Bucs were able to capitalize on the losses of several NFC playoff contenders.
In the NFC South, the New Orleans Saints lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, dropping to 5-5. The Carolina Panthers lost to Washington, falling to 5-6. And the Atlanta Falcons were blanked by the New England Patriots, falling to 4-6.
In terms of overall standings, which matter for seeding and home-field advantage, the Green Bay Packers lost to the Minnesota Vikings to drop to 8-3. The Dallas Cowboys lost to the Kansas City Chiefs to drop to 7-3. The only team ahead of the Bucs in the overall standings is the Arizona Cardinals, who defeated the Seattle Seahawks to improve to 9-2 (the Rams were on a bye week and are 7-3).
Up next: The Bucs will travel to the Indianapolis Colts, who have won five of their past six.