Manning leads Giants to comeback win over Tampa Bay

By Larry Fine, Reuters

Posted at Sep 17 2012 10:45 AM | Updated as of Sep 17 2012 06:45 PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey - Eli Manning made amends for an awful second quarter by throwing a career-best 510 yards to lead the Super Bowl champion New York Giants to a 41-34 comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers n Sunday.

Manning threw three second-quarter interceptions that led to three Tampa Bay touchdowns and a 24-13 halftime deficit, but he brought New York back in a thrilling last quarter in which he threw two touchdown passes and another bomb to set up the game-winner.

The victory leveled the Giants record to 1-1 after their NFL season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week. Tampa Bay dropped to 1-1 after winning their first game against Carolina.

"No one wants to start 0-2," said Manning, who engineered six fourth-quarter comeback wins in the last regular season and another in the Super Bowl.

"It's a big win, big win, especially after a first half playing poorly and last week not playing well. The second half was good. Some big time plays, stepping up when we needed it. That was fun."

In the fourth quarter, Manning's 80-yard strike to Victor Cruz followed by a two-point conversion run in by Andre Brown tied it 27-27 and a 33-yard touchdown to tight end Martellus Bennett gave New York a 34-27 lead with less than four minutes to play.

Then it was Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman's turn to spark a fight back as he hit Mike Williams for a 41-yard leaping catch in the end zone for a touchdown that knotted the game 34-34 with just under two minutes left.

Sensing a Bucs' blitz as he tried to drive the Giants to a winning score, Manning quickly released a high-floating bomb down the sideline that Hakeem Nicks hauled in for a 50-yard gain to the 11-yard line.

Brown bulled his way for a two-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left to make it 41-34 and the Giants escaped a last ditch desperation drive by Tampa Bay when Michael Boley intercepted a Freeman pass to end it.

"Eli did a good job all day of identifying," Tampa Bay rookie coach Greg Schiano, who joined the NFL this season after coaching at nearby Rutgers University.

"Overall, it was a cat and mouse game and they won it."

Manning completed 31-of-51 passes with three touchdowns.

The only Giants quarterback to throw for more yards was Phil Simms who set a franchise record of 513 yards in 1985. Manning became the 13th player to reach the milestone 500-yard mark.

Nicks hauled in 10 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown, while Cruze made 11 catches for 179 yards and a score.

Freeman also had an excellent day throwing, completing 15-of-28 passes for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Interceptions by linebacker Mason Foster and defensive backs Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright during a second-quarter meltdown led to 21 points for the Bucs, who were ahead 24-13 at the intermission.

"The first half was very disappointing," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "Thank goodness, we are so happy to be 1-1 at this juncture. There is plenty of stuff to correct and we'll work to get that corrected."

The Giants, who had starting right tackle David Diehl (knee), starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) and back-up receiver Domenik Hixon (concussion) sidelined during the game, will next face the Panthers in Carolina on Thursday.

(Editing by Julian Linden)