The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were everything the New York Giants feared they'd be.
Charles Mincy returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game, and Regan Upshaw and Ronde Barber also picked off Danny Kanell passes for Tampa Bay (2-3).
New York (2-3), which found themselves in a near identical position as the Bucs after losing badly in a Monday night game two weeks ago, wasted several opportunities and finished with just 135 yards total offense.
The Giants rebounded from a 24-point loss to Dallas by routing San Diego last week and feared Tampa Bay would feel a similar sense of desperation after losing to Detroit by 21 last Monday night.
Michael Husted kicked field goals of 35 and 26 yards for the Bucs, the latter giving Tampa Bay a 13-3 lead with 5:02 to go. Barber's interception set up Mike Alstott's 1-yard TD run for the final margin of victory.
Alsott gained 86 yards rushing on 17 carries and Warrick Dunn ran for 63 yards on 21 attempts to take some of the pressure off an ineffective Trent Dilfer, who completed 12 of 20 passes for only 85 yards.
Dungy and New York coach Jim Fassel consider their teams mirror images of one another, and not just because both are young and coming off playoff years that heightened expectations for this season.
| Carlton Gray (24) smothers Bucs receiver Karl Williams, but it was the Bucs smothering the Giants on the scoreboard. (AP) |
Both thrived on running the ball in 1997, but have struggled to move it on the ground or through the air in their first five games. The teams rank near the top of the league in three-and-out possessions and did little to reverse that trend Sunday.
New York had only 52 yards of offense in the first half with Kanell going 4-of-14 for 32 yards. Regan Upshaw's interception and 26-yard return stopped a drive that reached the Tampa Bay 21. The Giants gained only two yards in three plays on a possession that began at the Bucs' 40 midway through the second quarter.
The Giants' frustration on offense was typified by their inability to move the ball after Chad Bratzke recovered Dilfer's fumble at the Bucs' 10 on the first play of the third quarter.
But Kanell, who was 10-of-27 passing for 83 yards and three interceptions, could get only get his team to the 5 where New York settled for Brad Daluiso's 22-yard field goal to trim Tampa Bay's lead to 10-3.
Unfortunately for the Giants, Tampa Bay countered with their best drive of the day -- a 13-play, 61-yard march that produced Husted's second field goal and burned more than eight minutes of the clock.
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