2021 NFL season, Week 11: What we learned from Buccaneers' win over Giants on Monday night

by 24USATVNov. 23, 2021, 6 a.m. 20
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• The Buccaneers entered Monday night intending on making a statement, and they delivered. After falling to Washington and displaying a lack of defensive fight in Week 10, Todd Bowles' defense answered the call Monday night, forcing three turnovers (two that mattered), harassing Daniel Jones and causing frequent chaos for New York's offense. Even without Vita Vea, the Buccaneers were able to consistently collapse the pocket, putting Giants guard Will Hernandez in a clown suit on multiple occasions and neutralizing the threat of Saquon Barkley. Jones was often running for his life, and was only able to convert one of New York's three fourth-down attempts. The Giants' best shot at competing came as a result of a timely interception off a deflected pass, but from there, they watched their chance of an upset melt away because of a lack of an ability to do much of anything offensively. Bowles' unit looked better than it has in weeks, and Monday night could be a jumping-off point for the Bucs much like Week 14 was for last year's champs.
• Welcome back, Gronk. The burly tight end hadn't played since Week 8, and hadn't seen significant snaps in a game since he suffered broken ribs in Week 3. Now healthy, Rob Gronkowski returned to a prominent role in Tampa Bay's offense, catching six of his eight targets for 71 yards and helping open up the Buccaneers' passing attack with his presence as a constant threat to New York's defense. Mike Evans ended up being the star of the show, passing Mike Alstott in the Buccaneers' all-time touchdowns ranking, but the best long-term development for Tampa Bay was seeing Gronkowski back on the field without limitation.
• The Giants are 3-7 and headed nowhere fast -- except to a possible offseason reckoning. New York hasn't built on its hopeful finish to the 2020 season, can't protect Jones consistently, and can't confidently say Jones is the quarterback of the future. They have positives elsewhere -- Kadarius Toney's potential being a big one -- but they're going to have to take a hard look at their situation under center, as well as on the sideline (looking at you, Joe Judge) and in the backfield (with a decision on Barkley's future coming after 2022). There's little to inspire confidence and belief that this team will turn things around, and if it wasn't for a tipped interception in the first half, this final would have been even more lopsided. Professional football in New York remains an ugly state of affairs.
• Monday night was a historic one for big fellas. Giants tackle Andrew Thomas caught a touchdown pass as an eligible receiver, helping New York capitalize on Adoree' Jackson's interception and finishing as the only Giant who was able to find the end zone. Then, Jones helped make history for the wrong reason, trusting his arm too much with a pass attempt that was destined only to end in disaster. It landed in the arms of defensive lineman Steve McLendon, who became the first 300-plus-pound Buccaneer to record an interception since Booger McFarland did so for Tampa Bay in 2003. The combination of Thomas' touchdown and McLendon's interception marked the first time in NFL history that a 300-pound player had a touchdown reception and a 300-pound player had an interception in the same game, per NFL Research. The thiccness was strong in this one.

Next Gen stat of the game: Tom Brady completed 19 of 25 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown on attempts down the seams. Rob Gronkowski caught five of his six targets down the seams, gaining 65 yards.

NFL Research: Tom Brady surpassed 3,000 passing yards Monday night, marking the 19th season in which he's done that in his career, passing Brett Favre for the most such seasons in NFL history.

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