Sunday afternoon’s clash with the Buccaneers may have been an important game for the Giants as a team, but most of the media focus was on Jason Pierre-Paul, who was playing in his first NFL game since severely damaging his hand in a fireworks accident around Independence Day.
Playing with his injured right hand heavily wrapped, Pierre-Paul didn’t have a huge impact in his 2015 debut. Even though he was matched up against a rookie tackle in Donovan Smith, the Pro Bowl defensive end failed to sack the quarterback and made just two tackles during the game.
The good news is that Pierre-Paul was able to beat Smith late in the game and came away with a pair of quarterback hits. That pressure may have been enough to keep Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston off balance as he tried to lead his team to a comeback victory.
With Tampa Bay down by five and seven minutes remaining in the game, Winston got his team going in the right direction with a third-down completion to Mike Evans. Two plays later, after another first down – this one picked up by tailback Charles Sims – the Bucs had a chance to continue their drive in Giants territory. However, Pierre-Paul pressured Winston into an overthrow on first down, and two more incomplete passes followed. Tampa Bay chose to punt on fourth down, which allowed for New York to embark on a clock-killing drive that ended with a Josh Brown field goal and only 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Pierre-Paul may have been ineffective for most of the game, but his positive efforts with the game on the line are a good sign for Big Blue going forward. It’s not as if the team has a great defensive end waiting to take Pierre-Paul’s place. Probably New York’s next best guy is Damontre Moore, and he could be back in head coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse after committing a critical roughing the passer penalty on Sunday.
Coughlin and the Giants will need Pierre-Paul and the rest of the defensive front to be on the top of their games on November 15 when New York takes on the New England Patriots. Although the Giants are famous for defeating the Pats and quarterback Tom Brady in Super Bowls, this year’s New England team might be the best yet. With Brady averaging 8.3 yards per attempt with 20 touchdowns and only one interception, he needs to be made at least a little uncomfortable in the pocket for Big Blue to have a chance.