Buc wild

TAMPA – The losing streak continues. Slightly less than a month ago New York supposedly saved its season by knocking off the previously unbeaten Vikings. Now they've lost three straight games, averaging a measly 10 points per game in the process. The latest club to benefit from having the Giants across the field was the struggling defending champions. The Buccaneers had more than enough to dispose of Big Blue (4-7) in workmanlike fashion at Raymond James Stadium by a 19-13 count. <BR><BR>

"We didn't make plays when we needed to make plays," Jim Fassel said. "It seems like that's the story for us right now."

"We just didn't take advantage of our chances," Michael Strahan said. "You have to, especially when you're on the road. You have to make the most of your opportunities when you have them and we didn't. They did, so because of that, we lost the game and we're sitting here disappointed."

The Giants shot themselves in the foot in the usual fashion, committing nine penalties and turning the ball over four times.

"It's really frustrating because you give it your all and you fall short," Ian Allen said. "We gotta stop the penalties."

QB Kerry Collins was on the hook for all four turnovers, including two terrible INTs.

"I feel like I probably took a couple chances tonight that I probably shouldn't have," he said. "It's no secret why we're struggling offensively."

Even an exciting 56-yard interception return for a score by rookie CB Frank Walker wasn't enough. Walker stepped in front of a pass intended for former Giant Joe Jurevicius and raced down the right sideline to momentarily inject some life into the listless Giants.

"We were stale to that point," Collins said. "I thought it might have been something that could have been a sparkplug for us."

"I thought it would spark the team," Walker said. "It wasn't worth anything because we lost but it still felt good."

The opening quarter was highlighted by a New York fumble, which occurred when Tiki Barber couldn't handle Collins' pitch and was recovered by Bucs LB Shelton Quarles. That gave the Bucs at least one takeaway in an amazing 52 consecutive contests. Then Amani Toomer made an excellent play, ripping a potential INT right out of Ronde Barber's hands at the Giants 10, narrowly averting a Giant disaster.

Brandon Short's 15-yard roughing the passer penalty for inadvertently hitting Brad Johnson in the head spearheaded Tampa's first scoring drive. That march was capped early in the second quarter when Thomas Jones dove over from the 1-yard line. Believe it or not, that was Tampa's first rushing touchdown since Week 3.

The Giants forced a turnover of their own when S Johnnie Harris punched the ball away from Keenan McCardell after a short catch. Will Allen fell on the loose ball at New York's 40-yard line.

The Giants translated the turnover into three points when Matt Bryant nailed a 30-yarder. Collins found Toomer open in the end zone, but Bucs DB Dwight Smith absolutely blasted Toomer, separating him from the ball and knocking his helmet off in the process. The big hit might have affected Toomer, who dropped a long pass on New York's next possession, a play that likely would have gone for a 78-yard TD.

The Bucs, who ran slants and short crossing routes all night long, finally broke one. WR Charles Lee caught a short Johnson pass, and made a couple Giants miss, before shaking off Ryan Clark's tackle attempt and strutting into the end zone with a 53-yard TD.

New York blew another opportunity to score when Collins was sacked by Simeon Rice and fumbled on the final play of the first half with Big Blue in field goal range.

"Going into the half we have a chance to get some points and we come away with nothing and those kinds of things hurt you," Tiki Barber said.

Harris forced another fumble early in the third quarter, stripping Reggie Barlow at midfield. That set up another Bryant FG, this one also from 30 yards out.

The Giants crawled back into the game when Walker pulled off his INT TD heroics, but the balance of the game was littered with bad luck and bad play by the Giants.

For example, Dwight Smith picked off Collins, who was attempting to hit Ike Hilliard in the end zone.

Newly-signed DE Frank Ferrara was flagged for a costly roughing the passer penalty.

Toomer's 11-yard catch was challenged and reversed since the ball hit the ground. Barber fumbled on a third-and-one run and failed to move the sticks midway through the fourth quarter.

Collins was picked off by John Lynch with 3:30 to play.

Ken Dilger recovered New York's onside free kick to clinch the victory for Tampa. So now the Giants officially begin playing out the string Sunday against Buffalo.

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