TAMPA, Fla. — Daniel Jones is making the decision to bench Eli Manning look like a good one.
At least through one game.
The sixth overall pick in this year’s NFL draft threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for two TDs, including the go-ahead score with 1:16 remaining as the New York Giants rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-31 on Sunday.
"There’s certain things that I knew about this kid when we drafted him. He was tough, he was competitive, and in my opinion he’s a winner," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. "Now the rest of it is just quarterback stuff. But those first three things give him a chance to move forward."
Jameis Winston threw for 380 yards and put the Bucs (1-2) in position to pull out a dramatic win, but rookie Matt Gay’s 34-yard field goal sailed wide right as time expired.
Jones scored on a 7-yard run in the second quarter and put the Giants ahead with another 7-yarder on fourth-and-goal. The rookie began New York’s comeback with a 75-yard TD pass to Evan Engram on the first play of the second half, and a 7-yarder to Sterling Shepard midway through the third quarter.
"He plays with so much poise. You really can’t tell he’s a rookie," Shepard said. "I’ve heard a lot of stuff about rookies in their first game and how it doesn’t turn out too well. I don’t think that’s the case with him."
Winston threw TD passes of 21, 3 and 20 yards to Mike Evans to help Tampa Bay build a 28-10 halftime lead. His 44-yard completion to the 6-foot-5, 231-pound receiver set up the last-second field goal try by Gay, who also missed an extra point and had another blocked.
The Bucs took a delay-of-game penalty, which coach Bruce Arians said was deliberate, then moved the ball to the centre of the field as Winston ran and took a knee for a 2-yard loss back to the Giants 16.
Gay began the day by missing an extra point, then had his next attempt blocked. He made field goals of 47, 27, 52 and 23 yards before lining up for the possible winner.
"That field goal is easier back 5 yards. No sense hurrying," Arians said.
"I was super confident going on the field. I felt really good about it," Gay, a sixth-round draft pick, said. "I’ve got to make that every single time."
Jones, making his first NFL start in place of benched two-time Super Bowl MVP Manning, completed 23 of 36 passes with no interceptions. With Saquon Barkley exiting with a right ankle injury late in the first half, Jones also led the Giants with 28 yards rushing on four attempts.
As impressive as the former Duke standout was, he was not perfect. Shaquil Barrett had four of Tampa Bay’s five sacks and forced a fumble that led to a field goal that put Tampa Bay up 31-25 with six minutes to go.
Jones also lost a fumble that led to one of Winston’s TD passes to Evans, who finished with eight catches for 190 yards.
"You never really know how it’s going to go. That’s the fun part. That’s football," Jones said. "We found a way to win, found a way to finish it. That’s what’s most exciting."
Engram’s long catch and run was the highlight of a six-reception, 113-yard performance. Shepard, back in the lineup after missing the previous game with a concussion, had seven catches for 100 yards, including a 36-yarder that set up the winning touchdown.
Jones played one series in New York’s season-opening loss to Dallas. Manning replaced Kurt Warner after the ninth game of his rookie season in 2004 and started 232 of New York’s next 233 regular-season games. The Giants averaged 420 yards on offence in the first two games this year, but only scored four touchdowns while averaging 15.5 points.
The 38-year-old Manning was Jones’ backup, but did not accompany New York’s other captains to midfield for the pregame coin toss.
And what did the franchise’s all-time leading passer have to say to him afterward?
"Just congratulations and just happy for me," Jones said. "I can’t thank him enough."
Tampa Bay top priority defensively was containing Barkley. He was limited to 10 yards rushing on eight attempts and four receptions for 27 yards before leaving late in the first half after hurting his ankle when he was tackled at the end of a 6-yard catch. He spent the second half on the sideline on crutches, wearing a boot on his ankle. The second-yard pro had 152 scrimmage yards and scored three TDs in last year’s 38-35 win over the Bucs.
"We were going to stop Saquon," Arians said. "Daniel Jones played a heck of a game. But we were going to make Daniel Jones beat us."
Giants: LB Alec Ogletree left in the second quarter after injuring a hamstring during his runback of a fumble that was later reversed by replay and ruled an incomplete pass. … Barkley limped off the field with a little over three minutes remaining before halftime and was on crutches and wearing a boot on his right ankle afterward. … LB Tae Davis left with a concussion in the second half.
Buccaneers: ILB Devin White, the fifth pick in the draft, was inactive due to a knee injury.
RING OF Honour
Former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime. The twin brother of former Giants running back Tiki Barber played his entire career with Tampa Bay from 1997 to 2012. In addition to helping the Bucs win their only Super Bowl during the 2002 season, Barber is the only player in NFL history to have more than 25 sacks (28) and 40 interceptions (47) in a career. He was a three-time All-Pro and selected to play in five Pro Bowls.
Both brothers broadcast the game in Fox.
Giants: return home to face NFC East rival Washington next Sunday
Buccaneers: at Los Angeles Rams, beginning stretch in which they won’t play at home again until Nov. 10.