Bucs vs. Giants: Was the Final Play Dirty?

The Giants were well on their way bouncing back from a Week 1 loss to the Cowboys, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 41-34 late into the fourth quarter.

With 5 seconds left on the clock, the Giants rolled out the standard victory formation, with a couple extra linemen lined up sideways for protection but not expecting any sort of resistance.

All of a sudden, the Buccaneers defensive line dropped down as if to begin running a 40-yard dash and plowed into the center of the offensive line, dropping Giants quarterback Eli Manning on his rear.

Justin Tuck tried to remain calm following the Bucs’ play-in-question.

The immediate reaction from the Giants sideline was anger.  It could be seen in Tom Coughlin’s face, Eli Manning’s confusion and defensive end Justin Tuck’s words.

“I am trying to be politically (correct),” Tuck said. “I thought it was a classless play. That is how you get guys hurt. I have been in this league for eight years and that is the first time that I’ve ever seen that. There have been guys that’s been in here a lot longer than I have and that is the first time they have seen it.”

The play brings up a few important questions: is the final play of an all-but-in-the-books NFL game something to be taken seriously?  Where does concern for safety begin and the hunger to fight until the final whistle end?  Why is this even an issue?

Giants players, coaches and fans do have an argument: the way the play was run appeared to be a bit malicious, though technically legal.  Three of Tampa’s defensive linemen locked in on center David Baas, taking him out just above the knees and forcing him into Eli Manning.

Coverage on this final play looked like more of a punt-block package and was overly aggressive considering the fact that a fumble recovery would have left either one second or no time at all on the clock to run a Hail Mary for the tie.

Still, what kind of message does it send to young football players and children in general to assume the last play of the game is meaningless?  No team enjoys losing, so it’s not exactly fair for the Giants to assume that the Bucs should submit while Eli Manning gallops off into the sunset with the game ball.

Though attacking the victory formation is extremely unorthodox, especially at the professional level, but it is something that worked for first year head coach Greg Schiano in the past.

Schiano, formerly the head football coach at Rutgers, looks to revamp a Bucs team that disappointed many last season.

At Rutgers, Schiano employed this never-quit play call numerous times, forcing four fumbles in his last five years with the program, so given this success it would make sense that he would try it at the next level, even though higher player awareness limits the possibility of catching the offense napping.

Regardless, the “bull rush” is something that won’t be forgotten by Tom Coughlin, Justin Tuck and the rest of the New York Giants anytime soon.

Fortunately, both teams will have time to cool off before their next meeting, which won’t be until at least next season.

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