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N.Y. GIANTS 24, TAMPA BAY 14

Giants' show doesn't close out of town

January 07, 2008|Arthur Staple | Newsday

TAMPA, Fla. -- Rich Seubert walked toward the New York Giants' locker room after their 24-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a wild-card game. "Book the flight!" he yelled triumphantly.

The Giants love to travel this season, and they grabbed another win away from home Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, their first playoff win in seven years and first postseason victory away from Giants Stadium in 17 years.

That next flight goes to Irving, Texas, for a divisional game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

"It means we get to play another day," defensive end Michael Strahan said. "I think we can be excited about it but we're thinking about Dallas already."

They are into the second round for the first time since the 2000 postseason thanks to a smart game from Eli Manning, who didn't turn the ball over and threw for two touchdowns. Thanks to Ahmad Bradshaw, the rookie seventh-round pick who danced through the zealous Buccaneers defense for 66 hard-won yards rushing.

And, as usual, thanks to the defense. It allowed a first-quarter touchdown for the fourth straight road game but pounded Jeff Garcia and the Buccaneers into submission, intercepting two second-half passes from a quarterback who had suffered only six interceptions in the last two seasons combined.

Playing without Shaun O'Hara and Sam Madison, the Giants didn't miss a beat either in the middle of the offensive line with backup Grey Ruegamer, or in the secondary with Corey Webster, who recovered a fumble and had an interception.

"We've been very, very confident since the season began," guard Chris Snee said, "regardless of what everyone's said about us."

This road began in Albany, N.Y., six months ago, when Tom Coughlin was on the hottest of seats and Manning was starting off on another up-and-down season. The coach and the quarterback have gone down their own long, strange roads this season, but they have led the team to eight consecutive wins away from home.

"We didn't get any big plays," Coughlin said, "but we did get some nice, steady opportunities to convert, and I thought that was the best thing we did."

Another good thing the Giants did was commit zero turnovers, while taking three from a Buccaneers team that had a plus-15 turnover margin this season and was 6-2 at home.

After spotting Tampa Bay a 7-0 lead, Manning got the Giants even with a five-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Jacobs 4:58 into the second quarter.

Bradshaw came in on the next series and gained 16 yards, nine on a swing pass, loosening up more space for the passing game. Jacobs rolled in from eight yards 4:06 before halftime and the Giants had the lead for good.

Tank Daniels forced a turnover on the second-half kickoff, leading to a 25-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal and a 17-7 lead. Webster picked off a Garcia pass in the end zone.

And through the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, Bradshaw, Jacobs and Manning's short passing fueled a 16-play, 92-yard drive that ended with Manning to Amani Toomer for a four-yard touchdown and the ballgame.

"The way we prepare this season, anyone can step in and do well," safety Gibril Wilson said. "It's the way we've been since training camp."

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