The Giants kept Mike Evans under wraps for most of the second half, but he came through when his team needed him most.
Matt Gay didn’t.
Evans scored three touchdowns in the first half, but was shut down in the second half until less than a minute remained in the game. That’s when Jameis Winston found him for a 55-yard gain to the Giants’ 10-yard-line.
Matt Gay got a 34-yard field goal try a couple of plays later, but Gay, who also missed two extra points, pushed it wide right and the Giants won 32-31 in a game that looked like it might be over at halftime.
The Bucs led 28-10 after two quarters as Evans was dominating through the air and the Giants couldn’t get much going offensively. As Evans faded out of the spotlight, Jones took over.
Jones threw two touchdowns and ran for two others, including a seven-yard sprint up the middle with 1:16 left to play in Tampa on Sunday. That score gave the Giants their first lead of the day and it improbably held up.
It wasn’t a perfect start for Jones as he lost two fumbles and took some time to get going, but the destination certainly made it worth the bumpy journey. Jones finished 23-of-36 for 336 yards and both Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard had at least 100 receiving yards with the rookie running the show.
That will lead to questions about why the Giants thought playing Eli Manning at all was a good idea, but they’ll likely be content to just celebrate their first win of the season while hoping running back Saquon Barkley isn’t going to be out for long.
Jones was also sacked five times, with Bucs linebacker Shaq Barrett coming through with four of them. Barrett had three sacks last week and joins Mark Gastineau as the only players with eight sacks in the first three weeks of a season since 1984.
Neither Barrett nor anyone else could stop Jones when it mattered, however, and that left the game on the foot of a kicker who wasn’t up to the task.