Eli Manning has to be doing this on purpose.
How else could a quarterback capable of the kind of heroics he showed in the second half on Sunday also capable of playing like the unholy love child of Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young in the first half? The Giants should have been routing Tampa on Sunday, but they were down 14 in the third quarter because Manning threw three touchdowns that turned into Bucs touchdowns.
And things didn't take off right away in the second half either. The third quarter was still a slog with Manning unable to get his team in the end zone despite repeated trips into the red.
Drops by receivers didn't help, but it looked like a day when Manning was going to put up gaudy but empty passing numbers in an inexplicable loss to a clearly inferior team.
Then came the fourth quarter.
Martellus Bennett caught a touchdown and Manning stepped up in the face of a blitz to drop one right into Victor Cruz' hands for an 80-yard touchdown to get the Giants back in front. Then, after the Bucs tied the game, Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for 50 yards and set up the winning score of the game.
Manning wound up with 510 yards, just shy of the Giants' franchise record, and he burnished his reputation as the best clutch player in the business. That it was only necessary because Manning was so awful early just made the story a little bit better.
In the end, there's one thing you need to know about how much Manning means to the Giants. There are a ton of quarterbacks capable of what he did in the first half, but there aren't many capable of what he did in the second and the Giants have two Super Bowl rings because of the way he closes games.
Here's the rest of the good, bad and ugly from the Giants' 41-34 win over the Buccaneers.
GOOD: Nicks and Cruz became the first teammates in history to both record at least 10 catches and 175 receiving yards in the same game. Nicks, in particular, was unguardable by conventional means and quieted any fears that might linger about the state of his foot.
BAD: The secondary still isn't good enough. The defense played better overall than it did against the Cowboys, but the Bucs were able to tie the game late and almost put themselves in position to do it again with another long pass because the defensive backs don't make plays.
UGLY: Week Two may have been the straw that broke the replacement officials' backs with egregiously bad work in several games. They missed a textbook hit to the head by Giants safety Kenny Phillips on Sunday as well as an obvious late hit by Bucs safety Mark Barron in a truly pathetic performance.
GOOD: The Giants obviously don't want to see injuries to Ahmad Bradshaw and David Diehl, but their running game came to life once those two players were off the field. Andre Brown had some key runs for the team in the second half and should have more of a role going forward as a result.
BAD: Jason Pierre-Paul got a sack, but Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora still haven't started their season. The secondary will continue to be exposed if the pass rush doesn't step things up in the coming weeks.
UGLY: Greg Schiano has changed the tenor of the Buccaneers and you could see how much tougher they were on the field over the course of Sunday's game. But, to quote Giants guard Chris Snee after the game, it was bush league of them to charge the line on the final kneeldown of the game when there wasn't enough time for them to do anything with the ball if they had forced a fumble.