Eli Manning’s sterling second half made up for his stinker in the first. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)

But with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants facing the prospect of an 0-2 start, Manning responded with a second half show for the ages to propel his team to a 41-34 win.

New York trailed 27-16 after three quarters, but then Manning exploded for a number of big plays in the fourth quarter. Manning amassed 510 yards in all — 243 in the fourth quarter — on 31 of 51 passing for the second-highest yardage total ever by a Giants’ quarterback.

“Nobody wants to start 0-2, so it was a big win, especially after the first half playing poorly,” Manning said. “After not playing well, it’s kind of getting back to that level of playing good football. Really good. No punts, no turnovers. Some big-time plays and stepping up when we needed it, that was fun to have.”

But it wasn’t much fun on the other sideline where the Bucs watched a promising start fade with each reception Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz hauled in (they combined for 21 and 378 yards). And that frustration boiled over when first-year coach Greg Schiano told his players to knock Manning down when he took a knee to end the game.

Understandably, Tom Coughlin took umbrage with what Schiano described (via ESPNNewYork.com) as fighting “until they tell us the game is over.”

“I don’t think you do that at this level,” Coughlin said. “You don’t do that in this league. You don’t jeopardize the offensive line, you (don’t) jeopardize the quarterback. Thank goodness we didn’t get anybody hurt, that I know of, a couple of linemen were late coming in (after the game).

The win moved the Giants into a three-way tie for second in the NFC East on a day in which the Cowboys and Redskins both lost.

But the win didn’t come without its price. Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), right tackle David Diehl (knee) and receiver Domenik Hixon (concussion) all left the game due to injuries and did not return.

Update (11:47 a.m.): Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger reports Diehl injured his MCL during a first-quarter goal-line play.

The Giants travel to Carolina next week where Manning could be in store for another big day. The Panthers allowed Drew Brees to throw for 325 yards in Carolina’s 35-27 win Sunday.

Follow us: @MattBrooksWP | @CindyBoren


Giants rally past Bucs, 41-34

Couglin miffed by Schiano’s final play call

Lynch, Seattle D stomp Dallas, 27-7

NFL scoreboard | Standings