Linemen are rarely spotlighted in the spectacle that is the NFL, but in Tampa Bay's 30-10 win over New York on Monday night, they were the stars of the show.
The big boy bonanza began in the second quarter when Giants quarterback Daniel Jones tossed a touchdown pass to tackle Andrew Thomas, who showed off a strong set of hands snagging Jones' pass for six. Then, Jones helped out another large man, but this time it was an opponent.
Facing second-and-8 from New York's 38 in the third quarter, Jones dropped to pass under pressure and attempted to find tight end Chris Myarick, who blocked and released into a drag route. The entire viewing audience could see Jones' pass had no chance of reaching its intended target.
Instead, Jones' pass landed in the arms of defensive lineman Steve McLendon, making Monday night the first instance in which two 300-pound linemen (one offensive and one defensive) caught a touchdown and an interception in the same game in the NFL's 102-season history. It also made McLendon the second-oldest player in NFL history at the time of recording his first career interception (35 years, 323 days old).
"Oldest player and he finally got his first one," Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said of McLendon. "You know that ball is getting framed. Might even get gold on it or something. But no, that was a hell of a play by Stevie."
McLendon became the first Buccaneers player at 300-plus pounds to record an interception since Anthony "Booger" McFarland did so back in Week 1 of 2003. He said afterward he remembered the last time he had a chance to intercept a pass but failed, which came seven years ago. After a week of diligent film study, McLendon was ready to capitalize.
"We kind of went over it a lot this week," McLendon explained. "And my defensive line coach, Kacy Rodgers, he kept saying they like to do a throwback, so make sure you stay back home. And, every time this week that I seen it, I stayed back home. And I was trying to tell the other guys like 'Hey, we've got to stay back home 'cause they like to do the throwback.' And as soon as I [saw] the quarterback gaining ground and turning his shoulder back to the other side, I was like 'Hey, I'm here.'"
He certainly was there to make history in more ways than one.
The Giants, meanwhile, were understandably less pleased with their achievement, considering it was the only time they were able to find the end zone.
"In practice it's a lot easier. The tempo is obviously a lot faster [and] the pace is a lot faster," Thomas said. "(Jones) had pressure on him, made a good throw, and I did what I had to do to make the catch."
The pair of plays effectively summarized the night for the Giants, whose only touchdown of the night was scored by a former first-round tackle, and whose former first-round quarterback decided to throw a ball into traffic and ultimately, into the arms of the least likely defender to intercept a pass. At 3-7, the Giants don't inspire much confidence or excitement, but at least they were entertaining on these two plays.
In the end, football fans likely won't remember the 2021 Giants fondly. But they'll look back on the Week 11 Monday night meeting as the one in which two big fellas got their shine.