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Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns, Leonard Fournette ran for two scores, and the Bucs held on to beat the Eagles 28-22 Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Tampa Bay (5-1) led by three touchdowns after Fournette’s second touchdown, a one-yard run with just under six minutes remaining in the third quarter. But Philadelphia (2-4) rallied behind two Jalen Hurts scoring runs and a two-point conversion pass to cut its deficit to six points with just under six minutes to play.
A 27-yard pass from Brady to Antonio Brown on third and seven in the final minutes allowed the Bucs to run out the clock.
Brady threw a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end O.J. Howard on the opening drive to give Tampa Bay a quick 7-0 lead. After Hurts found tight end Zach Ertz for five yards to tie the game, Brady took the Bucs right back down the field, connecting with Brown on a 23-yard scoring pass.
Brady finished 34 of 42 for 297 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Brown led all Bucs receivers with nine catches for 93 yards. Howard and Fournette had six catches apiece (for 49 and 46 yards, respectively), and Chris Godwin added five receptions apiece for 43 yards.
Fournette rushed for 81 yards and the two scores on 22 carries. Ronald Jones gained 20 yards on five rushes.
Good news, bad news for the Bucs secondary: Jamel Dean intercepted a pass, but Richard Sherman was ruled out for the remainder of the game after leaving in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.
Here’s how it happened:
Clinging to a six-point lead, the Bucs faced third and seven from the Eagles 45 with just over three minutes remaining.
Tom Brady scrambled to his right and completed a 27-yard pass to Antonio Brown, giving Tampa Bay a bit first down at the 18.
After a 10-yard pass to Cameron Brate and three-yard run by Brady forced the Eagles to use their final timeout, the Bucs ran out the clock.
A taunting call on linebacker Genard Avery earlier in the drive gave the Bucs 15 yards to their 42.
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Taking their chances
The Bucs took a gamble with about nine minutes remaining, and it paid off in the Eagles’ favor.
Facing fourth and three from the Philadelphia 46, Tampa Bay opted to try for the first down. But Tom Brady’s pass deep down the right side for tight end O.J. Howard was incomplete, and the Bucs turned the ball over on downs.
The Eagles promptly took advantage, driving 54 yards on seven plays to pull to within 28-22 with 5:54 remaining on Jalen Hurts’ two-yard run and Hurts’ two-point conversion pass to Quez Watkins.
Running back Myles Sanders did the most damage on the drive, picking up 23 and 14 yards on back-to-back runs.
Coming away empty-handed
The Eagles offense signs of life on an early fourth-quarter drive, advancing to the Bucs 39 on a 25-yard pass from Jalen Hurts down the middle of the field to DeVonta Smith and to the 28 on an 11-yard run by Hurts.
But Philadelphia got no further, as Vita Vea tackled Hurts for no gain and Tampa Bay forced incompletions on his next two attempts.
The Eagles had nothing to show for their efforts, as Jake Elliott pushed his 46-yard field-goal attempt wide right, leaving the Bucs ahead by two touchdowns.
The Bucs defense has been outstanding, but they gift-wrapped the Eagles’ two biggest plays of the game, both on interference calls.
An interference penalty against cornerback Jamel Dean on Jalen Reagor in the first quarter resulted in a 45-yard gain for Philadelphia that set up the Eagles’ first touchdown.
Safety Mike Edwards outdid Dean in the third quarter, his infraction on Reagor giving Philadelphia 50 yards to the Tampa Bay 25.
Seven plays later, quarterback Jalen Hurts ran seven yards for a touchdown to pull the Eagles back to within 28-14 with 2:15 left in the quarter.
Leaning on Lenny
Much as he was on a first-quarter touchdown drive, running back Leonard Fournette was the workhorse on an early third-quarter possession that resulted in the Bucs’ fourth score of the game.
Fournette carried six times 39 yards on the drive, including a one-yard touchdown, and caught one pass for four yards.
With Tampa Bay facing third and one from its 30, Fournette ran up the middle for 20 yards to midfield. He picked up another first down three players later with a six-yard run to the Philadelphia 35. In between, he caught a four-yard pass from Tom Brady.
With just under six minutes still to play in the third quarter, Fournette has rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and caught five passes for 44 yards. The multi-touchdown game is the sixth of his career.
Tight end O.J. Howard also played a significant role on the drive, catching three passes for 29 yards, two for first downs.
Brady’s streak without an interception ends
This one won’t be overturned.
There was no doubt about Eagles safety Anthony Harris’ interception of a Tom Brady pass deep downfield late in the first half. The throw was well beyond the Bucs’ deepest receiver on the play, Antonio Brown.
It was the first time Brady had been intercepted in 228 passing attempts (scroll down for futher details).
Philadelphia, trailing by two touchdowns, got the ball back at its 32 with 57 seconds remaining in the half.
Turnabout is fair play
The Eagles didn’t get an interception they thought they had in the second quarter. Instead, the Bucs did.
Cornerback Jamel Dean made amends for a 45-yard interference penalty that set up the Eagles’ first-quarter touchdown by picking off a Jalen Hurts pass for Quez Watkins at the Tampa Bay 28.
The Bucs took their time taking advantage of the opportunity, using 11 plays to drive 72 yards and extend their lead to 21-7 on Leonard Fournette’s two-yard run with just under two minutes to play in the half.
Upon further ... and further ... review
Tom Brady was nearly intercepted for the first time in five games on the Bucs’ second drive of the second quarter.
On third and four from the Tampa Bay 45, Brady’s pass for tight end Cameron Brate was tipped by linebacker Alex Singleton and, according to the call on the field, intercepted by safety Marcus Epps.
But the ball appeared to make contact with the ground, and the call was overturned following a lennnngthy replay review. Instead of an interception, the Eagles got the ball back on a punt on the following play.
It would have been the first interception in 219 pass attempts for Brady, who threw a combined 11 touchdown passes with no interceptions over his previous four games.
Carrying the load
Leonard Fournette did most of the work on the Bucs’ second possession, but Antonio Brown ultimately reaped the reward.
Fournette caught three passes for 22 yards and ran twice for nine more as Tampa Bay drove 75 yards on nine plays for its second score of the game.
But Brown got the Bucs into the end zone, catching a 23-yard pass from Tom Brady to put Tampa Bay ahead 14-7 in the final minute of the first quarter.
Running back Ronald Jones saw his first action on the drive, running once for four yards and catching a nine-yard pass.
The Bucs made a couple of tackles for loss at the start of the Eagles’ opening drive, twice dropping quarterback Jalen Hurts two yards behind the line of scrimmage.
But Tampa Bay penalties allowed Philadelphia to keep the 75-yard drive alive, and Hurts threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz to tie the score at 7.
With the Eagles facing third and 12 from their 23, Shaquil Barrett was penalized for a neutral zone infraction, and Hurts scrambled 11 yards up the middle to pick up the first down. Will Gholston was flagged later in the drive for encroachment.
But the play that really hurt the Bucs was a 45-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Jamel Dean against Jalen Reagor, moving the ball to the Tampa Bay 5.
Sherman leaves with hamstring injury
The Bucs’ banged-up secondary got more bad news, as cornerback Richard Sherman left early in the first quarter with a hamstring injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. He was replaced by Dee Delaney.
Sherman appeared to pull up after a downfield completion by Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts on Philadelphia’s opening possession of the night.
The Bucs started the game without starting cornerbacks Carlton Davis (quad) and Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow) and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion).
Tom Brady completed his last 12 passes Sunday against the Dolphins and seemed to pick up right where he left off Thursday against the Eagles.
He was 5 of 6 for 59 yards on the Bucs’ opening drive, culminating in a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end O.J. Howard in the back of the end zone.
The Bucs only faced one third down on the drive, third-and-8 from the Philadelphia 16, and Brady found Chris Godwin for 10 yards and a first down at the 6.
Leonard Fournette carried four times for 16 yards as Tampa Bay did a nice job of mixing the run and the pass.
Bucs need to learn from last season’s loss in Chicago
This is when things began to go wrong for the Bucs last season.
Just over a month into the season. Only a single loss on their record. A Thursday night game after a short week of practice on the road against a mediocre opponent.
Last season, it was Chicago. Tonight, it’s Philadelphia.
The Bears sacked Tom Brady three times and hit him on eight other occasions in a 20-19 loss on Oct. 8, 2020. Defensive tackle Vita Vea left the field on a cart with a leg injury. The Bucs blew an early 13-point lead, and a Cairo Santos field goal put Chicago ahead with just over a minute remaining.
Tampa Bay’s last hope was extinguished when Brady lost track of downs on his team’s final possession.
The Bucs slipped to 3-2, then dropped three of their next seven games to fall to 7-5. Fortunately, that’s when they righted the ship, winning their final eight games, including a victory over the Chiefs in Super Bowl 55.
Can the Bucs avoid a similar fate tonight against the Eagles?
They’re coming off one of their strongest games of the season, a 45-17 dismantling of the Dolphins on Sunday. Brady played one of his best games as a Buc, passing for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns for the first time in his career while getting the ball to nine different receivers.
And, of course, Tampa Bay has the benefit of hindsight, allowing it to learn from its experience a year ago.
Injuries won’t help, as Brady, who smashed his thumb on an opponent’s helmet Sunday, and the Bucs are banged up. But they’re really in no worse shape than they’ve been at any other point this season.
Inside linebacker Lavonte David is out with an ankle injury suffered against the Dolphins. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (ribs, lung) and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion) also did not travel with the team.
Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder, hand), center Ryan Jensen (hip) and defensive lineman Patrick O’Connor (calf) are listed as questionable on the injury report but expected to play.
Win tonight, and the Bucs will have a chance to avenge that loss to the Bears in their next game. At home. On a Sunday. With nine days to prepare.
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