Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

With Playoff Lenny sidelined, Bucs patchwork run game delivers

Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard help the Bucs outrun the NFL’s top rushing offense.
Bucs running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022 in Tampa.
Bucs running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022 in Tampa. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jan. 16|Updated Jan. 17

TAMPA — As postseason nicknames go, neither Wild Card Ke’Shawn nor January Giovani possess the same ring as Playoff Lenny, but both worked splendidly for one damp, dominant afternoon.

With every-down back Leonard Fournette still on injured reserve and Ronald Jones out with an injured ankle, second-year backup Ke’Shawn Vaughn and veteran Giovani Bernard combined for 145 total yards in the Bucs’ 31-15 romp of the Eagles.

In the process, they helped prove their team’s coveted cache of skill guys is complemented by a set of reliable spare parts.

“Everybody that wasn’t in those roles early in the season, they’re making the most of it now,” receiver Mike Evans said. “So it’s good for us.”

Operating behind a banged-up offensive line missing all-pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs most of the day, Vaughn ran for 53 yards on 17 carries, including a 1-yard scoring run that gave the Bucs a 14-0 first-quarter lead.

Bernard, activated from injured reserve on Saturday, had the game’s first TD on a 2-yard run. Out since sustaining hip and knee injuries in the Dec. 12 home win against the Bills, he finished with 44 yards on 13 carries, and caught five passes (on seven targets) for 39 yards.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn runs the ball while Eagles middle linebacker T.J. Edwards attempts to bring him down.
Ke'Shawn Vaughn runs the ball while Eagles middle linebacker T.J. Edwards attempts to bring him down. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

“Band-Aids and duct tape, (Bernard) played his ass off,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Ke’Shawn can run, man, and he can catch. He’s a damn good back and he’s making the best of his opportunities, and we’re very, very confident in him.”

Not that other viable alternatives existed.

Jones, also sidelined for the regular-season finale against the Panthers, was declared out by Arians on Friday. Fournette, on injured reserve with a tweaked hamstring since the Dec. 19 shutout loss to the Saints, was cleared to resume practicing and appeared poised to return, but wasn’t activated.

“He tried to hit top speed a couple of times (at practice) and he could feel it,” Arians said. “Until he’s full-speed we’re not going to use him.”

Enter the understudies. Or in this case, over-achievers.

Behind the Vaughn/Bernard tandem, the Bucs finished with 106 rushing yards, outgaining the Eagles (95), who finished well below their NFL-best regular season average (159.7).

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter

We’ll deliver a roundup of news and commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

“I think they did a great job in coming in, and neither of them (had) played quite a bit,” quarterback Tom Brady said.

“(Bernard) had a huge game today for us. Ke’Shawn has taken advantage of his opportunity and has done a great job. When guys go down, other guys have to step in and do the best they can do, and they’re counted on in big moments. And I’m glad we can really count on those guys to do the job with Lenny and RoJo out.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

• • •

Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge