PHILADELPHIA — With a ravaged defense already down four starters and cornerback Richard Sherman leaving the game in the first quarter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and running back Leonard Fournette carried the load on the road Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles in a 28-22 win at Lincoln Financial Field.
Dealing with a thumb injury all week that limited him to some light throwing in walk-throughs, Brady — who came in leading the NFL in passing — went 34 for 42 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His lone pick, by Anthony Harris, came on a 30-yard deep pass intended for Antonio Brown on a third-and-15. Another would-be interception by safety Marcus Epps was ultimately overturned.
On the ground, Fournette rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns, and he tacked on 46 yards on six catches through the air.
At this rate, cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles may have to suit up this season for the Bucs (5-1). Heading into tonight’s game, secondary starters had missed a combined 11 starts, with Sherman’s injury being the group’s latest malady. He was replaced by Dee Delaney.
The group surrendered only 115 passing yards, with Jamel Dean notching an interception for the second straight week on a pass intended for Quez Watkins.
But Dean — the lone healthy starting cornerback — continues to be an up-and-down player. His 45-yard defensive pass interference penalty on the opening drive set up a 5-yard touchdown reception by tight end Zach Ertz. A 50-yard defensive pass interference penalty by backup safety Mike Edwards in the third quarter set up a 6-yard touchdown scramble by Jalen Hurts.
Prior to Thursday night, tight end O.J. Howard, still not 100% coming off a ruptured Achilles and playing behind Rob Gronkowski, had just six targets for the season. In Gronkowski’s absence the last two weeks, he had just two catches. But against the Eagles (2-4), Howard had six catches on seven targets for 46 yards and a touchdown. He and Brady finally looked in-sync.
The Bucs went for it on fourth-and-3, from the Eagles’ 46-yard line, and turned the ball over on downs after Brady overthrew Howard. The Eagles then made it a six-point game when Hurts rushed for a 2-yard touchdown with 5:56 to go before converting a two-point conversion to Watkins. The Bucs caught a huge break on the ensuing driver after a taunting penalty was called on defensive end Genard Avery that advanced the Bucs 15 yards and let them run out the clock.