Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers survived a late Philadelphia Eagles comeback attempt, capping off a dominant night which Brady completed 81 percent of his passes with a bad thumb en route to a 28-22 victory Thursday night. Brady had two touchdown passes and Leonard Fournette had two touchdown runs in the victory -- as Tampa Bay retains its commanding NFC South lead with the win.
Brady and the Buccaneers took a 28-7 lead on Fournette's touchdown run with 5:47 remaining in the third quarter. From there, Philadelphia tried to come back through the legs of Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders. Hurts rushed for two touchdowns in the second half, giving him five touchdowns on the season -- the first quarterback in Eagles history to have five touchdown runs in the first six games. Hurts had an abysmal night throwing the football, completing 12 of 26 passes for 115 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but he did finish with 10 carries for 44 yards. His second touchdown run came with 5:54 left in the game, but the Eagles never got the ball back after Hurts completed a two-point conversion pass to Quez Watkins to make it 28-22.
Brady never gave the Eagles an opportunity to win the game, completing a 27-yard pass to Antonio Brown with 3:27 left that essentially put Philadelphia away. A 10-yard pass to Cameron Brate set up a 3-yard run from Brady on third-and-1 to seal the victory. Brady finished 34 of 42 for 292 yards and two touchdowns with a 102.1 passer rating. Fournette recorded 22 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns. Brown finished with nine catches for 93 yards and a score, becoming Brady's favorite target in the slot throughout the night.
Why the Buccaneers won
A dominant first half by Brady set the tone for Tampa Bay. Brady was surgical in the first half with his passes, despite dealing with an injured thumb that was clearly bothering him as the game went on. Early on, it didn't matter as the Buccaneers quarterback went 20 of 26 for 186 yards in the first half as Tampa Bay built a 21-7 lead.
The Eagles' zone defense didn't have much of an answer for Brady early on, as he went 5-for-6 for 59 yards on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard pass to Howard which gave the Buccaneers a 7-0 lead. Brady found Brown on a 23-yard pass by moving to his right and finding the former All-Pro wide receiver in the middle of the field for the easy score to give Tampa Bay the lead for good.
Brady did throw an interception late in the first half and also had one taken away from him by replay, but his start to the game was what the Buccaneers needed to take control of the game.
Why the Eagles lost
There were a few factors to point to here. Hurts wasn't efficient throwing the ball, missing a lot of tight windows and showing poor timing on his throws en route to completing 46.2 percent of his passes. The Eagles only had 213 yards of total offense, which also falls on head coach Nick Sirianni. Refusing to run motion plays, getting your running backs involved more in the rushing attack and a lack of creativity on offense has doomed Hurts and his progression as a quarterback. That fed right into the teeth of a Buccaneers pass rush that was pressuring Hurts all night.
The Eagles had a frantic comeback attempt thanks to Hurts and Sanders, but they had a stretch where they ran 25 plays for a grand total of 67 yards -- which led to no points and a missed field goal. Four of the five starting offensive linemen are out, yet Sirianni continued to throw the ball. No designed runs to the running backs hurt this team.
Brady's touchdown throw to Brown gave the Buccaneers the lead for good, showcasing how little pressure the Eagles could get to him when he rolled to his right. On a first-and-10 from the Buccaneers' 23-yard line, Brady was able to keep his feet planted and move to the right while being able to keep his spot. He saw Brown across the middle and fired a strike to him for the touchdown, showcasing the damage Brown did in the slot.
The score gave the Buccaneers a 14-7 lead in the final minute of the first quarter, one Tampa held for good. Brady wasn't as efficient on his passes after that touchdown due to his thumb injury, but that pass demonstrated the damage he can do when healthy. He gets 10 days to rest up that thumb.
Play of the game
Brady's third-down throw to Brown that essentially iced the game was on the money, and vintage Brady at his finest. Brady made sure the Eagles didn't get the ball back by moving Tampa Bay up the field, but the Buccaneers faced a third-and-7 at the Eagles' 45.
Brady took the high snap and rolled to his right, looking for Brown on the run. Marcus Epps was covering Brown, so the former All-Pro wideout already had the mismatch in coverage. Brady fired a perfect pass to Brown for 27 yards and the first down, taking Tampa Bay to the Philadelphia 18-yard line with 3:24 left.
That pass ended any hopes the Eagles had at a comeback. Of course, Brady made the one throw he had to with the game on the line.
"That's on me. Unacceptable. That falls on me." -- Nick Sirianni in his press conference on Genard Avery's taunting call.
The NFL will have to explain Avery's penalty after the Eagles linebacker appeared to just jabber with Fournette after a tackle on the final series of the game. On the first play of the drive at the Buccaneers' 25, Fournette was taken down by Avery -- but a few words were said between the two after the play. Fournette even appeared to instigate it by leading his helmet into Avery's face mask.
Avery was called for a 15-yard penalty, giving the Buccaneers an automatic first down. The NFL has made it a point of emphasis to call taunting penalties this year, but hard to blame Sirianni when it appeared Avery really didn't do anything.
The Eagles and Buccaneers each have 10 days off to prepare for their next opponent. Philadelphia (2-4) travels to Las Vegas to face the Raiders on Oct. 24 while Tampa Bay (5-1) plays host to the Chicago Bears.