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Buccaneers at Eagles recap: Tampa Bay grabs big lead, holds on late in 28-22 win

The Bucs cruised to a 28-7 lead more than halfway through the third quarter before needing to hang on late to escape with a 28-22 win in Philadelphia.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Just four days after a 45-17 win over the Dolphins that improved their record to 4-1 on the year, the Buccaneers were back on the field Thursday night in Philadelphia for a primetime matchup against the Eagles (2-3).

Tampa Bay came into the night as winners of two straight games, having won in New England and at home against Miami despite a number of injuries to key players on both sides of the ball. While Jason Pierre-Paul and Giovani Bernard returned this past Sunday, the team added another influential player to the injury report this week. Lavonte David (ankle) would have to miss the game in Philadelphia, while Rob Gronkowski (ribs) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion) remained out as well. That’s not even mentioning starting cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow) and Carlton Davis (quad) who remain on injured reserve. But even with their injuries, the Bucs have forged ahead as of late and came to Lincoln Financial Field hoping to win a third straight before having a little bit of an extended break before their next game on Oct. 24.

The Eagles, for their part, have had an up-and-down season. Interestingly enough, their success has come against the Bucs’ NFC South rivals. A 32-6 win over the Falcons in Week 1 and a 21-18 victory over the Panthers this past Sunday account for their only wins, while they have lost games to the 49ers (17-11 in Week 2), Cowboys (41-21 in Week 3) and Chiefs (42-30 in Week 4). There has been reason for optimism in Philadelphia as of late thanks to the play of quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has thrown for 1,365 yards and seven touchdowns to three interceptions this year while also rushing for 256 yards and three more scores. His dual-threat playmaking ability was certainly something that Tampa Bay’s defense had to be prepared for, and surely that was especially difficult on a short week.

Despite being the road team, the Bucs were still favored by a touchdown heading into Thursday night. ESPN’s FPI Matchup Predictor gave the defending champions a 71.1% chance to escape with a third consecutive win and their third in primetime action this season.

The two teams traded touchdowns on their opening drives of the game, but the rest of the first half belonged to Tampa Bay. The Buccaneer defense held the Eagles to just 73 yards in the first 30 minutes while the offense scored two more touchdowns to take a 21-7 lead into the locker room. The visitors extended their lead to 28-7 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter and looked to be cruising to an easy win before the Eagles came back to score 15 straight points. After getting within six points, Philadelphia’s defense just couldn’t get the late stop it needed. With a couple of key third-down conversions, the Bucs killed the clock and hung on for a 28-22 win that got them to 5-1 on the season.

Game Recap

The Eagles won the coin toss and elected to defer, giving the ball to Tom Brady and the Buccaneer offense to open things up. After a touchback, the opening possession started at the 25-yard line. Leonard Fournette got four yards on first down before Brady found Antonio Brown for nine yards to move the chains for the first time on the night. Brady then found his No. 1, Mike Evans, for 22 yards over the middle to get the ball into Philadelphia territory. After Fournette got six more yards on the next play, Brady found his third different receiver for a first down, hitting Chris Godwin for 16 yards to the Eagles’ 18-yard line. An incomplete pass and a two-yard pickup by Fournette then set up a crucial 3rd & 8 inside the red zone, but the offense kept it moving as Brady hit Godwin on a quick screen for a first down to the 6. Two plays later, Brady found a wide-open O.J. Howard for a two-yard touchdown. With Howard’s first score of the year and Ryan Succop’s PAT capping a 10-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 5:34, it was an early 7-0 lead for Tampa Bay.

Bradley Pinion’s ensuing kickoff went for a touchback, setting Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia offense up at their own 25 to start. Devin White, Mike Edwards and Kevin Minter stopped Hurts for a loss of two on first down before a deep incomplete pass brought up a 3rd & 12. A neutral zone infraction on Shaquil Barrett brought it to a more manageable 3rd & 7, which resulted in a conversion as Hurts showed off his legs by scrambling for 11 yards and a first down. Vita Vea and Jason Pierre-Paul were credited with a split sack for a loss of two on the next play before another incomplete pass, which set up another 3rd & 12. And yet again, the defense failed to get off the field. Hurts found Quez Watkins for 23 yards and another first down before a short completion and an unnecessary roughness penalty on Miles Sanders backed the Eagles up to 1st & 25. But things went south quickly for the Bucs from there.

Richard Sherman left the field with a hamstring injury—and was ruled out for the remainder of the game shortly after—before a William Gholston encroachment penalty and a 45-yard pass interference penalty on Jamel Dean set the Eagles up with a 1st & Goal at the 5-yard line. From the 5, it took just one play for Hurts to find Zach Ertz for an easy touchdown. With the PAT, the Eagles had quickly tied the game at 7-7 with 6:01 to go in the opening quarter.

Starting from their own 25, the Buccaneer offense faced a quick third down after a run for no gain by Fournette and a nine-yard pass from Brady to Fournette. On that 3rd & 1, Brady and Godwin linked up again for eight yards and a first down. Fournette took over again from there, catching passes for 11 and three yards before a nine-yard run to the Eagles’ 36-yard line. Ronald Jones II then got his first carry of the night, picking up four yards, before catching a pass for nine yards to the 23 to keep things moving. On the next play, it was another score for the Bucs. Brady got some time from his offensive line and connected with a wide-open Brown for a 23-yard touchdown. Succop’s PAT made it a 14-7 Tampa Bay lead with 33 seconds to go in the first quarter.

Starting their second possession from the 25, the Eagles gave the ball to Sanders for the first time on the night, only to have him stopped for a gain of just one yard. That brought us to the end of the first quarter with the Bucs leading 14-7.

DeVonta Smith caught a short pass to start the second quarter, but on the ensuing 3rd & 3, Jordan Whitehead broke up a pass intended for Jalen Reagor. That led to the first punt of the night by either side, with Arryn Siposs delivering a 47-yarder that Jaydon Mickens returned 13 yards to set the Buccaneer offense up at its own 33-yard line.

Jones picked up three yards on first down of the next drive, with Josh Sweat tripping him up to prevent a longer gain. Brown caught another pass on the next play, only to lose four yards to bring up a 3rd & 11. Brady and Brown connected for 10 on third down and rather than risk it on 4th & 1, Pinion came out to punt for the first time. He dropped a 41-yarder that was caught by Reagor at the 17, which was where Philadelphia’s next drive would begin.

Hurts started the next drive with a four-yard pass to Sanders, but Barrett got to the quarterback for a gain of just one on the next play to bring up 3rd & 5. And just like that, Tampa Bay’s defense got off the field thanks to an incomplete pass intended for Ertz. The following punt was an ugly one, going for just 39 yards before landing out of bounds at the Bucs’ 39.

Starting the next drive, Fournette got the ball on the first two plays—getting six yards and then none to set up a 3rd & 4. With some pressure in Brady’s face, he unloaded a third-down pass that was tipped and intercepted by Marcus Epps. But after the play went to review, the interception was overturned as the ball hit the ground. Instead of a turnover at the 46-yard line, Pinion came out and dropped a 44-yard punt to the 11-yard line. It was a massive field position swing for Tampa Bay, which hung on to a 14-7 lead.

Hurts got dropped for a loss of one to start the Eagles’ next possession, but he got the chains moving on the next play with a 16-yard pass to Ertz. The Buccaneer defense didn’t let momentum get away, though. Hurts tried to find Watkins deep down the sideline, but he overthrew him and Jamel Dean came up with an interception—his second in the last five days.

Brady was hit as he threw on the first play of the next series and the pass fell incomplete, but he came right back and hit Cameron Brate for a 10-yard pickup to the 40. Two plays later, Brown took a short pass and got 14 yards into Philadelphia territory. Fournette then pulled off another highlight-worthy play, catching a pass, breaking a tackle and making a defender miss badly on his way to an 18-yard gain. Two plays later, it was Brady and Howard linking up again for a 10-yard gain to the 13-yard line. And from there, two passes to Godwin got the ball down to the 4 before Fournette picked up a first down at the 2 to bring us to the two-minute warning.

On the first play after the timeout, Fournette punched it into the end zone from two yards out to extend Tampa Bay’s lead. With the PAT, it was 21-7 Buccaneers with 1:56 to go in the first half.

After another touchback, the Philadelphia offense took the field again looking to cut into the 14-point deficit before halftime. Instead, a quick 35-second three-and-out brought the punt team back out to give the ball back to the Bucs as boos rained down from the home crowd.

Going from their own 35 with 1:24 left in the first half, the Bucs were looking to add on. A rare false start penalty on Tristan Wirfs pushed the offense back to 1st & 15, then two incompletions preceded a Brady interception—ending his streak of pass attempts without an interception at 227.

Philadelphia didn’t take advantage of the Brady interception, going three-and-out once again to bring up a punt with 37 seconds to go in the half. After the Sippos punt, Tampa Bay’s offense took over at its own 22-yard line. After a loss of four on a catch by Giovani Bernard, though, the Bucs were content with taking a 21-7 lead into the locker room.

Starting the second half from their 25, the Eagles offense needed to get moving quick to give themselves a chance to stay in the game. Instead, an impressive Vita Vea run stop and a third-down incompletion meant yet another quick three-and-out that brought the punt team back out. After the kick, the Buccaneer offense took over at its own 21.

A five-yard pass to Howard and a four-yarder to Brown set the Bucs up with a 3rd & 1, which Fournette picked up with a 20-yard run up the middle. He got another five on the next play, then caught a four-yard pass to bring up another 3rd & 1, this one at the Philadelphia 41. Once again, Fournette pushed forward for a gain of six to move the chains. Jones came in to pick up two yards on the ground before Howard caught a nine-yard pass for another first down. As the clock ticked under eight minutes in the third quarter, Tampa Bay called its first timeout of the half.

After the timeout, Howard caught a 15-yard pass to the 9 and Fournette ran for seven yards to the 2. Mike Evans then drew a pass interference call to give the Bucs a 1st & Goal at the 1. Two plays later, Fournette found the end zone for the second time on the night and with the PAT from Succop, the Bucs had a 28-7 lead. Tampa Bay’s scoring drive went 79 yards on 12 plays in 7:41.

The Philadelphia offense found some life to start its next drive thanks to a 50-yard pass interference penalty on Mike Edwards. With a first down at the Tampa Bay 25, Kenneth Gainwell was stopped by Devin White for a gain of one before Ertz caught a six-yard pass to the 18 to set up 3rd & 3 at the 18. The Eagles kept the drive alive with Sanders picking up five yards, but he was dropped by Gholston for a loss of two on the next play to set the offense back. A nine-yard run by Hurts set up another 3rd & 3 and an incompletion brought it to 4th & 3, but the offense stayed on the field and it paid off. Hurts scrambled for a six-yard touchdown and with the PAT, Philadelphia was back within 28-14 with 2:15 left in the third quarter.

The Bucs quickly went three-and-out on their next drive with the only yards coming on a third-down catch by Bernard. That led to a punt by Pinion, which meant the Philadelphia defense had kept the home team in the game for the time being.

A penalty on the punt pushed the Eagles back to their own 15, then Barrett dropped Quez Watkins for a loss of three on first down to push the drive back even further. That ended the third quarter, with Tampa Bay leading 28-14.

Hurts and Watkins connected for a 24-yard gain to start the fourth quarter, then Hurts found Smith two plays later for another 25 yards to get across the 50-yard line. Sanders picked up his best run of the night on the next snap, getting 11 yards to the Bucs’ 28. Vea was credited for a zero-yard sack on the next play before two incomplete passes—one of which was nearly intercepted by Ross Cockrell—brought Jake Elliott on for a 46-yard field goal attempt that went wide right. That kept the Bucs in front by 14 with 12:38 to go.

Starting from the 36 after the missed field goal, the Buccaneer offense went to work on the clock. Jones picked up a tough eight-yard gain on first down before getting two more to move the chains. Jones got nine more on the next play, but a holding call on Donovan Smith brought Tampa Bay back to a 1st & 20. Short completions to Evans and Brate from Brady got things back to a 3rd & 11, then Howard caught a short pass and took it eight yards to bring up a 4th & 3 at the Philadelphia 46. The Bucs still decided to go for it after taking their second timeout, but Brady missed Howard deep to turn it over on downs. That gave the Eagles possession near midfield, down 14 with 8:59 left.

Hurts opened the next drive with a quick six-yard pass to Sanders, getting the ball into Buccaneer territory. Sanders then took off deeper into Tampa Bay territory, getting down to the 11-yard line after runs of 23 and 14 yards. Hurts then got the edge and picked up seven yards down to the 4-yard line before Sanders got down to the 1 to make it 1st & Goal. Dee Delaney got called for holding in the end zone on the next play, but it didn’t make a difference other than giving the Eagles another 1st & Goal at the 1. Ndamukong Suh dropped Sanders for a loss of one on that first down, but Hurts worked his way into the end zone from there. And with a successful two-point conversion attempt, the Eagles got within 28-22 with 5:54 to go.

A taunting penalty on Philadelphia gave the Bucs a free 15 yards to start the next possession, then Brown caught a 10-yard pass from Brady two plays later to get the ball across midfield for a first down. A one-yard run and a two-yard catch by Fournette then brought up a huge 3rd & 7 for the Bucs with 3:19 left, which was when the Eagles took their first timeout of the half. On the biggest play of the game, Brady found Brown for 27 yards to the Eagles’ 18-yard line.

After Fournette was stopped for a loss of one on 1st & 10, Philadelphia called its second timeout. A nine-yard pass from Brady to Brate brought up a 3rd & 1 at the 9, but not before the Eagles called their last timeout with 2:27 left. Brady snuck his way up the middle on third down for two yards, moving the chains and bringing us to the two-minute warning.

After the two-minute warning, three kneel-downs allowed the Buccaneers to escape with a 28-22 win, improving to 5-1 on the year.

Quick Notes & Stats

  • After a touchdown on its opening drive of the night, the Philadelphia offense was stifled for the rest of the first half. The Eagles put up just 73 yards in the first half, picking up only five first downs and punting four times.
  • The Bucs dominated time of possession in the first half, holding the ball for 21:05 to the Eagles’ 8:55. For the game, Tampa Bay held the ball for 39:56 to Philadelphia’s 20:04.
  • Tom Brady’s streak of consecutive passes without an interception ended at 227 in the second quarter.
  • Brady had a solid night, completing 34 of his 42 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Leonard Fournette was the key for the Buccaneer offense, rushing for 81 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries while catching six passes for 46 yards.
  • Jamel Dean’s interception in the second quarter was his second in as many games.
  • Antonio Brown’s first-quarter touchdown catch was the 83rd of his career, tying him with Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall for 23rd-most in NFL history. On the same play, he passed Hines Ward for 26th on the league’s all-time receiving yards list.
  • Including the playoffs, Tom Brady and Antonio Brown have connected for 10 touchdowns since Week 15 of last season, which is the most of any duo in the league.
  • Brown was the Bucs’ leading receiver on Thursday night, catching nine passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
  • O.J. Howard’s six catches (for 49 yards and a touchdown) were his most in a single game since December 2019 against Jacksonville.
  • Shaquil Barrett was chasing after Jalen Hurts all night. He finished with a half-sack and two tackles for loss.
  • Vita Vea finished with a sack and two quarterback hits in what was another impressive performance.
  • Jalen Hurts proved to be a problem for the Buccaneer defense at times, especially with his ability to leave the pocket. He ran for 44 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries while throwing for another score to bring his total to three for the night.
  • Third down efficiency was huge in this game, with the Bucs going 7-for-13 and the Eagles finishing 3-for-10.
  • The Eagles got 95 yards of pass interference penalties to set up their first two touchdowns.
  • Tampa Bay was penalized seven times for 120 yards. Those 120 penalty yards were the most for any team in the NFL this season.
  • The Bucs have now started the season 5-1 for the fifth time in franchise history. All four of the previous 5-1 starts led to seasons of 10 wins or more for Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers (5-1) will return to the field on Oct. 24, hosting the Chicago Bears (3-2) at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m.