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.
"It's tough to win on the road," Brady said. "We didn't play our best so we have to get back to work. ... We got to get better."
On the ground, Fournette rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns, and he tacked on 46 yards on six catches.
Brady's tune was a little different speaking of his running back.
“Obviously when he’s rolling, it’s tough to stop us,” he said.
Troubling trend: At this rate, cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles may have to suit up this season for the Bucs (5-1). Including Thursday's game, secondary starters had missed a combined 11 starts, with Sherman's injury being the group's latest blow. He was replaced by Dee Delaney.
Pierre Desir had replaced Carlton Davis two weeks ago, but the Bucs wanted to preserve Desir’s role in their nickel and dime packages. The only remaining healthy cornerback on the roster is Rashard Robinson.
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.
“We’ve just gotta back to the fundamentals,” said Dean, who notched his second pick in back-to-back weeks. “Technique. Really it’s all just technique. … It’s a technique issue with me.”
Promising trend: 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.
“Juice is getting better and better, and he’s stepped up every week,” Arians said. “This was by far the best game he’s had.”
Questionable call: 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.
“Just trying to ice it and trust our offense to get it done, and we didn’t get it done,” Arians said. “You win some, you lose some.”
Brady said it was poor execution on his part.
“That’s a big play, a big momentum play and we need to hit that,” Brady said. Regardless, we came back, battled through it, and made some plays there at the end that we needed to.”
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.
“That penalty they had -- I knew that the game was over,” Fournette said. “Because all we needed was that one first down.”