By Teddy Brenner
Last night’s Eagles-Bucs game was a true litmus test.
For the young Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, who seems to regard the running game as a buggy whip, a relic of an earlier time.
For the Birds defense, which stepped up last Sunday in the win over Carolina.
And for the Eagles fans, who were hoping against hope that pretty boy Tom Brady would go down.
Well, none of that happened.
Brady threw two touchdown passes, Leonard Fournette ran for two and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Eagles 28-22 at the Linc.
The defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers (5-1) lost another cornerback when three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, but their depleted defense held on after Jalen Hurts rallied the Eagles from a 28-7 deficit.
“It’s tough to win on the road,” Brady said. “Obviously, we didn’t play our best so we have to get back to work … We got to get better.”
Playing with an injured thumb, the 44-year-old, seven-time Super Bowl champion tossed TD passes on Tampa Bay’s first two drives while going 11 for 12 for 121 yards.
His best play came after Hurts’ second TD run and a 2-point conversion pulled Philadelphia within six points with 3:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Facing a third-and-7 from Philadelphia’s 45, Brady rolled away from pressure and threw a perfect pass to Antonio Brown for a 27-yard gain to extend the drive and the Bucs ran out the clock.
“It was a great route, hell of a throw as Tom got out of the pocket,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. ″Couple times this year he slipped out of the pocket to the right and made a big play down the field.”
Brady finished 34 of 42 for 297 yards and an interception. He insisted his thumb, which was taped, is fine.
“I feel great, awesome,” he said. “It’s football season. I feel good. Really do.”
The Eagles (2-4) are winless in three home games under rookie coach Nick Sirianni. They heard boos at halftime but fought back to make it close.
“We were bad in the first half. Put that one on me,” Sirianni said. “There’s no doubt our offense needs to be better to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Brady’s 2-yard TD pass to O.J. Howard gave the Buccaneers a 7-0 lead. The Eagles answered on Jalen Hurts’ 5-yard scoring pass to Zach Ertz. Brady then hit Brown for a 23-yard TD pass to make it 14-7.
After two straight three-and-out series, Brady led the Bucs on another scoring drive with Fournette running in from the 2 to extend the lead to 21-7. Tampa increased its lead to 28-7 when Fournette walked in from the 1 in the third quarter.
Fournette ran for 81 yards and caught six passes for 46 yards.
“Having that year under my belt makes a big difference understanding it,” said Fournette, who signed with Tampa Bay shortly before last season after he was cut by Jacksonville. “The sky’s the limit for me.”
Brady was 19 of 22 before missing three straight passes late in the second quarter, including a deep ball intercepted by Anthony Harris that ended his streak of 227 passes without a pick.
The Buccaneers were already missing cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting and safety Antoine Winfield before Sherman went down on Philadelphia’s first drive. Sherman was quickly ruled out. Arians wasn’t certain the severity of the injury.
“We just have to keep playing with the guys we have and see how long the injury is. Next man up,” Arians said.
Still, against a patchwork secondary, Hurts struggled throwing the ball. He was 12 of 26 for 155 yards, one TD and one interception. Hurts ran for 44 yards and two scores.
“I haven’t executed enough to win, clearly,” Hurts said. “The ball is in my hands every play and I enjoy that and I like that. I have to be better. I’m not doing enough to win. I’m not doing enough to start fast. I will be better.”