Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette was a key cog in Tampa Bay's offense in Thursday's win in Philadelphia, and Jamel Dean was instrumental in shutting down the Eagles' passing attack… Carmen Vitali and Scott Smith offer Game Ball suggestions by Scott Smith & Carmen Vitali
Tom Brady completed more than 80% of his passes Thursday night, came up just three yards shy of another 300-yard game and tossed two first-quarter touchdowns to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a lead they would never relinquish in a 28-22 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
It was, of course, yet another nearly flawless performance by the ageless quarterback against a very good Eagles defense featuring one of the NFL's most merciless pass-rushing fronts. But it comes on the heels of last weekend's 411-yard, five-touchdown performance against Miami so it gets appreciative nods more than Player of the Week awards.
Does it get him a nomination for this week's Game Ball? You'll have to read on (and click on below) to find out if he is one of the four candidates for whom you can vote but, spoiler alert, he was not the top choice by either me or Staff Writer Carmen Vitali. Brady was great once again but we each had another player on whom we want to train the spotlight this week.
After each Buccaneer win this season, Carmen and I will be making one nomination each for who should win the Game Ball for that contest. You then get to vote - with four total choices, actually - and you'll even qualify to win some cool prizes if you do. See the bottom of this article for all of that. We are not allowed to pick the same player, which makes the order in which we make our selections occasionally important. As such, we alternate the order from win to win, and this week Carme has first-pick honors.
Carmen Vitali: RB Leonard Fournette
I feel like this is the obvious choice, isn't it? I joked on Twitter that for all my Ted Lasso fans, Fournette was Roy Kent: He's here, he's there, he's... well, you know the rest. He recorded his third-straight game of over 100 all-purpose yards, this time amassing 127, with 81 coming on the ground and another 46 through the air. Fournette caught all six of the targets thrown his way so instead of Roy Kent maybe we can start calling him Thursday Night Lenny.
He also had not one, but two rushing touchdowns, making it his sixth career game with multiple touchdowns on the ground. And, after breaking the seal against Miami last week, he's scored three touchdowns in two games. All-day Lenny?
Fournette has now recorded 100-or-more scrimmage yards in three consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 4-8 of the 2019 season. All-season Lenny?
My favorite part was after the game when Fournette went up to the podium. He gave a lot of credit to his teammates - and rightfully so. Both touchdowns of his came thanks to key blocks by right tackle Tristan Wirfs, in particular. On his second score, Wirfs practically rolled out the red carpet for Fournette.
But then Fournette gave himself props - not necessarily for his performance on the field, but for not succumbing to the trash-talking Eagles, especially late in the game when it would have given them a chance to get even more back in the game. That's Mature Lenny. And we love to see it.
Scott Smith: CB Jamel Dean
Well, order was definitely important because I was hoping to have Fournette as my nomination this week. But, like a scrupulous defense attorney in a Michael Connelly novel, I won't take on the case of a Game Ball nominee unless I'm truly convinced he's innocent...I mean, worthy of being the top choice. And thus it is with conviction that I present to you cornerback Jamel Dean, the man we most need to acknowledge for his role in what proved to be a pretty tight win before it was all said and done.
Brady, Fournette and the rest of the fellas on offense came out smoking, scoring 14 points on the Bucs' first two possessions. Eventually, that lead was stretched to 28-7 because, while the Bucs kept scoring the Tampa Bay defense threw Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia offense into neutral for most of the next three quarters.
Dean was at the heart of that effort, intercepting an attempted deep ball by Hurts in the second quarter to set up the offense for another touchdown drive. It was Tampa Bay's only takeaway of the game; meanwhile, the defense stifled Hurts for only 113 net passing yards on the day on 12 of 26 passing. If it weren't for a pair of pass interference penalties totaling 95 yards, (admittedly, one of those was on Dean), the Eagles likely wouldn't have scored until the fourth quarter.
For some reason, even after Richard Sherman was knocked from the game with a hamstring injury on the Eagles' first drive, Hurts kept testing Dean. And Dean kept turning him away, racking up four passes defensed. Games with four passes defensed are not particularly common in the NFL...unless you're Jamel Dean, that is. Since Dean entered the NFL as a third-round pick in 1999, he has recorded five separate outings in which he collected four or more passes defensed. No other player in the NFL has more than two such games in that span, and only five other guys have even two.
Other than his pick, Dean may have had his most important pass breakup early in the third quarter. Philadelphia got the ball first to start the second half, hoping to quickly cut into the Bucs' 21-7 lead. Instead they went three-and-out with Dean batting away a third-and-six pass to rookie wideout DeVonta Smith. Philly punted, the Bucs drove for another touchdown and that proved to be enough to hold off an impressive late rally by the home team.
Okay, we've both made our closing arguments. Now it's your turn to render the verdict. Follow the link below to vote for either one of our two nominees or two other standouts from Thursday night's win.
Who deserves the Game Ball for Tampa Bay's Week Six grounding of the Eagles? Click here to vote now!