The New England Patriots are on the verge of their eighth Super Bowl victory, but they did have to get past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a close game.
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers have a 228-pound cheat code in their quest for a second straight Super Bowl.
On paper, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-1) seemed to have just escaped a gritty Philadelphia Eagles (2-4) squad on way to a 28-22 victory on Thursday Night Football.
However, the truth of Tampa Bay’s Week 6 game is that it was never really close.
What the final score doesn’t reflect is the general tone of the game, which was one of sibling rivalry. The Buccaneers were obviously the superior squad and, in some ways, the “big brother.” They kept the Eagles at bay and gave them the impression that they had a shot, but when it came down to it, Tampa was just more physically dominating on Thursday night.
Of course, Tom Brady will take credit for the victory. Antonio Brown showed off his superstar status with a nine-catch, one-touchdown effort.
But it was Tampa’s running back Leonard Fournette who truly set the tone. He was so good, in fact, that it’s easy to see him becoming an important part of another Buccaneers Super Bowl run.
The Buccaneers messed with the Eagles. That physical superiority was largely due to Leonard Fournette.
Unrestricted security The Philadelphia Eagles’ Anthony Harris #28 tackles the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Leonard Fournette #7 in the second half at Lincoln Financial Field | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
With 5:44 remaining in the game, the Eagles scored a touchdown and converted a two-point conversion to draw within six points.
The game may have been in limbo at that moment, but the truth is that Tampa was simply playing with the Eagles. The Buccaneers were the superior side throughout the game, and they mainly imposed their physical will on the Eagles.
How about this as an example? After their last touchdown, the Eagles never got the ball back. With a 12-play, 67-yard drive, Brady and the Buccaneers ran out the time.
On the last drive, Tampa Bay relied heavily on chunk plays via the air, but it was Fournette who enabled the Buccaneers to run out the time. On the last drive, he didn’t have much success, but he did touch the ball on five of the nine plays (three of which were kneel-downs), and he caused the Eagles to waste their final two timeouts. Keep in mind that his lack of yards on the last drive wasn’t unexpected, as the Eagles anticipated the Bucs’ desire to run the ball and run out the time. They also understood that if they didn’t swarm Fournette in the backfield, he would quickly put a stop to their aspirations.
He’d already established the tone for the rest of the game.
For the Buccaneers, Fournette was a key component of lengthy touchdown drives.
During a 34-24 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams, Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dives back past Leonard Fournette #7 | Getty Images/Harry How
Fournette was primarily responsible for Tampa’s first touchdown drive of the second half, which was a 12-play affair that took 7:41 off the clock. On the drive, he touched the ball seven times for a total of 43 yards and a touchdown run.
If you go back at Tampa Bay’s touchdown at the conclusion of the second half, you’ll see a lot of the same things. That drive took 11 plays for 72 yards and 5:36 to complete. On that drive, Fournette had four touches, including an 18-yard grab and run and a two-yard scoring scamper at the end.
The effect of Fournette could be seen on Tampa’s opening drive of the game.
O.J. Howard caught a two-yard touchdown pass on that drive, but Fournette’s difficult running to open the game set up that play-action throw. In fact, before finding Howard in the touchdown zone, Brady faked a dive to his big running back.
In all, Fournette rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns on Thursday Night Football. He also had six receptions for 46 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per grab.
As a dual-threat running back, Fournette can be an unstoppable force for Brady and the Buccaneers.
Dual-threat quarterbacks get a lot of press in football circles, but dual-threat running backs may be just as effective in a high-powered attack. Running backs who can make defenders pay both on the ground and in the air as pass receivers are uncommon, but when they’re released by a creative play-caller, they can dramatically shift the field in an offense’s favor.
Fortunately for Tampa, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is that imaginative play-caller. In Fournette, the Buccaneers have their dual-threat running back.
Fournette is frightening because he can sprint, capture, and be deadly in wide space. He accomplishes it all while sporting a powerful 6-foot-228-pound body that makes him very difficult to handle. He’s essentially a Tampa cheat code.
He’s a punishing runner who constantly falls forward, forcing defenders to wrap up and push him backward. He’ll just drive them over if they don’t comply.
Fournette also has surprisingly excellent pass-catching skills, which is why the Buccaneers must continue to use him as a dynamic player as they pursue a second-straight Super Bowl appearance.
ESPN.com provided the statistics.
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Tom Brady and the Buccaneers Have a 228-Pound Cheat Code in Their Quest for a Second Straight Super Bowl. Reference: tom brady wife.
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