With the Bucs down Sean Murphy-Bunting, cornerback Jamel Dean was called upon to step up. Like he has all season, Dean delivered. The third-year cornerback broke up multiple passes and was in great position on several other targets. But the one time he faltered, safety Mike Edwards was there to bail him out. When Dean slipped on a double move right before the half, Edwards raced across the field and intercepted Jalen Hurts’ pass at the goal line.

 

“I owe Mike [Edwards] a steak dinner,” Dean said after the game. “But you know, it’s just one of those days I woke up feeling good and in good spirits. I’m just like ‘it’s the playoffs, so it’s either win or go home.’ So I just want to leave everything out on the field, have no regrets.”

The touchdown could have been a game-changer for the Eagles, who went into the half down 17-0 instead of 17-7. Edwards’ interception was his team-leading fourth pick of the season, despite being a backup. With Murphy-Bunting out, it opened the door for Edwards to see the field more often in nickel packages. Antoine Winfield kicked to the slot, while Edwards played more deep safety.

It was one of the best games of the season for the Bucs secondary, who held Jalen Hurts to 140 yards passing until the meaningless fourth quarter. Tampa Bay’s performance could have been even more dominant if they hadn’t dropped multiple interceptions. Linebacker Lavonte David acknowledged the group’s fine play despite not having Murphy-Bunting.

Bucs S Mike Edwards

Bucs S Mike Edwards – Photo by: USA Today

“Those guys do a great job adjusting,” David said. ‘SMB’ [Sean Murphy-Bunting] is a big part of this defense, but you’ve got guys who can play multiple positions. We moved ‘Toine’ [Antoine Winfield Jr.] inside to fill in for SMB. When ‘Toine went inside, Mike [Edwards] went back to play safety. We know everybody’s got a lot of confidence in Mike. Mike’s a great football player, he’s a playmaker back there and it showed again today. That’s just what we expect from Mike. He’s always that turnover machine that we need. Every time we need to make a big play on defense or a play on the football, he makes it. That’s expected. Just call him Playmaker Mike from here on out.”

Edwards finished with a team-leading nine tackles and a tackle-for-loss. The third-year safety wasn’t 100 percent either, dealing with a couple nagging injuries.

“He had a heck of a ball game,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s banged up and he got hurt on that one punt protection, but Mike’s a baller. He’s going to be out there and you know when he’s out there, he’s going to make a play. That was a huge play.”

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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ColdDeckEd
ColdDeckEd
4 months ago

This is the best our secondary has been in a long time. We got to find a way to keep Edwards and Whitehead.

Horse
Horse
Reply to  ColdDeckEd
4 months ago

Yes, key players returning helped and more to return against the Rams. right now our only weakness will be our ROT replacement who has to play better than what he did in this past game. I just don’t see Wriff playing in this game. I hope I’m wrong.

Horse
Horse
4 months ago

David and Barrett made a big difference for this team. JPP helped some too adding more pressure for the DL.

SenileSenior
SenileSenior
4 months ago

It is notable to me that neither White nor David lead the defense with tackles but it was Edwards, Dean and Whitehead. All of the above mentioned guys had strong games I believe.

chefboho
chefboho
4 months ago

I remember when the safeties were considered the weakness of this defense. Antoine W, Edwards, and Whitehead are beast back there. Id rather them sign Whitehead and Edwards of Bunting if push came to shove. A great performance on their end and i’m also happy to see Dean playing so well. The only knock is that these guys need to learn how to catch better. Could’ve had 4 or 5 int’s with the way Hurts was lobbing them.

twspin
twspin
4 months ago

Our Defense looked and played well for 3 qtrs. If they can play like this for 4 qtrs against the Cards or Rams, we win the next one. Don’t know why we let up in the 4th as much as we did. D will be the Key going forward.