Anytime you play the defending world champions, you know you’re going to have a game of emotion — the little things will just mean more.
The visiting Eagles won the toss and elected to defer their possession to the second half, which meant the Bucs were going to start on offense first.
That was a mistake.
On the very first play of the game, Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a bomb pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a 75-yard touchdown. That was the longest opening play in Buccaneers’ franchise history.
That got Raymond James Stadium on its feet, but it also got the Buccaneers defense pumped up, as well. On the Eagles first series of the game, they went three-and-out thanks to an energized Bucs defense that was playing at home for the first time this year.
After starting off the game with a bang, there was a lull in offensive production after that. There were a handful of first downs by both the Buccaneers and the Eagles, but the next three drives resulted in punts. On the Eagles third drive of the game, Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander came screaming up the middle of the trenches on an inside blitz which allowed him to sack Foles with so much forced that a fumble was caused and the Buccaneers recovered. But, that momentum didn’t last long, as two plays later, a pass to O.J. Howard was bounced right out of his hands and into the hands of the Eagles defender for an interception.
Following the turnover, both teams had a pair of punts until they were finally able to settle down. On a 13-play, 78-yard drive, the Eagles burned over six minutes of clock time while methodically moving the ball down the field for a 15-yard rushing score by Corey Clement, which tied the game at 7-7.
However, that tie didn’t last long, as the very first play of the Buccaneers’ next drive was another 75-yard touchdown pass, this time to tight end O.J. Howard. A missed point after attempt made the score 13-7.
Following an Eagles, the Buccaneer took the ball 70 yards in six plays for another touchdown, this time capped off with an easy throw to wide receiver Chris Godwin. The Eagles tried their best to get the ball into scoring position as the half came close to a close, but a missed field goal in the end meant the score would remain 20-7 in favor of the Buccaneers going into halftime.
Out of the half, the Eagles had a nice drive going before they were stoned on fourth down at midfield after a gutsy call by head coach Doug Pederson. After taking over with a short field, the Buccaneers drove the ball down 54-yards in seven plays that was capped off with a touchdown toss to Mike Evans, which extended the score to 27-7.
After back-to-back punts, The Eagles took over and finally looked like they had settled in. They drove the ball down the field 84 yards in eight plays, ending in a Jay Ajayi 4-yard touchdown. That made the score 27-14.
The Bucs started driving after the Eagles score, but a fumble after a big catch by Mike Evans gave the ball right back. However, the Eagles couldn’t do much with their ensuring possession, as a another turnover on downs gave the ball right back to Tampa Bay.
A punt by the Buccaneers gave the Eagles a sliver of hope, down two scores on the scoreboard. At the end of an 8-play, 78-yard drive, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw a beautiful pass to Nelson Agholor in the corner of the end zone for a score. That brought the score to 27-21.
Following the game going to a one-score contest, a big throw and catch by Fitzpatrick to Jackson got the Bucs a crucial first down to keep the clock moving, and another first down pass to Mike Evans drained even more clock, but the Eagles held the Buccaneers on that next set of downs to set up a punt.
But the Bucs defense held firm for a 27-21 win.
Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went 27-for-33 for 402 passing yards, four passing touchdowns. DeSean Jackson led the receiving group for the day with 129 receiving yards on four catches and one big touchdown. Tight end O.J. Howard was next on the list with 96 receiving yards on three catches. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans also recorded receiving scores.
On defense, cornerback Ryan Smith led the team in tackles with nine. Kwon Alexander, Jason Pierre-Paul and Gerald McCoy all recorded one sack each, as well.