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.
“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.”