Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bounced back in a big way and the Pittsburgh Steelers just kept rolling Sunday in the National Football league.
Tampa Bay running back Ronald Jones rumbled 98 yards for an epic touchdown as the Bucs rebounded from a humbling defeat with a 46-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The Steelers, with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the helm after a Covid-19 scare, improved their unbeaten record to 9-0 with a 36-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Roethlisberger, who missed practice all week after coming in close contact with a teammate who tested positive for Covid-19, threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover.
The Bucs were coming off a 38-3 thumping by the New Orleans Saints.
Brady connected on 28 of 39 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns, adding a rushing TD for good measure.
In a game knotted 17-17 at halftime the Bucs seized control in the third quarter.
They had edged ahead with a field goal shortly after the break.
Pinned at the two-yard line after a punt by Carolina’s Joseph Charleton, the Bucs needed just one play to score again as Brady handed off to Jones, who found a hole in the middle and escaped one tackle attempt before accelerating away from Carolina’s Jeremy Chinn for the longest offensive touchdown in Bucs history.
It was just one yard shy of the longest run in NFL history, which has seen 99-yard rushes by Tony Dorsett in 1982 and Derrick Henry in 2018.
The only other 98-yard run ever in the NFL was by Green Bay’s Ahman Green in 2003.
“I’ve got to thank the big guys up front for giving me that push,” Jones said of Tampa Bay’s offensive line. They made my job look easy.”
He said he glanced up at the Jumbotron scoreboard and adjusted his course slightly as Chinn closed in, and felt it when the Panthers defender made a vain dive at his heels.
“It felt good to finally get that run and give the team a boost,” said Jones, who had fumbled on the Bucs’ opening drive.
To make matters worse for the Panthers, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater departed in the fourth quarter with a right knee injury after he was sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul.
The victory moved the Bucs to 7-3 — right behind the division-leading Saints who improved to 7-2 with a 27-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Saints won despite the halftime departure of quarterback Drew Brees with a rib injury that he apparently suffered in a second-quarter sack that was controversially ruled a roughing the passer by Kentavius Street.
Brees finished out the first half, his short touchdown toss to Alvin Kamara giving New Orleans a 17-10 halftime lead.
Jameis Winston came in for Brees to start the third and the Saints held on for the win.
– Hail Murray –
There was late drama in Arizona, where Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray delivered a desperate 43-yard “Hail Mary” pass to a tightly-covered DeAndre Hopkins with two seconds remaining to lift the hosts to a 32-30 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills had appeared headed for victory after quarterback Josh Allen connected with Stefon Diggs on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds left.
But Murray and the Cardinals came through to add to the logjam atop the NFC West, where three teams finished the day tied at the top on 6-3.
That included the Los Angeles Rams, who stifled the league’s highest-scoring offense in a 23-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, who came into the day leading the division.
Cornerback Darious Williams intercepted two passes from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who was sacked six times.
The Bills’ defeat also tightened things up in the AFC East. Buffalo top the division at 7-3, with the Miami Dolphins at 6-3 after their fifth straight victory.
Miami beat the Los Angeles Chargers 29-21 as the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa came out ahead of Justin Herbert in a battle of rookie quarterbacks.