Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the visiting Philadelphia Eagles in a 25-11 clash at Raymond James Stadium on Monday Night Football. The Bucs dropped to 2-1 on the season and are tied with the Falcons and Saints for first place in the NFC South. Under the prime-time spotlight, the Eagles dominated in the trenches on both sides of the football and in time of possession (38:55).
“Well, obviously, we didn’t move the ball well,” said Head Coach Todd Bowles. “As a team, we didn’t play well. It wasn’t just the offense. We’re going to win as a team and we’re going to lose as a team. [The] offense didn’t play well, [the] defense didn’t play well and special teams gave up field position… “It was a hard-fought game – we own it. You know, we own it. They stayed in third-and-short, and they got first downs, some good first downs. We didn’t play a good ballgame. They were partly a lot to do with that. So, not playing a good ballgame we can’t mope about it.”
A sluggish start on offense, inefficiency on first down for both sides of the ball, missed opportunities and difficulty in stopping the Eagles’ robust rushing attack sealed the Bucs fate. Here are the top takeaways from Monday’s matchup with the Eagles:
Slow Start for Offense
With two minutes left in the third quarter, the Eagles had 11 rushing first downs, while the Bucs had zero. Philadelphia outgained Tampa Bay by nearly 300 yards, 472-174, held an offensive play advantage of 78-44 and tallied 27 first downs while the Bucs totaled 12. Baker Mayfield completed 15 of 25 passes for 146 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Bucs were unable to achieve balance between the run and the pass, finishing with just 44 yards on the ground. For Tampa Bay, running the football proficiently allows the play-action game to succeed, which is where Mayfield is at his best. The threat of the run keeps defenses honest, but the Bucs were not able to gain momentum through the run game to control the clock, and instead, found themselves in third-and-long situations. In the first half, Cade Otton’s sensational contested catch over the middle of the field for a gain of 16 yards and Chris Godwin’s underneath grab showcasing strength at the catch point were the team’s most successful plays until the fourth quarter.
Mayfield rallied the Bucs with a 75-yard touchdown drive with Mike Evans serving as the catalyst. With sticky coverage by Reed Blankenship, Evans leapt into the air to make an acrobatic one-handed catch for a gain of 22 yards that sent social media into a frenzy. He went up the ladder to secure and capped off the drive with a touchdown versus Darius Slay. The Bucs got the two-point conversion but Jalen Hurts held onto the ball for the final nine minutes of regulation, icing the victory for Philadelphia and shattering any notion of a stunning comeback for Tampa Bay in Week Three.
“We just have to be better on offense as a whole,” said Baker Mayfield. “I got to be better. Taking advantage of just different outlets and things I have early on. They’re a great defensive front. So anytime we had an advantage with a some of the pass options in the run game, we just need to take those and move down the road. And we’ve just got to play better as a whole.
“They’re front – I mean, they’re incredible. So, it’s tough to run on them. Obviously, we spread them out later on and were able to get that going once we wore them down a little bit. But, yeah, we just got to be better early on. Disappointing as a whole, just because we didn’t win the game but short week for us. We got a divisional opponent coming up. And so, we got to look in the mirror, get things fixed, and move on. We don’t have time to lick our wounds.”
Overall, the Eagles boasted 201 rushing yards on the night en route to 400-plus, as D’Andre Swift spearheaded the attack with 130 yards on the ground and an 8.1 average per tote. The Eagles’ offensive line imposed their will up front which opened up large holes for Swift, who took full advantage. With outstanding pad level, explosion and decisiveness, Swift made his presence felt. Philadelphia consistently generated yards before contact, as the threat of play-action and read-options set up the Bucs’ defense flowing deep. Eagles’ wideout A.J. Brown put on a show racking up yards after the catch. From the shallow crossing route early on which beat man coverage to a hitch that gained 15-plus yards, Brown showcased his speed variance on routes, instinctiveness in space and athleticism to elude tacklers.
“Big offensive line, very talented,” Todd Bowles described. “Two or three times we let it out when we should have fit it better. Two or three times the hole was open [and] they did a good job scheming up the blocks, so we’ve got to do a better job as coaches. We’ve got to do a better job as players. We own that, we understand that and we’ll get back to work.”
The game marked just the fifth time in team history and the first since 2006 that the Buccaneers gained fewer than 200 yards and surrendered more than 450. Tampa Bay’s defense struggled to get off the field, allowing 10 conversions on 16 third-down attempts for Philadelphia. The Bucs’ defense started out strong, allowing just three points to the Eagles on their first two possessions, both of which landed them inside Tampa Bay’s 20-yard line. The tide shifted in Philadelphia’s favor after the 34-yard touchdown lob to Olamide Zaccheaus. On the ensuing drive for the Buccaneers, Reed Blankenship drove on the ball and undercut for an interception of Baker Mayfield.
What transpired next became a microcosm of the day for the Bucs. Mike Greene brought pressure in Hurts’ face, causing a quick release. He misfired and Devin White, who had dropped back in coverage, became the beneficiary. He intercepted the pass and returned it 26 yards to the Bucs’ 43. However, the excitement was short-lived for Bucs’ fans. Mayfield was sacked for a loss by Fletcher Cox on first down and the Eagles got the ball back. The very next play from scrimmage, the ball came out but was recovered by center Robert Hainsey. Then, Rachaad White caught a short pass and tried to turn upfield, but Jalen Carter came from behind and punched the ball out. Eagles’ James Bradberry recovered at the Bucs’ 36, putting Hurts and cast right back on the field. For Tampa Bay, both sides were not able to complement one another, and fatigue set in for the Bucs’ defense in the fourth quarter, as the unit was on the field for 70-plus plays. With five minutes left, the Eagles faced a third-and-long situation and converted, as Brown turned a quick curl into a 25-yard gain. That put the exclamation mark on the win for Philadelphia and sent the Buccaneers back to the drawing board.
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