The Eagles’ couldn’t defy the odds.
Despite a late surge, they fell to the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 28-22, at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night.
The Eagles (2-4) came into the game as an underdog and looked the part for most of the game. Here’s our instant analysis of the game:
More of the same
For the second week in a row, Jalen Hurts turned in an uneven performance featuring a concerning cold stretch and some late-game surges. Hurts’ clutch plays against the Panthers covered up the three-and-a-half quarters of iffy play, but it wasn’t enough against the defending Super Bowl champs.
Hurts’ struggles with timing and accuracy were apparent on several occasions and played a significant role in the offensive drought. Even on the Eagles’ opening drive, which resulted in a touchdown, the biggest plays came more from luck than anything Hurts did. His 23-yard completion to Quez Watkins to convert on third-and-long was tipped before Watkins made an impressive catch, and the Eagles made it to the red zone on a pass-interference call that covered up a badly under-thrown and incomplete pass to Jalen Reagor.
The Eagles offense is clearly built around Hurts and the reads he makes both pre- and post-snap, and it amplified his troubles for much of Thursday night.
Sirianni said he didn’t believe his offensive scheme put too much on Hurts’ plate.
“He’s been doing that a long time, this RPO game and how he reads things,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “I don’t believe that that’s an issue.”
Like last week, he put together a much better fourth quarter especially after the Eagles found success running the ball, but it wasn’t enough. If the Eagles are going to keep up against good teams this season, they’ll need more consistent play out of their quarterback.
“Our offense needs to get better to give our team a chance to win,” Sirianni said. “It always starts with us as coaches to put them in the right position, and then you look at the execution. It’s the execution and us putting them in the right position.”
Sirianni’s play-calling woes persist
The drought continues for the Eagles offense.
The group has put together long stretches of stagnation multiple times this season and Thursday night was no exception. Hurts and Co. went six drives without running more than three plays, featuring five three-and-outs and one interception.
After over-relying on screen passes against the Carolina Panthers, Sirianni focused more on run-pass options and downfield passes, but to no avail. The first-year head coach continues to run an offense that is extremely quarterback-centric, replacing conventional running plays with RPOs that often result in quick passes as teams dare the Eagles to throw.
The result was just one running back carry in the first half and nine in the game. Miles Sanders’ lone first-half run went for only one yard, and Sirianni put the back on ice save for a few screen passes. Late in the third quarter, a run called for Sanders elicited one of the loudest cheers from Eagles fans desperate to see a more balanced offense. The Eagles leaned on the run game during a seven-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.
“Some of them are RPOs,” Sirianni said of the lack of run plays. “We look at screens as being able to get the running backs the ball as running back plays as well. Just the way the flow was going, we weren’t getting much and on the RPOs we weren’t getting much either.”
It’s worth noting the Buccaneers defense has been one of the best at stopping the run and a depleted cornerback room has led to them struggling against the pass, but the Bucs’ secondary kept the Eagles in check even with journeyman defensive backs.
Eagles tackle Jordan Mailata said Tampa Bay’s defense did a good job schematically containing running plays and forcing Hurts to throw instead.
“We like to do a couple of the runs with the reads,” Mailata said. “They kept scraping the linebacker to protect that back side and pairing him [to] the defensive tackle and defensive end. It was making it extremely hard for Jalen to get the read.”
Brady’s hot start
Turns out, Tom Brady is a little better than Sam Darnold. It was evident early that the Eagles defense would be in for a long night against another elite quarterback. After righting the ship against a middling Panthers offense, Jonathan Gannon’s group looked outmatched once again against Brady and Co.
The Bucs scored with ease on each of their first two drives, facing only two third downs and driving 75 yards on each drive. Brady went 11-for-12 for 121 yards and two touchdown passes in the first quarter. On the opening drive, Tampa used a heavy amount of pre-snap motion to figure out whether the Eagles were in man or zone coverage and attacked accordingly. They also used plenty of play-action and caught the Eagles’ linebackers out of position on several occasions, including Brady’s 2-yard touchdown pass on the opening series.
“I think, a little early, we were just unsettled,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said. “We weren’t attacking. I think we play better obviously when we’re attacking and in control.”
Either Leonard Fournette found a fountain of youth somewhere in Philadelphia before the game, or the Eagles defense had one of its worst tackling efforts all season.
The Bucs running back looked like the player the Jaguars drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, trucking several Eagles defenders and consistently getting crucial yards after contact.
He finished with 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns and added 46 receiving yards.
Alex Singleton had noticeable struggles both getting Fournette to the ground and in coverage. According to Next Gen Stats, Singleton was targeted by Brady seven times and gave up six catches for 42 yards.