TAMPA, Fla. — The Eagles had just forced Tom Brady and the Buccaneers into their third straight three-and-out series as Jalen Reagor settled under a punt early in the third quarter. They trailed, 17-0, but they had more than enough time to mount a comeback as the ball descended from the sky.

The wind at kickoff was officially out of the west at 18 mph. Bradley Pinion’s boot was high and relatively short as Reagor took several steps forward to field it. He didn’t signal for a fair catch as a Bucs player beared down. The returner stuck out his hands, but his momentum stopped and the ball grazed his fingers and hit the grass.

He muffed it.

The Eagles certainly didn’t fall meekly to the Bucs, 31-15, solely because of Reagor’s untimely turnover. Despite the narrative that they had made up ground since the first meeting between the two teams three months ago, there was still objectively a significant gap.

If Nick Sirianni’s squad was to win, and, at the least, compete against the defending Super Bowl champions, it would need to be near perfect. But the Eagles didn’t play much different than they have all season, even during the 7-2 stretch in the second half that vaulted them into the playoffs. They came out sluggish. They made mistakes. And coaches were slow to adjust.

They just played a different caliber of team, and the Bucs pounced.

» READ MORE: Eagles-Buccaneers analysis: Jalen Hurts and Jalen Reagor took steps back as the Birds got bounced

While Reagor’s gaffe and errors by others suggested some Eagles had allowed the moment to affect them, what it really emphasized was that the roster is still full of players who shouldn’t be in prominent roles.

“We know you can’t make mistakes like that in the playoffs against a really good football team, and we did,” Sirianni said. “I don’t want to say the moment got too big for them. I just think we made some mistakes.”

But watching Reagor muff the punt, and another later on, was like watching a car crash in super slow motion. Who didn’t see this coming? Obviously, the Eagles. He should have been benched long ago, not to bury the kid, but to, you know, win games.

Sirianni had already lessened Reagor’s load over the course of the season. He received fewer snaps on offense and had kick return duties yanked from him last month. Still, it was unlikely that Reagor would be inactive for the playoffs, even if running back Jason Huntley may have made better use of that spot.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie billed this season one of transition as far back as a year ago. It would give his team the opportunity to develop its youth and see how youngsters like quarterback Jalen Hurts, wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Reagor, guard Landon Dickerson and others performed.

But with Reagor, at least, it may have done more harm than good. He didn’t draft himself, of course. He didn’t have the Eagles bypass receiver Justin Jefferson. He didn’t tell general manager Howie Roseman to select Smith in the first round as a sort-of correction a year later, setting up the obvious comparisons.

» READ MORE: Eagles’ offensive game plan, execution come up short in playoff loss to Buccaneers

Reagor showed a lot of character when he took the podium following his two late drops in the loss to the New York Giants in November. He flashed at times following that forgetful game. But Sirianni kept forcing Reagor plays to build his confidence and then having the opposite happen when he would get dropped for a loss.

Reagor’s struggles as a receiver, especially in route running, limit his effectiveness downfield. Hurts had a dismal day, but Reagor was seemingly never open. He was targeted three times and caught just one bubble screen for two yards.

The wind was clearly an issue. But Reagor allowed one early short punt to land and roll 10-plus yards and then on the next he allowed Pinion’s boot to sail over his head for 61 yards. But the muff was devastating.

“The wind was messing with him a little bit earlier in the game,” Sirianni said. He added: “It just looked like he misjudged it.”

Jonathan Gannon’s defense could have forced the Bucs, who took over at Eagles 48, to punt or kick a field goal. But Brady needed only five plays to score a touchdown and take a 24-0 lead. On third and two, he found receiver Mike Evans, who beat slot cornerback Avonte Maddox, for 17 yards.

“Our approach, our mindset was the same that it was that previous series,” safety Rodney McLeod said about the muff. “Get a stop, prevent them from scoring. Obviously, we failed to do that.”

Sirianni and center Jason Kelce preached last week about not trying to do anything special just because of the moment. But there were seemingly examples of that behavior. Maddox tried to jump a bubble route, for instance, and allowed a longer gain than had he just played containment.

Arryn Siposs, who shanked two kicks in last week’s meaningless season finale, punted another off the side of his foot for just 27 yards on his first attempt. Defensive end Derek Barnett committed another personal foul – the 11th of his five-year career – when he hit Brady late. Tight end Dallas Goedert allowed a pass to sail through his hands. Running back Miles Sanders bumped a few aborted runs outside for bigger losses.

Goedert said he blocked the wrong defender on the Eagles’ first third down and Hurts was dropped in the backfield. Sirianni never got into a rhythm in his offensive play-calling. Gannon’s defense didn’t seem prepared for the Bucs to go up-tempo early on.

Hurts made one careless decision or throw after the other.

Reagor had a 31-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter, but on his next try he muffed another before recovering it himself.

“Whenever you have a mistake or something like that, that’s a big mistake, you’re always going to be like, ‘Hey, what’s the next approach? Does Greg Ward go back there?’” Sirianni said when asked about replacing Reagor after the first muff. “Greg Ward had back spasms and he was out.

“We would have explored that option.”

Sirianni wasn’t around when Reagor was drafted, but he took the 23-year-old under his wing. There was tough love in training camp. There was elation when he scored in the first game. And there was support through his struggles and as fans, sometimes nastily, got on the second-year receiver.

» READ MORE: ‘I’m trying not to cry’: Eagles fans mourn playoff loss

But you have to wonder if the best course of action for Reagor is to change his environment. Roseman may want to move him just to avoid the constant reminder of choosing him over Jefferson and other receivers who have already developed into difference makers.

Reagor retweeted messages of support from former NFL receiver Chad Johnson.

“Eagles fans, remember what i said about [Nelson] Agholor when everybody was frustrated, i said watch him the following year, be patient & he went bananas, trust me, Reagor is gonna go crazy next year, listen to me please,” Johnson wrote.

“Normally takes 3 years to put it all together & he will cause I know him.”

The Eagles have cut bait on first-rounders before. Danny Watkins was released after two seasons. But it’s not like there is much receiver depth. The Eagles have a lot of questions to consider now that the offseason is here.

Roseman did better in last year’s draft. The 2018 class has turned out well. But the residual effects of the errors made with the 2019-20 groups has been lasting. The Eagles have to get 2022 right, too.