BILL DAVIS said he didn't see this coming. Was caught completely off guard by the 45-point, 521-yard butt-kicking the Bucs put on his defense Sunday. But maybe he shouldn't have been.
Cracks have been developing in his unit for a few weeks now. Their once-impenetrable run defense has turned into a sieve.
Jonathan Stewart and the Panthers rushed for 204 yards against them in Week 7. Darren McFadden and the Cowboys put up 134 and averaged 4.6 yards per carry two weeks later.
Their pass defense, particularly on third down, has been increasingly unstable. The Cowboys' Matt Cassel threw three touchdown passes and completed 66 percent of his attempts against them. He was 8-for-11 with two touchdowns and eight passing first downs on third down.
Last week, the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill was 8-for-12 on third down with five first downs.
In Sunday's embarrassing 45-17 loss to the Bucs, it all came to a head. The cracks expanded and the foundation crumbled.
The Eagles gave up 283 rushing yards to the Bucs, which was the most by an Eagles defense in 42 years. Doug Martin's 235 rushing yards were the third most ever against the Eagles. Only Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith rushed for more against them.
Quarterback Jameis Winston became only the third rookie in league history to throw for five touchdown passes as he and his receivers sliced-and-diced the Eagles' supposedly improved secondary.
The defense once again couldn't get off the field as Winston completed nine of 12 passes for 101 yards, three touchdowns and eight first downs on third down.
"We didn't do anything well today, starting with coaching," Davis said. "A game like this that comes out of nowhere and is that bad for us defensively, it starts with me. It's on me. But there's enough blame to go around for everybody.
"A game like this will shake your confidence. And that's our biggest enemy right now. We have to make sure it doesn't destroy us. We have to make sure this thing gets fixed. That's the challenge right now. Make sure this is a one-game thing."
The problem is, this isn't a one-game thing. While the numbers were a lot uglier Sunday, you could see a lot of this coming.
Missed tackles and a lack-of-gap discipline against the run. Receivers running wide open over the middle. It's been happening for a while.
In the last three games, the Eagles have given up 10 touchdown passes and have just one interception.
In the last three games, opposing quarterbacks have completed 25 of 36 passes for 332 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions on third down. That's a 138.0 passer rating. On third down.
Winston entered Sunday's game with the third lowest third-down passer rating in the league (64.1).
The Eagles rebuilt their secondary, replacing three of four starters, and yet, have a 94.1 third-down opponent passer rating. Last year, it was 88.1. The year before, it was 78.2.
Improved? They're not playing like it.
Opponents have completed 65.5 percent of their passes against the Eagles on third down. Last year, they completed just 56.6 percent. The year before: 56.7.
Most damning of all is the 49 passing first downs the Eagles have given up on third down. The 41 they had allowed going into Sunday's game was the fifth most in the league.
"We were on the field way too long," safety Malcolm Jenkins said after Sunday's loss. "It felt like they had the ball the whole third quarter."
It felt that way because they did. The Bucs had the ball for more than 12 minutes in the third quarter. Ran 19 plays to the Eagles' eight.
The Bucs ran 72 plays, which was the most against the Eagles since Week 4 when the Redskins ran 79 plays in a 23-20 Eagles' loss.
On the Bucs' second possession, Martin broke a 58-yard run on a third-and-1 that set up his team's first touchdown.
Winston connected with running back Charles Sims on a 17-yard third-and-6 flair pass that caught the Eagles flat-footed late in the first quarter and set up another score.
Winston later hit Sims with a 14-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-10 play, and found wide receiver Vincent Jackson for 24 yards on a third-and-16 in the third quarter on another scoring drive. Earlier in that drive, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot when they were flagged for having 12 men on the field on third-and-4. When all was said and done, the Bucs had converted 10 of 16 third-down opportunities.
"The whole thing was awful," Davis said. "All day. Starting with me. That's not news to anybody who watched it. We didn't stop the run and we didn't stop the pass. There isn't one guy to point at, or one position or anything. It's all of us collectively. We (have) played good as a team (in the past) and we played awful as a team today. They outplayed the hell out of us today."
Winston got a boost from the return of Jackson, who had missed the last three games with a foot injury. His return made it difficult for the Eagles to focus totally on the Bucs' other big wideout, Mike Evans. Jackson and Evans combined for eight catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Said Jenkins: "It was embarrassing."
Jenkins was asked if it was just a matter of being outplayed, or if the defense had been outschemed or outcoached Sunday.
"The guys out there have to tackle the other guy," he said. "All Billy does is line us up. Then our 11 have to stop their 11. Billy's not one of those 11."
But . . .
"Obviously, there are some things that could have put us in better situations," he said. "They did a good job of scheming us up. I think at times their scheme was better than ours. There were times where I felt their players were in better position than us.
"But we have to win at the point of attack. At the point of attack, their players were also better than ours. We have to win at the point of attack. That's what we get paid to do.
"Hopefully, we'll take a hard look at this tomorrow and guys will take responsibility for their mistakes and get better."
One particular move Davis made that backfired was replacing Jenkins, who has dropped down and covered the slot receiver much of the season, with cornerback E.J. Biggers. Biggers has played well at times, but Sunday wasn't one of them. He got worked over inside by Bucs slot receivers Adam Humphries and Russell Shepard, who combined for five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Asked about the switch, Jenkins said, "We showed up on Monday or Tuesday and that's what the coach wanted to do, so we did (it)," he said.
The Eagles, who have done a good job against opposing tight ends this season, gave up three catches for 47 yards and a touchdown to Cameron Brate, who had just six receptions in seven games prior to Sunday.
"They came out very prepared and executed their game plan," safety Walter Thurmond said. "We didn't do a very good job of executing ours."
By the numbers
* The 45 points the Eagles gave up were the fourth most of the Chip Kelly era. They gave up 53 points to the Packers last season and 52 to the Broncos and 48 to the Vikings in 2013.
* In the last three games, the Eagles' defense has given up 10 touchdown passes and has just one interception. In their first seven games. they had given up 10 TD passes and had 11 interceptions.
* The 283 rushing yards the Eagles gave up were the most allowed in a game in 42 years. They were gashed for 286 yards by the Cowboys on November 28, 1973. Interestingly, the Cowboys didn't have a 100-yard rusher in that game. Three different players rushed for 70-plus yards.
* Doug Martin's 235 rushing yards were the third most given up to an individual player by the Eagles. Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Jim Brown both put up 237 against the Eagles. Brown did it on Nov. 19, 1961 (34 attempts). Smith did it on Oct. 31, 1993 (30 attempts). Martin had 27 carries Sunday.
* With his three interceptions Sunday, Mark Sanchez now has 84 interceptions and 107 turnovers in 73 games. It was the ninth time he has thrown three or more interceptions in a game. For his career, Sanchez has averaged a pick every 26.6 pass attempts. By comparison, Sam Bradford has averaged one every 43.6 attempts.
* In the last three games, opponents have converted 23 of 47 third-down opportunities against the Eagles. That's a 48.9 success rate.
* Opponents have converted 14 of 19 red-zone trips into touchdowns against the Eagles in last five games.
* The Eagles sacked Jameis Winston once. They've had at least one sack in every game this season.
* Tight end Brent Celek had seven catches for 79 yards Sunday. In the last two games, he has 11 catches for 213 yards. That's the third best two-game output of his career.
* Darren Sproles' 35-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter was his first touchdown catch as an Eagle. It was the 28th of his career.