Bucs Fall to Eagles, 31-20
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded punches with the Philadelphia Eagles all afternoon Sunday and found themselves in a familiar spot in the final round: A fourth-quarter battle that featured four lead changes during the first three periods. Unfortunately, the final scorecard was all too familiar, as well: A 31-20 loss that turned on big plays by Philadelphia WRs DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. The defeat dropped the Buccaneers to 0-5 and improved the Eagles’ record to 3-3.
Facing an Eagles offense that had been averaging 27 points a game and was known for an incredibly up-tempo style imported by first-year Head Coach Chip Kelly, the Buccaneers chose an aggressive strategy, blitzing frequently and from all angles. Many of the blitzes turned into drive-killing plays, such as a sack by LB Lavonte David in the first quarter and a third-down hit on Foles by S Keith Tandy later in the opening period. However, the Eagles offense, with second-year QB Nick Foles filling in for the injured Michael Vick, hit enough big plays to counter a strong start by the Bucs’ own rookie quarterback, Mike Glennon.
“I don’t think the tempo was really the issue,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano. “We just gave up four explosive plays, and we haven’t done that. Balls haven’t gone over our heads in the first four games, but they did today. We had a couple go over our head and it changed the complexion [of the game].”
Glennon threw touchdown passes of 24 and one yard to WR Vincent Jackson and led the team’s longest touchdown (79 yards) and field goal (90 yards) drives of the season. He completed 26 of 43 passes for 273 yards and threw frequently to emerging Jackson (nine catches for 114 yards and two TDs) and rookie TE Tim Wright (seven for 91). Glennon also ran three times for 20 yards, including a key 16-yard run on third down that kept the Bucs’ second touchdown drive alive. He was also intercepted once in the third quarter, leading to a Philadelphia scoring drive, though an errant route by WR Tiquan Underwood may have been a factor in that turnover.
“I thought he played well,” said Schiano of his rookie passer. “There were a couple balls he’d like back. On the interception, he got knocked on the noggin right as he let it go. I thought he did a lot of good things. That scramble was a big play there. Again, I think we missed some opportunities, some of them self-inflicted.”
The 90-yard field goal drive came early in the fourth quarter after a punt had pinned the Buccaneers at their one-yard line; unfortunately, after gaining a first-and-goal at the nine Tampa Bay was unable to punch it in and settled for a field goal to make it 21-20. Philadelphia immediately countered with a three-play 80-yard touchdown drive that was built mostly on a 44-yard catch-and-run by Cooper and a 36-yard scoring catch by Jackson. That gave Philadelphia an eight-point lead with just under 10 minutes to play and the Bucs’ offense was unable to mount another scoring drive.
“That’s still a great job to go 90 yards,” said Glennon. Obviously, we want touchdowns, not field goals. They were exhausted over there on defense and we felt good at that point. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pull it out. I think we were better today than we were in the past. We put more points on the board. When it’s all said and done, our job as an offense is to score more points than them and we did not do that. I think we have stuff to build on and I think we were headed in the right direction as an offense.”
RB Doug Martin contributed 91 yards from scrimmage and averaged 4.2 yards per carry as Tampa Bay’s offense put up a season-best 351 yards and converted six of 15 third downs. However, Philadelphia went 85 yards on the first drive of the game and ended up with 425 total yards at the end of the day. Buccaneer defenders weren’t shocked that Foles (22 of 31 for 296 yards and three touchdowns) had a strong day in relief of Vick.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise,” said S Mark Barron. “He’s a good quarterback. He did a good job stepping up. He’s a good football player and I’m sure he could start anywhere. He did what he had to do for his team today. We’re dealing with some tough times right now. We know they’re not going to last, but we’ve got to keep coming, keep fighting every week. That’s the good thing about this team – we’re not giving up.”
Glennon’s interception was the team’s only turnover of the day, but the Bucs’ early-season problems with penalties returned on Sunday, as they were penalized eight times for 72 yards. Half of those were offensive holding calls that consistently erased strong plays on offense. “ That’s on me,” said Schiano. “For some reason, it hasn’t gotten through or hasn’t been coached well enough. We need to figure it out quickly.”
Philadelphia took the opening drive 85 yards for a touchdown, thanks largely to a first-play screen to McCoy that was good for 44, but the lead subsequently changed hands three more times before halftime. McCoy fumbled to start Philadelphia’s next drive with a fumble, which led to a 38-yard Rian Lindell field goal, and a 42-yard punt return by Eric Page gave the Bucs’ good field position to launch a go-ahead drive. Glennon finished that one with a 24-yard touchdown bullet to Jackson, then directed a 79-yard march just before halftime that also ended in a Jackson score. In between Glennon’s two TD passes, the Eagles’ Nick Foles countered with a 14-yard touchdown pass to WR DeSean Jackson.
The Eagles got the ball first and needed just one play to move from their own half of the field into the Buccaneers’ side. A screen pass to McCoy worked extraordinarily well, with the Eagles back finding open field and two blockers in front of him. The result was a 44-yard gain that kick-started an 85-yard touchdown drive that Foles finished himself with a four-yard designed run up the middle on first-and-goal.
The Bucs’ offense followed with a three-and-out, but the defense got off to a better start on Philly’s second drive. McCoy made a sharp cut to find open field again around right end, but he fumbled as he was upended by Revis and the ball ended up in Revis’ hands. Revis got up and ran 40 yards to the end zone, but the play was reviewed and it was ruled that the Buc defender was down by contact. That gave the ball back to Glennon and company at the Philadelphia 40.
Glennon converted a third down with an eight-yard strike to TE Tim Wright, but Martin’s run on a draw play came up a yard short at the Philly 20 and the Bucs’ opted to take the three points on Lindell’s 38-yard field goal. Tampa Bay’s defense then got a quick stop keyed by two linebacker blitzes. Mason Foster’s backfield run led to his leaping pass deflection and, moments later, David crashed in for a nine-yard sack.
The Bucs’ next possession started with Glennon’s 11-yard strike to Jackson and a tough, second-effort run by Martin for six. However, an intentional-grounding call on Glennon effectively stalled that drive and the resulting punt went out of bounds at the Philadelphia 25.
Tampa Bay’s defense used the blitz to shut down Philly’s next drive, as well. On third-and-five, S Keith Tandy shot around the right end of the line and hit Foles on the run. Foles managed to stay up long enough to get off a pass but it didn’t come close to a Philadelphia pass-catcher. Then, on the Eagles’ punt, WR Eric Page found a seam up the left sideline and ran 42 yards before he was brought down at the Eagles 39 by punter Donnie Jones.
Another bruising five-yard run by Martin and a 10-yard swing pass to Demps made it first-and-10 at the 24 as the first quarter came to an end. Glennon tried to hit Jackson at the goal line on a down-out-and-up but it was knocked away at the last second, so the two tried a different approach on the next play. This time, a play-action fake to Martin up the middle drew up the middle of the defense and Glennon fired a blazing fastball over the middle to Jackson, who split the two Eagle safeties to dive into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. Lindell’s extra point gave the Bucs a 10-7 lead 14 seconds into the second quarter.
A tackle in the backfield of McCoy by Adrian Clayborn put Philadelphia into a quick third-and-15 hole on the next possession but Foles converted with a 17-yard completion to WR Riley Cooper. However, yet another David blitz blew up an attempted wheel route to McCoy moments later, leading to another long third down, and this time Foles was unable to hook up with his desired target, TE Zach Ertz. Jones got off a booming 47-yard punt that was fair caught by Page at the Bucs’ 18.
A second-down holding call on G Ted Larsen erased a strong run by rookie RB Mike James and also shut down the Bucs’ drive, leading to Koenen’s punt from the 13. A good open-field tackle by S Dashon Goldson after Koenen’s 48-yard punt kept Philly from starting their next drive in Buccaneer territory.
They got their pretty quickly, however, as another scary screen pass to McCoy put the ball at the Bucs’ 41. Another McCoy run, on a third-and-one draw, created a first down at the Bucs’ 14, and Foles then found DeSean Jackson zipping across the back end of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
A false start backed the Bucs up five yards to begin the next drive, but an eight-yard catch by WR Chris Owusu and some nice open-field running by Martin on a screen pass moved the chains. Martin got 11 yards on a run off right guard two plays later, and a subsequent two-yard plunge took the ball just over midfield. However, an offensive pass interference call on Tiquan Underwood pushed it back across the 50-yard line. Glennon dug the Bucs out of that hole in a surprising way – with his legs, as consecutive scrambles of four and 16 yards made it first down at the Eagles 39 at the two-minute warning.
Runs of 11 and 24 yards by Martin got the ball all the way down to the one-yard line, and Glennon looked to Jackson on first-and-goal, throwing a fade pass that the Bucs’ big receiver caught over a helpless Eagles defender. The score put Tampa Bay back in the lead, 17-14, with just over a minute to play in the half.
The second half started well for the Buccaneers, as Glennon found a wide-open Wright down the left seam, leading to a 36-yard gain. It didn’t last, however, as two plays later there was apparent miscommunication on a Glennon pass intended for Underwood because the ball went directly to CB Bradley Fletcher for an easy interception.
That gave the ball back to the Eagles at their own 34 and they turned the takeaway into a quick touchdown. After getting the ball just past midfield, Foles went deep down the left sideline and Cooper hauled it in over CB Johnthan Banks for a 47-yard go-ahead score.
Glennon converted a third-and-seven with a sharp pass to Wright to start the next drive, but consecutive holding calls erased two good runs and the Bucs found themselves in a second-and-24 hole. They couldn’t climb out of it and ended up punting the ball away.
A 19-yard run by McCoy took Philadelphia out to midfield but the Bucs turned to the blitz again and got one near-sack and a holding call to short-circuit the drive before it could cross the 50. Jones’ punt didn’t travel far in the air but it took a very unlucky bounce for the Buccaneers right by the sideline, staying inbounds and rolling down to the one.
The Bucs did escape the shadow of their end zone thanks to a short pass to Jackson that the receiver turned into a 12-yard gain with some nice moves. A deep pass attempt to Jackson on the next play failed to connect, but Glennon converted a third-and-nine moments later with a pass to Wright that just got past the defender into the tight end’s arms. It was third-and-nine once again three plays later, and this time Glennon rolled right and hit Jackson for a 24-yard gain to end the third quarter.
A holding call erased a breakaway run by Martin but the Bucs got it back to a manageable third-and-five on a run and a catch by the hard-working back. Glennon once again turned to Wright to move the sticks, and this time the emerging rookie made a diving catch over the middle for a gain of 16 to the Philadelphia 29. A pass interference call drawn by Underwood on CB Roc Carmichael created a first-and-goal at the nine. The Bucs could get no closer and eventually settled for Lindell’s 27-yard field goal and a one-point deficit on the scoreboard with 11 minutes to go.
The Bucs’ defense made a pair of rare mistakes on the next drive, however. CB Johnthan Banks missed on a tackle of Cooper after a short pass on a play that turned into a 44-yard gain. On the next snap, DeSean Jackson was left wide open on a deep post and he easily hauled in Foles’ 36-yard touchdown pass. The Bucs’ next drive went backward thanks to a third-down sack of Glennon, and that led to a punt from the nine-yard line.