Good Season, Crappy Ending – Ten Takeaways from Buccaneers 31, Eagles 15

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It was simple in the end.

The Eagles conceded a big lead to an elite quarterback, struggled offensively, and couldn’t throw their way back into the ball game with Jalen Hurts. Add in a couple of untimely penalties and a Jalen Reagor muff and that was pretty much all she wrote. This playoff game was tough to watch, and thus the season ends with a 31-15 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions in a contest that wasn’t half as close as the final score would indicate.

One of the prevailing narratives among Eagle pessimists was the idea that they hadn’t beaten any decent teams or decent quarterbacks in the latter part of the season. It was objectively true then and only amplified with this result, because Tom Brady isn’t Jake Fromm or Garrett Gilbert. He’s not Taylor Heinicke or Teddy Bridgewater, and there was no climbing out of the early hole in the way it happened against lesser teams like Washington and both New Yorks.

Therefore, we come to a two-part conclusion from the “more than one thing can true” school of thought.

The first truth is that they had a good year and overachieved during a transitional season. They won nine games and got to the playoffs with a brand new coaching staff. The second truth is that they’ve got quite a few questions to answer and a lot of work remaining to do. Is Hurts the guy? Do they draft defense or take a swing at a quarterback? Would they dare draft another receiver or make a move for Deshaun Watson?

Good season, crappy ending, and one more recap to finish the year:

1) Hurts so below average in his first playoff game

It’ll go down as 23-43 for 258 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in Hurts’ first playoff game. A good portion of those passing yards came during garbage time, which was a parlay killer, and he added 39 yards on the ground as well.

He just wasn’t very good. He missed throws and didn’t see the field the way he needed to, which is what we’ve been talking about all season long. It was pretty telling how Troy Aikman was pointing out obvious passes that Hurts should have completed, talking us through release points from the pocket and split-second hesitations that made the difference.

Not many people expected the Eagles to win, but we also didn’t expect Hurts to play poorly to the point where he’d undo a lot of the good feelings surrounding him. It unfortunately seems like the subpar play reignited questions about whether he’s the starting quarterback moving forward.

It makes you wonder. You know Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman are out there somewhere asking themselves if they should draft Kenny Pickett or Matt Corral. You know that’s absolutely going through their heads.

2) not much of a running game at all

The NFL’s #1 rushing attack finished this game with 17 carries for 95 yards. Eagle running backs combined for nine carries for 56 yards. It was one of those outings where they found themselves down early and just never established the run game. They couldn’t get out and play with a lead and grind down the opponent. Too much of the first half was spent dicking around with sideways passes and trying to get something going through the air while Tampa was up by multiple scores.

Maybe it would have been different if the defense got an early stop, and/or they had a fully healthy Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard, but alas, it was not to be. The Eagles finished under 100 rushing yards for the first time since the Carolina game back in Week 5.

3) same story defensively

Throw away the meaningless Dallas game in Week 18 and the Eagles have been outscored 49-7 in the first quarter going back to the Saints game.

We can talk about slow offensive starts, and that’s been an issue, but the bigger thing is that Jonathan Gannon likes to start in a soft zone and then make his adjustments from there. That’s fine against the Giants, but not against the Buccaneers, and so they were down 14-0 before you saw more of that press man coverage we talked about last week.

Keep in mind, the Bucs played without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. They lost their starting right tackle early on. If there were opportunities to be aggressive early, they didn’t take them, and that put them in a hole.

I do, however, think it’s reasonable to give some credit for the adjustment. When it was 17-0, the defense forced three straight punts, all of which were three-and-outs. The offense did absolutely nothing with those ensuing possessions, throwing an interception and punting before Reagor pulled off the muff heard ’round the world.

Regardless, I think we can probably remove Jonathan Gannon’s name from head coaching discussions.

4) Reagor strikes again

No words to describe this:

This was after a defensive stop. The Eagles went from getting the ball at their own 40 with a chance to respond, to essentially giving up the game right there.

This is year #2 and Reagor has given the Birds nothing. It’s one thing to say he needs time to settle in and figure it out, but he’s actively hurting the team when he’s out there, so the only thing keeping him on the field is the fact that he’s a 1st round draft pick.

5) Missed opportunities

This video clip was widely circulated on social:

It’s not the first time we’ve seen instances of Hurts stepping out of pocket a split second too early, when deep shots were there. It’s probably the #1 thing they’ve got to work with him on ahead of next season. In college, he had a tendency to leave the pocket and make plays on the run, and like Orlovski is saying here, all he has to do is climb the pocket a little bit.

6) Mistakes and breaks

FYI, I stopped keeping track once they went down 31-0, but here’s what I had up until that point:

Mistakes:

  • Derek Barnett with a late hit to open the first series of the game. He pulled back and helped Brady up, but that’s a reputation call. He got that whistle because of what he’s done in the past. (FYI the 4th quarter push on Brady seemed a little corny, he didn’t have to make any contact at all)
  • Arryn Siposs with a shank-o-potamus on his punt, then a not great boot on his second effort. He had been so good for most of the year.
  • Dallas Goedert dropping a pass that hit him right on the hands.
  • Jason Kelce “holding” call to wipe out a 30 yard gain (terrible call)
  • OPI on Quez Watkins (another downhill blocking error on a quick pass)
  • Hurts end zone interception
  • Kelce holding on Vita Vea on first drive of 2nd half
  • Jalen Reagor muffed punt
  • Hurts second interception

Here’s the Barnett penalty:

There’s really not much there. Even Aikman agrees, but Barnett probably doesn’t get a flag there if he hadn’t committed 50 boneheaded plays over the past however many years.

Breaks:

  • Tristan Wirfs leaving the field, trying to come back, and then leaving again
  • Tyler Johnson with a 3rd down drop
  • Ryan Jensen leaving the field
  • Tampa Bay 15-yard penalty for dude taking his helmet off
  • Carlton Davis dropping an interception

Brady wasn’t super-crisp early on. Eagles just didn’t do anything to take advantage of some Tampa miscues and misfires.

7) Ancillary wins and losses

Nothing great in here:

  • lost time of possession 33:03 to 26:57
  • -3 turnover margin
  • 5-14 on third down (35.7%)
  • 1-3 on fourth down
  • allowed Tampa to go 4-13 on third down (30.7%)
  • lost 14 yards on two sacks
  • 1-1 success rate in the red zone
  • 4 penalties for 45 yards
  • 14 first downs, 23 for Bucs
  • ran 62 total plays, Bucs 72

Turnovers and time of possession really killed them. They just couldn’t get anything going early and were down in a hole, which is also a great Alice in Chains song.

8) Nick’s best call

Going for it on 4th and 4 on that pre-halftime possession was the right decision. They moved the chains and kept the drive alive.

Otherwise, not a very good Sirianni game. Offense came out looking super flat, and didn’t get it going until garbage time.

9) Nick’s worst call

In hindsight, maybe take the ball to start the game instead of deferring and letting Brady work.

Most people didn’t like the play calling on the first two drives. Either run the ball or throw it down the field. There was a third-down zone read that got blown up, and some sideways shit, too. They didn’t have a single target for DeVonta Smith or Goedert on those drives, and Smith was barely targeted at all until the game was out of hand.

Also not sure about the 3rd and 11 screen call. I know it was four-down territory there and they were gonna line up for another play, but they got nothing out of that and it put them in fourth and long.

10) Excellence in broadcasting

Troy Aikman and Joe Buck on the call. They seemed bored in the second half and I don’t blame them. This was probably the least-exciting game of the day on paper, depending on how you felt about KC/Pittsburgh, and it was their assignment. That said, I do enjoy Aikman breaking down quarterback play, and I feel like he said a lot of things about Hurts that were relevant and really resonated. He leans on his playing experience it really translates in his color commentary.

Speaking of color, what was up with the yellow first down line being replaced with a green first down line? It was hard to tell where the marker was because they super-imposed a green line over a green field. Whose idea was that? Outrageous!

We also had three first half instances of the sad piano music that FOX plays out to commercial during injuries. It made for a somewhat depressing viewing experience.

Overall, just a forgettable turd of a game:

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