Expectations were minimal going into Monday night’s playoff clash between the Eagles and Buccaneers. The two teams have a storied playoff history, and this game was inevitably going to etch another chapter into the history books. Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, it’s one they’ll wish they never read.
Tampa Bay drew first blood…and the bleeding never stopped
There aren’t many words that can sum up the loss. The Eagles limped into the playoffs on the back of a 1-5 record over their last 6 games, with each loss apparently representing a turning point. A fork in the road for a team rapidly spiralling out of control, but it was all just noise. This team lost its soul a long time ago, and it didn’t take long for Tampa Bay to figure that out.
The Buccaneers started out very aggressively. A less-than 100% Baker Mayfield went straight for the jugular in a bid to wind the Eagles and after a few near-misses and close shaves, the Buccaneers struck first…and second..and third. The score at halftime was 16-9, but it could easily have been 34-9. Tackles were being missed on a regular basis, and the offense was sputtering as it had been for the last few weeks. The only difference was that this time, A.J Brown wasn’t there to bail them out.
Eagles come unstuck…again
Jalen Hurts and his wounded finger had a shoddy day at the office, which was only compounded by the fact that Brian Johnson completely abandoned the run after the opening drive. D’Andre Swift ended his day with 10 carries and 34 yards in a game where the Eagles were without Safety, Reed Blankenship. An already vulnerable pass defense was being led blindly to slaughter by an offense that couldn’t stay on the field as momentum drained from the group within minutes of a drive starting.
Anything positive that came from the Eagles was almost immediately undone. Milton Williams put together one of the best games of his career, making a crucial sack and a big-time stop. Both moments were negated almost instantly by a three-and-out on offense.
Even the fabled brotherly shove failed to work…
Easy pickings for the Bucs
Individual efforts simply didn’t matter. DeVonta Smith essentially carried the Eagles down the field on their lone touchdown drive of the night, doing everything he could to will the team into the endzone, but when all is said and done, it didn’t matter.
The blueprint on how to beat this team has been known for months now, and the Eagles didn’t do a single thing to give themselves a chance against a Tampa Bay team that had won 5 of its last 6 coming into this game and was high on confidence as a result. They picked apart the shell of a once-great team and made it look effortless.
For a franchise that prides itself on being underdogs and fighting through adversity, this was nothing short of utterly embarrassing.
A sad goodbye
The Eagles’ defense, to their credit, played hard. It wasn’t great football, but the desire was there, which is far more than can be said for the offense. The veterans especially stood out on an otherwise sore night.
Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox combined for 1.5 sacks in what might well be the last game they both play in an Eagles uniform, while Jason Kelce’s potential final Philly endeavour will be overshadowed by a horrifying offensive display by his teammates. It’s a real shame that 3 potential Hall of Fame talents could well have played their final games for Philadelphia tonight. There was no desire to ‘win one for them’, or to respond to their leadership. The team folded early and the Bucs never stopped throwing punches.
What next for the Eagles?
Questions were already being asked about the Eagles’ coaching staff. The bizarre change at defensive coordinator made people scratch heads at the time it was announced, and every game since then. On offense, not a single had changed all year. The play-calls were just as sloppy, with no rhythm or reason to anything the team were trying to do. It just felt completely random and soulless, and that all starts at the top.
If Nick Sirianni and his coordinators weren’t on the hot seat before, they absolutely will be now.
AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough