January 16, 2024   7 MIN READ

Buc’n Disgrace

Birds Lifeless Again In Wild Card Defeat To Tampa


The figurative – and literal – clouds looming over the Eagles at Raymond James Stadium on Monday night proved symbolic of a season that was once filled with optimism only to hit the skids during the final stretch of the regular season.

The same lackluster play behind their 1-5 finish traveled to Tampa, as the Eagles bumbled their way through a 32-9 playoff loss against an average Buccaneers team in the NFC Wild Card, stamping an early end to an Eagles season that began 10-1.

It was more of the same that plagued the Eagles – play-calling, shoddy tackling, communication lapses, and an offense stuck in neutral just to name a few – but still, there were opportunities for Nick Sirianni’s team to pull together and escape with a sloppy win.

Those opportunities never came to fruition as the Eagles mercifully drew to a close.

The Bucs set the tone on the opening drive, marching 65 yards in 12 plays, exploiting many of the Eagles’ bugaboos along the way.

They had came away with a field goal for their efforts, but the underlying message had been received. It would be a long night.

The Eagles eventually found the end zone, courtesy of a 5-yard Dallas Goedert touchdown on the heels of a 55-yard DeVonta Smith reception, but their inability to convert a single third or fourth down in 11 attempts ultimately did them in.

Bucs wideouts David Moore and Trey Palmer reeled in touchdowns of 44 and 56 yards, respectively, while tight end Cade Otten worked the short-to-intermediary routes for a team-best eight catches and 88 yards.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 23-of-33 pass attempts for 238 yards and a touchdown. His counterpart, Baker Mayfield, completed 22-of-36 for 337 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith led all pass catchers with 141 yards on seven receptions. Defensively, the Eagles registered four sacks.

Let’s go ahead with the observations.

Nick Sirianni playoffs Tampa Bay

GETTY IMAGES: Eagles HC Nick Sirianni had no answers to have his team prepared for the playoffs as his team lost 32-9 in the Wild Card round to Tampa Bay.

*Eagles inactives: WR A.J. Brown (knee), QB Tanner McKee (3rd QB), S Sydney Brown (knee), RB Rashaad Penny, S Reed Blankenship (groin), OL Tyler Steen, and DT Moro Ojomo.

* Blankenship, a game-time decision, was ultimately ruled out. Instead, it was nickel CB Avonte Maddox who started opposite Kevin Byard. Practice squad elevations Tristin McCollum and Mekhi Garner served as supplemental depth.

* Embattled veteran CB James Bradberry played but was moved inside and wasn’t always opposite Darius Slay, who was returning from arthroscopic knee surgery. Rookie CB Kelee Ringo and Eli Ricks were also worked in. Bradberry’s trend of subpar play surfaced early.

* The Bucs’ offense enjoyed the red-carpet treatment from the Eagles’ defense on its opening possession, gashing the Birds for 65 yards on 12 plays. The Eagles had a chance to get off the field but Bradberry – and then Bradley Roby – failed to corral RB Rachaad White, who converted a 3rd-and-3. The Bucs mustered just three points on the drive.

* The Eagles picked up 11 yards on a pair of RB D’Andre Swift carries and promptly moved away from the running game, instead opting for dump-offs to WR Julio Jones and TE Dallas Goedert. The Bucs, who blitzed Jalen Hurts heavily in the Week 3 meeting, blitzed Hurts on a 3rd-and-2, which resulted in an ill-fated heave to Goedert.

* Eagles luck out when Bucs WR Mike Evans, who had multiple steps on Bradberry, couldn’t reel in a deep shot, but all would be forgiven two plays later when Maddox and Ricks collided in coverage, springing Bucs WR David Moore – who eluded numerous tackle attempts – for a 44-yard TD.

*On a night without three-time Pro Bowl WR A.J. Brown, the Eagles needed more from Goedert. The sixth-year tight end – supposed to beamong the league’s best – has been enigmatic lately. His drop on 3rd-and-3 for an offense searching for a spark was inexcusable.

* The Bucs’ offensive line surrendered only 40 sacks on the season but are particularly vulnerable along the interior, which theoretically favored the Eagles. The pass-rush eventually showed some life after a slow start. The Eagles must prioritize reinforcing the trenches in the offseason. For perspective, Haason Reddick hadn’t registered a sack since Dec. 5 and DE Josh Sweat collected his first since Nov. 5. Rookie OLB Nolan Smith was credited with a half-sack. DT Milton Williams recorded a pivotal sack on a 3rd-and-1, dropping Mayfield for a 9-yard loss.

* When these teams met Week 3, the Eagles boasted a suffocating run defense, surrendering just 66.3 rush yards per game. Since the bye, the number expanded to 145.1. It was mildly surprising that the Bucs rolled out a pass-heavy blueprint, but the Eagles have also struggled to defend the pass.

* I struggle to recall an Eagles defense this averse to tackling. There’s no punch and no fight. Poor angles and futile lunges in the open field. That shouldn’t be pinned on coaching, but the communication lapses sure can be. There were plenty of those also to go around. This team needs a major restock of the defensive cupboard.

* Think about this: The Bucs in the season finale scored only nine points against the Carolina Panthers, the league’s worst team. They had scored 16 in the first half against the Eagles.

* The Eagles finally found some momentum on their fourth possession – a five-play, 75-yard drive which culminated in Goedert’s 5-yard touchdown. Opting to go for two following a Zyon McCollum penalty, the tush push was stopped in its tracks, though a blatant facemask call was missed. The critical plays on the drive were the 14-yard completion to Julio Jones and the 55-yard bomb to DeVonta Smith, who aside from Hurts, carried the offense in the first half. Hurts was 4-for-4 on the drive.

* Rough first half for the rookie Ricks, who along with the coverage gaffe and inability to shed a block on a Mayfield scramble, forced the Eagles to blow through a timeout coming out of the two-minute warning after coming onto the field late.

* On seven first-half targets, DeVonta Smith recorded 111 receiving yards and four receptions. The “Slim Reaper” was the heartbeat of the Eagles’ offense.

* The Eagles ran just 26 plays in the first half – four of them were Swift runs, two of which occurred on the first two plays.

* It wasn’t as evident in the Week 3 matchup due to game script, but the Eagles had absolutely no answer for the Bucs’ blitz. Where have we seen that before?

* Wide receiver screens typically work with players who offer short-area quickness or the ability to break a tackle. Quez Watkins offers neither quality. If insistent on running that play, the Eagles should design the play to get the ball in the hands of WR Olamide Zaccheaus or Britain Covey.

*Even without Brown, it’s maddening to watch an offense so overly reliant on throws short of the sticks in hopes that someone breaks a tackle. That’s exactly what happened on a possession midway through the third quarter. First, on a short toss to Smith to start the drive, which produced a four-yard loss, and the other occurring five plays later on a 3rd-and-6 when RB Kenny Gainwell picked up only a yard, bringing on the punt team. It’s even more maddening when the offense has Smith and Goedert, who was wide open on the play. Just a total lack of creativity and logic.

* A late third quarter sequence was a microcosm of the Eagles’ game- and season-long struggles. Hurts, who fell short of expectations, exhibited poor end zone awareness, committing intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety. Two plays later, rookie WR Trey Palmer eluded Bradberry – and several other Eagles – en route to a 56-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 25-9. Mayfield added another touchdown pass with just under six minutes to play, finding WR Chris Godwin for 23 yards.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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