EAGLES GET REALITY CHECK, LOSE TO TAMPA BAY 31-15 IN WILD CARD ROUND
Tom Brady and the Buccaneers put on a clinic for three quarters carving out a 31-0 lead and advancing to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.
TAMPA: The Eagles came to Tampa, Florida this weekend to see if Nick Sirianni’s crew could hang with the Big Boys in the NFL playoffs.
The answer is no, not this year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defending Super Bowl Champions, carved out a 17-0 first half lead and never looked back.
The lead swelled to 31-0 with 5:18 left in the third quarter.
As he has done in the past, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts rallied the offense to score 15 points in the fourth quarter to make the game look closer than it really was.
Tight end Dallas Goedert was asked what the mood was when the score was 31-0.
“When you are down like that, the biggest thing is you just have to keep fighting,” said Goedert, who finished with six catches on 12 targets for 92 yards. “To lose a game 31-15 or whatever it is, feels a lot better than losing it 30-0. That’s just the fight we have in this team, we’re never going to give up. You’ve seen some crazy things happen in this league.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is, how much time there is on the clock – anything can happen. We believe that, we still believed up until there was zero seconds left on the clock that we had a shot to win the game.”
The Eagles defense started to play better as the game went on. Led by, of all people, Ryan Kerrigan who registered 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and three total tackles, the Birds (9-9) sacked Bucs quarterback Tom Brady four times for the game, three by halftime.
The Bucs scored their opening drive going 75 yards on 12 plays ending with a two-yard run by Giovani Bernard.
The Bucs made it 14-0 as the first quarter closed out when running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn finished off a 10-play, 70 yard drive with a one-yard.
The Eagles offense was virtually non-existent in the first half. The few impact plays that happened were nullified by a penalty or a turnover like the one Hurts committed when he threw a desperation pass to DeVonta Smith in the end zone 50 seconds left in the first half that was picked off by safety Mike Edwards.
“I want to say DeVonta got open on the play," said Hurts, who finished 23 of 43 for 258 yards, two intercpetions and a touchdown pass. "I was expecting a look – the safety to come off the hash. I couldn’t get it up as soon as I wanted to, got it up there a little late and the safety made a good catch on it on the sideline.”
It was 17-0 at the half and the Eagles had the first possession of the third quarter.
That first drive fizzled at the Tampa Bay 45-yard line.
But the Eagles defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out on the Bucs first drive of the third quarter.
With Greg Ward sidelined with a back issue, the Eagles used much-maligned receiver Jalen Reagor for the punt return.
The second-year received muffed the punt that would have given Hurts and company their best field position to start of a drive in the game.
But instead, the Eagles handed the ball to Brady near midfield on an unforced error.
The Bucs drove 48 yards on five plays in just 2:56 minutes ending with a two-yard touchdown pass from Brady to a wide open Rob Gronkowski to make the score 24-0.
Game, set, match.
The Eagles scored on a 34-run by Boston Scott with 12:08 left in the fourth quarter. It was his first and only carry of the day. The other score came from a 16-yard touchdown pass from Hurts to Kenneth Gainwell at the 4:45 mark of the fourth..
The Eagles, who led the NFL in rushing for the regular season, finished with 95 total yards on 17 carries. Hurts led the way with 39 yards on eight carries. Miles Sanders, who was out for the last several games, finished with 16 yards on seven carries.
On defense, linebacker Alex Singleton finished with 16 total tackles (10 solo) and a sack. Safety Anthony Harris finished with 13 total tackles (seven solo).
Fletcher Cox, who may have played his last game in an Eagles uniform, finished with three total tackles and a tackle for loss.
Brady finished 29 of 37 for 271 yards and two touchdown passes. He was not intercepted but had two of his passes batted down.
The Bucs finished with 106 yards rushing on 31 carries.
Sirianni said this was not the way he wanted the season to end. He acknowledged the team will change as teams do every year.
“It definitely hurts because the goal is never just to get to the playoffs,” Sirianni said after the game. “The goal is to get in and do some damage in there. That was everybody’s mindset. We were confident coming in, and that was our mindset that we were going to do that. And whenever it doesn’t go as planned and the season ends in playoffs, it’s even harder because then it’s just over. It’s going to hurt.
“I have always appreciated about the football season that it’s a journey and you have to appreciate the journey you went through together as a football team – the meetings, the practices, the training camp practices, the training camp up in New York against the Jets – just all the things that built us into the 2021 Eagles.
“You get sad and start to feel sad because it’s over. You’re so happy that the journey happened, and the relationships that were built, but it hurts, and it stings because that journey of the 2021 Eagles is over, and that team will never be the same again. There will be changes. Never does a team look exactly the same as it did the year before.
“I just think it’s a special group of guys and you’re sad because the journey is over and hopefully you get as many of those special guys back as you can, because the whole group is special. I said to the guys, the foundation – when we stepped in here, the foundation was very solid to begin with and we just continued to grow it. I’m grateful for that, and it’ll just be hard that we’re not game-planning for next week with our offensive and defensive game plans and we’re not with the guys. So, that’s what hurts and stings about it.” *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii