EAGLES RALLY FALLS SHORT AGAINST BRADY AND THE BUCS
The Eagles needed some breaks, some timely stops and some semblance of an offense if the home team wanted any chance to upset the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night.
The Birds got a few stops and a turnover in the first half, plus a couple of breaks on some holding penalties that weren’t called and were recipients of some pass interference calls that helped keep a few drives alive.
But, except for a fortuitous first drive that produced a touchdown and a 7-7 game with 6:01 left in the first quarter, the Eagles offense was nowhere to be found in the first half and for most of third quarter.
The Birds offense came alive late in the game again, but this time the Eagles were facing a much tougher opponent than Carolina and could not come all the way back.
The Eagles lost 28-22 and saw their overall record drop to 2-4.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni was asked why his offense takes so long to start clicking.
"We didn’t execute early on," Sirianni said after the game. "We have to put the guys in better spots to execute. We didn’t execute, and we just have to do a better job to start off the football game, to get ourselves off to a fast start. I know we scored on the first possession, but after that, it fluttered all the way to the middle of the second half. So, again, get to adjustments even quicker and make sure we are doing our jobs as coaches to put them in good positions."
The same could be said for the defense. Brady led the Buccaneers to consecutive touchdown scoring drives to start the game.
“I mean at the end of the day it is frustrating,” defensive tackle Javon Hargrave said after the game. “But we have to keep going and take advantage of when you do get it sometimes.”
The frustration reached its peak in the first half when safety Anthony Harris intercepted Tom Brady on a poorly thrown ball with 56 seconds left in the half. The Birds tailed 21-7 at the time.
With all three timeouts available and the ball at their own 32-yard line, would this not be a time for a quarterback and his play-calling coach to shine?
Hurts failed to move the ball at all. First down, an incomplete pass, second down, incomplete pass and third down? Hurts runs six yards and out of bounds?
Miles Sanders did the same thing twice last week when the Eagles were trying to run out the clock clinging to a three-point lead. It made no sense last week and no sense Thursday with 46 seconds still left on the clock.
Fortunately, the Bucs decided to head to the locker room with a 14-point lead.
The Eagles running backs were virtually invisible in the first half. Miles Sanders rushed once in the first half for one yard. Rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell, who has shown promise through the first five games, had zero rushes and one target and zero receptions at intermission.
Hurts, who was 12 of 26 for 115 yards, a touchdown pass, interception, went three-and-out to start the second half. After the punt Brady and company started at their own 21-yard line. Would the Eagles defense keep it a game and get a stop? Not tonight.
Brady had been standing the pocket that has been so clean, he could have been throwing passes while holding a tray of full of glasses filled with champagne and not a drop would have been spilled.
The Bucs first drive of the third quarter went plays 79 yards in minutes with Leonard Fournette scoring from the one-yard line, his second rushing touchdown of the game.
With the score 28-7, it looked like the game was over. As it turns out, it was the last points the Buccaneers (5-1) would put on the board.
Hurts responded with a seven play, 75-yard drive that ended with a six-yard run into the end zone to make the score 28-14 with 2:21 left in the third.
The Eagles got the ball back after a defensive stop. Hurts drove the Eagles to the Bucs 35-yard line where the drive stalled. Jake Elliott picked this moment to miss just his second field goal of the season, a 46-yarder.
The Eagles got another chance with 9:04 Bucs went for it on a fourth and three from the Eagles 46-yard line. Brady’s pass sailed over the head of tight end O.J. Howard.
Again Hurts and Nick Sirianni had a chance to get back in the game. They made the most of it as Hurts drove the Eagles 54-yards on seven plays finishing off the drive with a two-yard run.
The drive was highlighted by five rushes by Sanders for 45 yards.
To put pressure on the Bucs, Sirianni went for two. Hurts hit Quez Watkins in the end zone and now the score was 28-22 with 5:54 left in the fourth.
Could the Eagles pull this off? One more stop, right?
The Buccaneers started from their own 25-yad line. The first play was a run by Fournette that netted just two yards. The Eagles defense had come up with five stops throughout the game, two back-to-back leading up to this moment.
But the Birds dream of an upset went up in smoke when linebacker Genard Avery barked at the Buccaneers running back after he had helped drive him out of bounds.
The four-year veteran out of Memphis was called for taunting, 15 yards and a first down.
The Bucs and Brady went from clearly being on their heels to getting a fresh start.
You can’t give Brady, who was 34 of 42 for 297 yards and two TD passes, a break like that with just 5:54 left in the game. The Bucs move the ball downfield, got the Eagles to use up their timeouts and run out the clock.
Sirianni was asked why he wasn't using traditional running plays and Does the lack of those designed runs put too much on Hurts?
"No, I don’t think so," he said. "He’s been doing that a long time that his RPO game and how he reads things, so I don’t believe that’s an issue."
Hurts was asked if the ongoing, repeated mistakes are part of growing pains as a young quarterback or young head coach.
“I don’t want to make excuses for anything,' said Hurts, who still in uniform when he did his post game press conference. "I know I hold myself to a high standard of play and I am trying to go out there and play at a high level for the guys around me. We all do that. We all have that mentality to go out there and play together and have each other’s backs. You look at this game and this past game that we played in and we started off slow."
Hurts continued to say he has not lost faith.
"This whole year, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot and we know, and we believe," He said. "I have unwavering faith in the guys on this football team and everybody on this field and that we have everything we need. It is just a matter of us putting that together. It is tough but I have unwavering faith with everyone in this building and that it will come. To go toe-to-toe with a team like that, as bad as I started. It is bad and we didn’t click early. When it came down to clutch time, at the end of the game, we ran out of time.”
If this keeps up, in a few weeks the Eagles will be saying that about they're season. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii