It was like déjà vu for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – a crushing loss to Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles for the second straight year – only this time it wasn’t as close, at least not in the fourth quarter, when the Eagles pulled away by turning a one-point lead into a 31-20 ball game.
Foles, who started in place of injured Michael Vick, threw for a career-high three touchdowns and ran for a fourth, while the Bucs offense struggled to keep pace with new head coach Chip Kelly’s dizzying no-huddle offense and the defense allowed 425 total yards.
“I think their tempo on the first drive caught us off guard. I think they were faster than we anticipated. They marched right down the field,” said Bucs linebacker Jonathan Casillas. “You can’t replicate that in practice.”
It took less than two minutes for Eagles to charge into Buccaneer territory. Running a no-huddle offense, Foles hit running back LeSean McCoy for a 44-yard pickup on the first play from scrimmage, followed by a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper.
“I think it was really important to get out to a fast start and I think the first play, we hit LeSean, he breaks one, and all a sudden our guys start to get into a rhythm and start to get a roll going…We wanted to get on them early and then really make them start to play from behind,” said Kelly.
After converting on third-and-2 with a 6-yard pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson, Foles kept the ball, running it in on a draw play for a 4-yard touchdown, putting the Eagles up 7-0.
On Philadelphia’s second possession, cornerback Darrelle Revis knocked the ball loose from the hands of McCoy, recovering it and returning it 39 yards for a touchdown. The play was reversed, however, when it was ruled that Revis was by contact at the 39 yard line.
Glennon found wide receiver Vincent Jackson for a 10-yard pickup, followed by a 1-yard run from running back Doug Martin on third-and-2. Rather than going for it on fourth-and-2 at the Philadelphia 20, the Bucs opted for a field goal — a 38-yarder by Rian Lindell.
Just before the start of the second quarter, Bucs kick returner Eric Page ran a punt back 42 yards to the Philadelphia 39. Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon then found wide receiver Vincent Jackson on a crossing route for a 24-yard touchdown, slipping behind multiple Eagles defenders and giving the Bucs a 10-7 lead.
In the second quarter with 7:13 remaining, Foles hit DeSean Jackson on a post route in the back of the end zone, beating Revis for a 12-yard touchdown. “There was a little breakdown. Thinking something else and it wasn’t. I thought wrong and it’s on me. I gave up an error and they scored,” Revis said after the game.
“I don’t know if he was depending on the safety to just be there or not, but whatever the case may be, he still has a job to do…and I was able to score,” said Jackson.
Just after the two-minute warning in the first half, wide receiver Chris Owusu caught a 14-yard pass on the outside for a first down, setting up a 24-yard inside run by RB Doug Martin, and a 1-yard touchdown into the corner of the end zone to Vincent Jackson, giving the Bucs a 17-14 lead.
He finished with 9 catches for 114 receiving yards and two touchdowns, with his second touchdown on a back-shoulder throw.
“We do have a young quarterback doing a great job,” Jackson said after the game, noting that the rookie’s performance in just his second NFL start was a bright spot. “[It’s] very impressive the way he is handling the ball. He’s only going to continue to get better, making great reads. He stands in there with great confidence and he’s going to be a great leader.”
Unfortunately for Glennon, who went 26 for 43 with 273 passing yards and two touchdowns, growing into a leader hasn’t come without some mistakes, including one today.
At the start of the second half, he was picked off by cornerback Bradley Fletcher on a pass intended for Tiquan Underwood. “[On] the interception, he got knocked right in the noggin as he let it go,” head coach Greg Schiano said. “[There were] a couple balls he’d like back.”
The pick play set up a 47-yard touchdown throw to Cooper that gave the Eagles a 21-17 lead. “It was just a simple go-route and I kind of just ran around him and Nick put it right on the money,” said Cooper, who finished with a career-high 6 catches for 120 receiving yards.
On the ensuing drive, the Bucs were unable to overcome two offensive holding calls by fullback Erik Lorig and center Jeremy Zuttah, stalling at the Tampa Bay 43.
On the Bucs’ next possession, which began at the Tampa Bay 1 yard line after a 58-yard punt by Donnie Jones, Glennon hit Vincent Jackson for gains of 12 and 24 yards, before finding rookie tight end Tim Wright for a 16-yard catch on third-and-5.
The drive stalled again, however, this time at the 9, with the ball bouncing out of Wright’s hands in the end zone. The Bucs settled for a 27-yard field goal from Lindell.
Three plays later, Foles fired a 36-yard deep ball to DeSean Jackson off play-action for the wide receiver’s second touchdown of the day. Jackson lined up in the slot, Foles caught the Bucs defense off-guard by throwing it to the other side of the field.
“We didn’t know if [Revis] would follow me inside or not. He’s more of an outside corner, so I don’t think he likes to cover inside with plays like that. So we just took it as a mismatch with me and the safeties,” said Jackson, who finished with 6 catches for 64 yards and a career-high two touchdowns.
The Eagles ran out the clock out with LeSean McCoy with eight minutes left, before a 24-yard field goal by kicker Alex Henery sealed the Eagles’ third win and delivered the final nail in the coffin for the Bucs.
McCoy finished with 171 all-purpose yards, with 116 of them rushing and two catches for 55 yards receiving.
“He’s an incredible talent …He does things that people can’t do in the league. You’ve got a lot of people at that position who are incredible but he makes guys miss. We haven’t seen a running back like that in a while,” said Casillas on McCoy.
“He’s somebody where one person can’t really bring him down. You’ve got to team swarm and you’ve got to take the proper angles, and even that sometimes isn’t good enough.”
The Bucs now drop to 0-5 and have blown four out of five second-half leads this season. Left tackle Donald Penn said the losses aren’t due to lack of effort.
“The whole team flat-out played their butts off. We keep falling short. We aren’t catching any breaks. I’m just stuck, to tell you the truth. I’m really stuck. But I know one thing — I’m going to come back Monday. Tomorrow I’m going to come back fighting, because that’s one thing I know I do. I’m going to make sure my teammates do that too. We’ve got to fight until the end. It just really (stinks) right now. I feel like we’ve let a lot of people down. I mean, I can’t even pinpoint what it is. It’s just hard.”
Despite being diagnosed with MRSA, rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks was given clearance to play by Dr. Deverick J. Anderson, co-director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network. Banks started at right cornerback finishing with 5 tackles…Left guard Carl Nicks, who suffered a recurrence of MRSA earlier this week did not play… Wide receiver Mike Williams missed the game due to a hamstring injury…Weak side linebacker Lavonte David led the Bucs with 9 tackles, two quarterback hurries, and a sack for a 9-yard loss. It was his fourth sack of the season…Running back Jeff Demps suffered a groin injury and did not return…With today’s win, the Eagles became just the second team in NFL history to accumulate at least 1,500 passing and 1,050 rushing yards through the first six games of the season…The Eagles have won their last three games against the Buccaneers dating back to 2009.