By Max Luckan
The Philadelphia Eagles, after losing eight games in a row, were able to out-duel the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. With the 2002 Super Bowl Champions in attendance, the Bucs couldn’t come out with a win against a lowly Eagles team. The Bucs weren’t even able to score any points in the first half in what was a defensive-oriented game for the most part. While the game came down to the last play, this 23-21 loss for the Bucs effectively eliminated them from postseason contention, as they dropped to 6-7 on the year. Of course, there’s still a glimmer of hope, but realistically, the loss to the Eagles may have, poetically, ended the Bucs’ bid for a playoff spot.
The Bucs seemed ill-prepared for this matchup with the Eagles, as was evident by the amount of points they scored in the first half – zero. Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan was able to get pressure on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, but that was about the only thing the defense did right.
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan called a questionable game, which resulted in a lot of confusion on offense in the first half for the Bucs. Also, the Bucs could’ve easily sealed the game late in the fourth quarter, but chose to run the ball on a crucial third down, which gave the Eagles another chance. The coaching wasn’t the reason for the loss, but it could have been better. Grade: B-
Ambivalence was the word to describe the Bucs’ offense in the loss to the Eagles. While unable to get anything going in the first half, the offense came to life in the second half, scoring 21 unanswered points to begin the second half.
Rookie RB Doug Martin had a great game, rushing for 128 yards on 28 carries with one touchdown. But quarterback Josh Freeman had a poor performance, completing only 14 of 34 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. However, Freeman didn’t turn the ball over, but his accuracy was poor throughout the game. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson had a big day, catching six passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, but the offense was unable to get going at crucial moments. Grade: C
As usual, the secondary was atrocious. The Bucs’ secondary allowed rookie QB Nick Foles to complete 62.7 percent of his passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. That being said, there were some bright moments in terms of individual play. Cornerback Anthony Gaitor, who was just activated this week, played relatively well, as did Danny Gorrer. But other than that, the performance was weak.
And of course, the defense was spectacular against the run, limiting impressive rookie Bryce Brown to six yards on 12 carries. Rookie linebacker Lavonte David had yet another good game, as did Gerald McCoy, who racked up two sacks on the day. Many questioned the hiring of Bill Sheridan before the season began, and this unsustainable style of defense, coupled with the inability to finish games might be why. Grade: C-
The Bucs haven’t exactly been explosive on special teams this year, but they haven’t made too many crucial mistakes either. Against the Eagles, the Bucs allowed kick returner Damaris Johnson to gain good return yardage, but they were also able to recover a muffed punt by Johnson to jumpstart the offense, which was non-existent before that play.
Punter Michael Koenen had an uncharacteristically bad game, which included a 30-yard punt, although he was busy with 10 total punts. While not standing out, the special teams unit was able to give the Bucs some momentum that got their offense going in the second half. Grade: B+
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.