It’s been a long time since we watched an Eagles game that started at 1:00PM. My day started off early, and by 11:30AM I was on the couch planning a relaxing day full of enjoying an Eagles win, watching football, and eating cool foods. That plan was shot in the foot on the first play from scrimmage when Desean Jackson decided to take a 75-yard bomb from Ryan Fitzpatrick to the house. The Eagles only ended up losing by six points, but they were outplayed by a much larger margin in spite of that. Against a team that they should have beat, not a lot went their way, so what went wrong?
The Big Plays
The Eagles secondary let up two back breaking big plays that in what ended being a one possession game, cost them a win. The first play that Desean Jackson scored on was scripted, and Fitzpatrick was going deep to him no matter what to start the game off. He dropped back, faked a handoff, and let it fly without ever looking anywhere else. The coverage by Jalen Mills wasn’t terrible, but what really hurt was Malcolm Jenkins, who was the single safety because of a corner blitz, running toward Jackson as if he was letting up on his route. This allowed Jackson to get in behind him and catch it cleanly. Mills was able to cut D-jax off, but with his speed and Jenkins taking himself out of the play, it didn’t matter. This play had shades of how Andy Reid would start games at times with Michael Vick slinging it downfield to Desean, and to be on the receiving end of that was the worst case scenario of how to start the game off. The Eagles were however, able to answer and tie the game at 7-7. If that was the only 75-yard touchdown they allowed, they might have been in good shape. Of course, they just had to let up two of them.
This one, despite it not being on the first play of the game, was a million times more aggravating. Fitzpatrick lofts it into a perfect spot just past a diving Jordan Hicks. Ronald Darby then decides to take an absolutely pathetic attempt at a tackle and take McLeod out of the play with him. This left Malcolm Jenkins as the last line of defense, and Chris Godwin was able to effectively block him and make sure he had no chance at a tackle.
If it wasn’t for these two plays, the Eagles could have won an admittedly ugly game here. The defense has stylistically played in a bend-don’t-break fashion for some time now, and this past week Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to break them one too many times.
Some people speculated it might run out against the Eagles, but Fitzmagic proved it was here to stay for at least one more week. He spread the ball out between five and fifteen yards from the line of scrimmage on quick throws near the sides of the fields, and the defense couldn’t find a way to stop him. The Buccaneers ran 17 fewer plays than the Eagles, and yet Fitzpatrick and his 402 passing yards was able to find a way to beat them despite the Eagles taking the running game away for the most part (the Buccs had 43 rushing yards on 23 attempts). Watching the game live, it seemed as if the Eagles weren’t getting to the quarterback enough and making Fitzpatrick feel pressure. According to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, Fitzpatrick had on average a time of 2.48 seconds to throw the ball, which means that he was getting the ball out quickly all day and was simply on his game. Tampa Bay’s aerial attack carving our defense apart was alarming, and with emphasis on the two home run plays. was the main reason why the Eagles came out with a loss. The cushion they allowed to the receivers will get a lot of criticism, but to be fair, they’ve played that way often against passing dominant offenses. Just the week prior against Atlanta they played similarly against Julio Jones and company. I expect the defense to get the mistakes that lead to the two 75-yard touchdowns ironed out.
This isn’t a knock on these guys, and the Eagles clearly have some injury concerns with Alshon Jeffrey out at least another week and Mike Wallace out indefinitely, but the offensive personal was head scratching at times. Kamar Aiken played 78% of the offensive snaps, 34% more than the next guy (Shelton Gibson). At the tight end position, Josh Perkins played 33% of offensive snaps compared to Dallas Goedert’s 22%. Goedert’s usage being so low is somewhat surprising considering the potential he showed in the preseason, although the coaching staff knows more than us and they clearly felt he wasn’t ready for whatever reason against Tampa.
This may have something to do with the lack of deep threats on the field with the Eagles, but Nick Foles completed air yards per attempt was only 4.5 yards. The lack of deep play potential made the Eagles offense less dynamic and allowed Tampa’s defense to be in front of everything the Birds threw at them. With Carson Wentz set to return in week three though, hopefully it will allow the offense will be able to open up more, even with the limited weapons.