It seemed, only two weeks ago, that the Eagles were trending in the right direction after a win over the Dallas Cowboys, an overtime thriller that showed the heart and fight of a team very much in the mix in the NFC East. Two home games, and two losses, later, the Eagles are in much different position.
Sunday's 45-17 loss to Tampa Bay was a lowlight of the season. Philadelphia's defense, which kept the team in games earlier in the year while the offense tried to find some rhythm and production, became completely unhinged against the Bucs and rookie quarterback Jameis Winston. Tampa Bay rolled up 335 total net yards in the first half and then dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half with drives of 80 yards – on 13 plays that consumed an astounding 9:47 off the clock and ended with a touchdown, and then an 11-play, 70-yard drive field goal drive - to go ahead 38-14 as Lincoln Financial Field emptied with 12:03 to go in the fourth quarter.
It was an outing that elicited some strong reaction in the Eagles' locker room after a loss that dropped Philadelphia to 4-6 with a quick-turnaround game on Thursday in Detroit.
"It's really embarrassing," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "I think everybody understands. Look at the score. We played at home and they beat us by 30? It was bad all around. It was bad everywhere. Obviously very disappointing, very embarrassing."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers travled to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in their pre-Thanksgiving matchup. View the full gallery here...
"It's terrible. It's a bad feeling. To get beat like that, it's a horrible feeling, one you just have to suck it up and take it," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "They outplayed us today. The only good part about this is that we have a short week and we get to go out and redeem ourselves on Thursday."
"Awful. All day. Starting with me. The whole thing was awful," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "That's not news to anyone out there. We didn't stop the run, we didn't stop the pass."
The Bucs finished with 521 total net yards. After trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, Tampa Bay outscored the Eagles 45-10. Running back Doug Martin carved up the Eagles defense for 235 rushing yards, sprinting through gaping holes in the middle of the defense, gaining chunks on edge attempts. It was the second-most yards the Eagles have ever allowed to a running back (behind Dallas' Emmitt Smith's 237 yards in 1993) in a single game. Tampa Bay gained 283 yards total on the ground in the game, converting 10-of-16 third downs, their only fourth down attempt and rolling to 25 first downs while owning the football for 35:54. NBA-sized wide receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson worked themselves into open spots on the field without much resistance, combining for eight receptions, 119 yards and two touchdowns. Winston, a cool cat who completed 19-of-29 passes for 246 yards, threw five touchdown passes and the Eagles gave up five touchdowns on Tampa Bay's first five trips into the red zone.
It wasn't just the defense, of course, because when you lose 45-17 it's a total team effort. Quarterback Mark Sanchez started in place of the injured Sam Bradford and tossed three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown for Tampa Bay's final score, to go along with two touchdown tosses. The Eagles had a spate of dropped passes and penalties and breakdowns in pass protection and missed chances when receivers were open, the same inconsistencies they've had through 10 games in this 4-6 season.
But in the big picture, the defense took the biggest step back on Sunday. Where were the big plays? How about the takeaways, a category in which the Eagles ranked second (with 20) in the NFL entering the game? Why so many missed tackles? How could the Eagles not get in the head of Winston, the talented No. 1 draft pick who is, after all, still a rookie? Where was the physical play?
And what in the world has happened to a run defense that as recently as six weeks ago ranked eighth-best in the league against the run? The Eagles are now near the bottom after Sunday's troubling outing.
"We've got to make sure it doesn't destroy us," Davis said. "We've got to make sure, and this is a challenge right now, it is a one-game thing, and we've got to get back and fix it, and we will."
There isn't any time for hanging heads, that's for certain. The Eagles are back at work on Monday and on the road on Wednesday ahead of the Thanksgiving game against Detroit, which has won its last two games. The run defense has allowed six teams to gain more than 100 yards – Carolina really gashed the defense with 204 yards in a win a month ago – and has had trouble on third downs for much of the season. There isn't a lot of time to tweak the scheme or change the personnel on a short week.
Improvement is going to have to come from players looking in the mirror and picking their games up a notch.
"We have a lot of pride in this locker room and this is something we can't have," linebacker Brandon Graham said. "We're going to find out about the character of this team this week. I think we're going to come out and play hard and play a great game against Detroit."
"After this one, it's just embarrassing," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "Guys are always upset with losing, but to come out and play in the fashion we did is just unacceptable. We are who are record says we are. Let's not get that twisted now. Who we believe we are as individuals and as a team is yet to be defined until our season is over. But, you are what you put on tape every week. A lot of us are going to have to turn on the tape and watch that and swallow that pill. The good thing is that we can always change that next week."
Sunday wasn't one to remember. Fortunately, the Eagles won't have long to think about it. Attention turns to Detroit and a travel game on a very short week. Can the Eagles pull it together and get back on track and find a way to win?