TAMPA, Fla. – The wait was worth it. The Eagles had not played in 11 days and in the heat and humidity of Raymond James Stadium they dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night, running their record to 3-0 with a 25-11 victory that featured an overpowering performance from the defense, some big plays on special teams, and an offense that mixed it up and garnered 472 total net yards.
A total team effort, you might say. And in front of a huge number of Eagles fans who invaded Tampa – thanks once again, Eagles fans – Philadelphia showed a national television audience what this T-E-A-M TEAM is all about. Here are some takeaways from the road win, the 20th in quarterback Jalen Hurts' last 21 regular-season starts (nine in a row) ...
1. Eighty-four yards. Five plays. Vintage big-play offense. The Eagles put together a heck of a drive late in the second quarter and Hurts was the catalyst with his arm. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 80 yards – Kenneth Gainwell for 5 yards, to Dallas Goedert for 13 yards, to Olamide Zaccheaus for 24 yards, to A.J. Brown for 4 yards, and then, hanging in the pocket and taking a hit and delivering a perfect throw, a 34-yard touchdown completion to Zaccheaus and the Eagles tacked on the extra point for a 10-3 advantage.
2. To keep the momentum, the defense then came up big with a big interception from safety Reed Blankenship, who read a crossing route and stepped in on quarterback Baker Mayfield's throw to wide receiver Chris Godwin and made the interception. The offense took over at the Tampa Bay 37-yard line. The Eagles turned the ball over, but the defense came right back with another takeaway, this time recovering a fumble when defensive tackle Jalen Carter punched the ball out of the hands of running back Rachaad White's hands and cornerback James Bradberry recovered at Tampa Bay's 34-yard line with 24 seconds remaining in the half. It was the second half of back-to-back plays from Carter, who teamed with Fletcher Cox for a sack and forced fumble of Mayfield one snap earlier. That led to Jake Elliott's 38-yard field goal and a 13-3 lead at the half.
3. Here is an example of roster depth and some emerging young players on the roster: Eagles led, 3-0 late in first quarter. Tampa Bay has the football at its 24-yard line. Blankenship supports the run and makes a terrific tackle on first down to deck Sean Tucker for a 1-yard loss. Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu penetrates and sacks Mayfield for a 2-yard loss on second down (Carter was right there, as well) and then on third-and-13, cornerback Josh Jobe has tight coverage on a Mayfield pass intended for wide receiver Deven Thompkins. Really good show of roster strength there.
4. A play that saved the Eagles four points, which ended up mattering, and it's a play you file away as a young player rises in his career: Rookie safety Sydney Brown made a sensational play to break up a throw into the end zone for wide receiver Mike Evans midway through the second quarter, crawling at the end, never stopping, and forcing an incomplete pass that, when Mayfield made the throw, looked like it might be a touchdown. The lesson: Don't ever quit on a play. Brown didn't and he ended up making a terrific play in coverage.
5. How is this for a collective, first-half defensive performance? The Eagles allowed just 86 total net yards on 29 plays, a 3.0-yard average. Tampa Bay gained a meager 20 rushing yards on 11 carries and Mayfield threw for 66 yards, completing 9 of 16 passes with one interception (after entering the game with none). He was sacked twice (after being sacked once in the first two wins). Oh, and the Eagles allowed just 13 total yards in the third quarter, so Tampa Bay had just 99 total offensive yards through three quarters. Credit to Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai for a great game plan and to the players for their execution. On Tampa Bay's first eight possessions, the Eagles forced four punts, had a safety, and two takeaways and Tampa Bay managed a field goal drive.
6. The offensive line executed a brilliant plan to neutralize massive defensive tackle Vita Vea, who finished with three assisted tackles and had almost no impact on the game. Guards Landon Dickerson, Cam Jurgens, and Sua Opeta (who replaced Dickerson late in the third quarter when Dickerson went out with a knee contusion), along with center Jason Kelce took turns with Vea individually, they used combination blocks on him, and the Eagles' running game made Vea move laterally, and he just couldn't catch up to the backs, particularly D'Andre Swift.
7. The offense took the opening kickoff of the second half and put together a fantastic drive: 13 plays, 75 yards, ate nearly 6 minutes off the clock and a great mix of the run and pass. Hurts finished things with a 1-yard plunge on fourth down to give the Eagles a 20-3 lead. The running game gained 45 yards on eight attempts on the drive, with Swift busting one for 26 yards. Such balance and faith in the offensive line against a team that, remember, allowed just 54 yards rushing per game (second only to the Eagles) in the first two weeks of the season.
8. Carter had a big game, notching a half-sack, two forced fumbles, a quarterback hit, and two tackles. He impacts the game in so many ways when he's on the field and the Eagles have such great depth at defensive tackle that every one of them is fresh, active, and making plays.
9. Mike Evans, two catches for 13 yards through three quarters. That is some serious coverage, mostly by cornerback Darius Slay. The Eagles used James Bradberry inside at times when the Bucs went with three wide receivers, with Jobe on the outside. The pressure up front was there and the coverage on the back end was sticky, sticky. Great job against one of the premier wide receivers in all of the NFL.
10. What an outstanding play from linebacker Nicholas Morrow, slicing through a gap created when defensive tackles Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter occupied blockers and Morrow made a sure tackle on White in the end zone for a safety one play after Tampa Bay picked off Hurts at the 1-yard line. That defensive gem pushed the Eagles to a 22-3 lead in the third quarter. Great push up front and perfect timing and execution from Morrow.
11. A shoutout to Britain Covey, who came up big in the return game. He averaged 27 yards on three punt returns, including a 52-yarder, and brought back a free kick (after the safety) for 30 yards. Covey is on the rise and he's a threat for a nice return and a big burst, so it will be interesting to see how teams treat him moving forward in the punt return game.
12. Injury updates to come this week: Running back Boston Scott (concussion) and wide receiver Quez Watkins (hamstring) missed the game and safety Justin Evans (neck), Sydney Brown (thigh), and Dickerson (knee contusion) left Monday night's game. It's a short week with Washington coming to town, so recovery and treatment will be critical in the days ahead.
13. Are they celebrating at St. Joe's Prep in Philadelphia? Swift was again outstanding, rushing for 130 yards on 16 carries, and Zaccheaus filled in for Watkins and contributed two catches for 58 yards and the touchdown.
14. Brown and Goedert were heavily featured in the offense – Brown had 9 catches for 131 yards on 14 targets and Goedert chipped in with 5 receptions for 41 yards on 7 targets.
15. New punter Braden Mann had one boot for 38 yards, landing inside the 20-yard line on the pooch, and did a fine job holding for Elliott, who was perfect on three field goal attempts and two PATs.