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Spadaro: 10 takeaways from a season-ending loss in Tampa Bay

DeVonta Smith
DeVonta Smith

TAMPA, Fla. – The Eagles' 2023 season came to a halt at Tampa Bay on Monday night in the Super Wild Card Playoff finale of the weekend with a crushing 32-9 loss to the Bucs. Philadelphia lost 6 of its last 7 games, sending the Eagles into the offseason with a lot of questions to answer.

Missing wide receiver A.J. Brown, the offense had one touchdown drive that included two big plays, and that was pretty much it for the night. The defense had gaping holes throughout the game, missing safeties Reed Blankenship and Sydney Brown as the Bucs made big gain after big gain, mostly in the passing game.

It was an incredibly disappointing way to end the season. Here are some takeaways from the 2023 season finale ...

1. A two-possession sequence late in the third quarter stretched a 16-9 Tampa Bay lead – a score that indicated the Eagles were still in the game, but barely so – to 25-9, and both the offense and defense were culpable. Quarterback Jalen Hurts, under pressure much of the game with Tampa Bay blitzing him often – 18 of his first 25 dropbacks – couldn't escape pressure with the offense backed up near its goal line and went down with an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone that resulted in a Tampa Bay safety and then the defense gave up a 56-yard touchdown pass to Trey Palmer, who caught a 6-yard out pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield at the 50-yard line, escaped a tackle attempt from cornerback James Bradberry, and broke into the clear with a sprint to the end zone to put Philadelphia in a deep hole heading into the fourth quarter.

2. Philadelphia's offense through three quarters: 11 first downs, 0-for-7 on third downs, 36 rushing yards on 12 carries, and just 218 total net yards. This was against a defense that the Eagles gashed for 201 rushing yards and nearly 500 total yards in the Week 3 victory. The Eagles had no answers for Tampa Bay's blitz game and just couldn't sustain any significant offense. Philadelphia went 0-for-9 on third downs in the game.

3. Gaining yardage in big gulps is essential to scoring in this league and going up top to wide receiver DeVonta Smith helped the Eagles' offense out of its early-game malaise on Monday night. Hurts connected with Smith for 55 yards down the left slot and Smith went down at the Tampa Bay 5-yard line. One play later, Hurts went to tight end Dallas Goedert for an easy pitch and catch as Goedert went in motion left to right across the formation and was clear at the snap of the football and the Eagles had their first touchdown to creep back into the game, trailing 16-9. Philadelphia initially converted the point-after kick, but Tampa Bay was whistled for offsides and the Eagles went for the two-point conversion from the 1-yard line. The Bucs stopped, shockingly, the Brotherly Shove and the score remained 16-9 late in the second quarter.

4. Tampa Bay scored on its first four possessions – three field goals and a touchdown. The Bucs had good balance – 15 running plays for 68 yards, and Mayfield completed 10 of 20 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles had some stops, but not until Tampa Bay did damage – 12 plays, 65 yards on its first drive (3 points), four plays and 69 yards on its second drive (7 points), 10 plays and 40 yards on drive No. 3 (3 points), and 13 plays, 45 yards on the fourth drive (3 points). With just under 6 minutes remaining in the first half, Tampa Bay led 16-3. It would have been worse, but Tampa Bay dropped 6 passes in the first half.

5. David Moore, Tampa Bay wide receiver. In the pregame scouting of the Bucs, who had David Moore on the Biggest Threats list? He had 5 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown in the seven games he played during the season after being promoted from the practice squad. He's been in the NFL since 2017 and had 83 career receptions in 57 career games before Monday night. But there he was, making a huge play in the first quarter, catching a pass and breaking tackles to reach the end zone and complete a 44-yard scoring play, running away in the middle of the field on a crossing route after Eli Ricks collided with Avonte Maddox and fell in the middle of the field. Tampa Bay led 10-0 after the PAT.

It's win-or-go-home as the Eagles are in Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers on Monday night, but it's no typical prime-time showdown. These two teams clashed back in Week 3, but this time around, the winner advances to play Detroit in the Divisional Round.

6. The Eagles wanted to start fast, of course. They wanted to come out and make a statement after five losses in six games. Did not happen. In the first quarter alone, on three drives (Tampa Bay had the ball and was in Eagles territory to start the second quarter), Moore had 2 catches for 66 yards. Mayfield passed for 137 yards in the first quarter, Tampa Bay gained 10 first downs, converted 2 of 3 third downs, and had 178 total net yards. The Eagles' offense, meanwhile, mustered one first down and 26 total net yards.

7. Twice the Eagles took points off the board and tried to get more: The two-point conversion failed in the first half and then early in the fourth quarter trailing 25-9 Jake Elliott made a field goal, but the Bucs were offsides on fourth and 10. Nick Sirianni opted to send the offense back on the field on fourth-and-5, but a Hurts pass in the right corner of the end zone intended for Smith was broken up by a leaping Carlton Davis and the fourth-down attempt failed.

8. Baker Mayfield threw for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns and averaged a whopping 9.4 yards per pass attempt, much of it in the middle of the field. The Eagles missed a load of tackles, a theme late in the season. Not much more to say about the defense, which also allowed 119 yards on the ground. Tampa Bay scored on 6 of its first 9 possessions to lead 32-9.

9. Jalen Hurts in his final game of the season: Harried by the blitz, clearly missing A.J. Brown, completed 25 of 35 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown. He had a single run for 5 yards. Teams all season did a good job limiting his damage on the ground and pressured him with the blitz. The Eagles took a major step back running the football for most of the season, and Monday night was no exception, as the offense managed just 41 yards on 15 carries.

10. DeVonta Smith was a stud, as usual, catching 8 passes for 148 yards on 12 targets. But teams need multiple weapons offensively, and Goedert caught just 4 passes and there just wasn't enough firepower on a night when the Eagles were behind from the very start of the game.

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