By Dylan MacKinnon
Well, that was embarrassing. We knew the Eagles were a bit out of their depth vs the Bucs, but there was no excuse for the beating the Bucs put on them today. They lost 31-15, finally adding two TDs when the game was already over. A season that exceeded expectations ends with maybe their worst game of the year.
It would be hard to find anything they did well. They couldn’t run the ball, they certainly couldn’t pass it, the defense other than a few drives got killed, they turned it over 3 times, and even the punting was poor. The Eagles didn’t look like they were in the same league as the Bucs. So how did things go so poorly? Here are 5 numbers that tell the story of how the Eagles season ended.
Apparently, Nick Sirianni saw something on the tape that made him think screen passes were the way to beat this Bucs defense. He was very wrong. I counted 8 screen passes in the first half alone, which went for 12 yards. That is 1.5 yards per attempt. So if only there were 7 downs instead of 4 they would have been in good shape. The Bucs read the screen from a mile away every single time. There was one time it worked, where it was a screen to Dallas Goedert. Unfortunately, a bogus holding call negated it. But all the screen passes to RBs and WRs, accomplished pretty much nothing. It’s something Sirianni should have realized was not working a lot earlier than he did. Those short gains put them consistently in 3rd and longs. With how poor Hurts was playing, that was a recipe for failure.
The Eagles ran 23 plays before they even tried to target their best weapon, DeVonta Smith. It came on a screen attempt just after the 2-minute warning. So 23 plays, and 28 minutes into the game, they finally get him a target. It’s not like he wasn’t getting open. There were multiple times he created space and Hurts just never noticed. With so little talent at WR, they should be designing targets for him. The fact they didn’t, is a dereliction of duty by the coaching staff, and by the QB for not looking the way of his best WR. Of course, Reagor for some reason was very involved early on, getting targets both on a key third down, and a key fourth down. It’s baffling. When they finally started targeting Smith the offense started to move. But by then it was too little too late.
The Eagles sacked Tom Brady 4 times. One of the major keys coming into this game was the D Line had to get pressure on Brady, and they did. Which makes it even more maddening that they played so poorly elsewhere. This D line struggled to get pressure for much of the year. But in their biggest game, they stepped up. Even Ryan Kerrigan stepped up. Kerrigan had 3 tackles on the season, but 1.5 sacks in this game. The D-line played maybe its best game of the year, and it was wasted with incompetence everywhere else on the field.
And they did it without Josh Sweat too. Coming into the game Defensive ends not named Sweat had 3 sacks in 17 games. The ends had a combined 2 sacks today. That’s almost 11 times the production from these players in every other game.
The Eagles 2019 2nd round pick at WR , and their 2020 first-round pick at WR, had a combined 2 yards today. To be fair one of those two was hurt. But given JJ Arcega Whiteside had only 36 yards on the season, I don’t think this number would have changed had he been healthy. Jalen Reagor on the other hand played all game, got 3 targets, and only had 2 yards. He also muffed a punt after the Eagles got a key stop when it was still just a 17 point game. Bucs scored after that which pretty much sealed their win.
At this point pointing out how bad Reagor and Whiteside are is beating a dead horse. But it really is just absurd how in two straight years they spent a premium pick on a WR, and they give the Eagles less than nothing. Whiteside never saw the field unless he was blocking. Reagor for some reason continued to get snaps and targets despite being just as bad. Neither should still be on the team next year. It’s time to cut them loose and let players who can actually contribute get snaps.
Hurts base stat line looks bad enough. He went 20 for 42, for 247 yards, 2 interceptions, and a single TD. But break it down even further, and it gets truly ugly. On passes over 10 yards downfield, he was 4 for 18 with two interceptions. That’s only a 22% completion rate. His arm was awful in this game. The first interception came on a play where Smith was open in the endzone. Hurts noticed it too late and then threw a lofted pass off his back foot that got intercepted because it was thrown way too softly.
He had a hard time throwing anything that wasn’t a screen pass. And we already covered how the screen passes went. If Hurts is going to be an NFL Qb, he has to be more consistent with his arm. Because this performance was inexcusable. The Bucs took away the run and forced Hurts to beat them with his arm, and he couldn’t. If this is who Hurts is, they need a new QB.