Eagles vs. Buccaneers: Takeaways from Tampa Bay's 31-20 Loss to Philadelphia
The Buccaneers are now 1-10 in their last 11 games, with the lone win coming against the coasting Atlanta Falcons during Week 17 of the 2012 season.
This creates a really negative situation in Tampa Bay when combined with the off-the field issues ranging from another MRSA infection, as reported by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, as well as allegations of breached medical confidentiality of former quarterback Josh Freeman, as reported by Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
Sunday's loss to the Eagles doesn't help quiet any rumors or dispel any allegations against the team. In fact, it makes the seat under Greg Schiano that much warmer.
So what did we learn from Sunday's game against Philadelphia? Here are the 10 things that stood out to me.
Tim Wright's Breakout Day
When he was signed during the offseason, it was seen as little more than a college coach bringing along one of his former players for a few days in NFL camp.
It turned into a spot on the 53-man roster, and the best day for a Tampa Bay tight end in the last couple of years.
The journey for Tim Wright began as a Rutgers wide receiver and continued on Sunday as a tight end for the Buccaneers, hauling in the most receiving yards of a tight end for Tampa Bay since November of 2011, as tweeted by Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com.
Wright got separation from defenders and found open space in the Eagle defense for an impressive seven catches and 91 yards. He showed consistent hands and great concentration in space.
In a season that seems frustratingly over for the Bucs, it's encouraging to see young players getting a chance to prove themselves for the future.
A Tale of Two Halves for Mike Glennon
In the first half of Sunday’s game, Mike Glennon had a performance that totally justified his role as the starting quarterback of the Buccaneers. He was efficient and smart, connecting on intermediate throws and finding Vincent Jackson for two touchdowns.
That included a fantastic fade throw to Jackson, who made a highlight reel catch tapping his toes in bounds.
He also broke out of the pocket, throwing on the run and scrambling for a key first down during the first two quarters.
But Glennon stepped onto the field after halftime, and one of his first throws was an interception. The Eagles would take advantage, and the Tampa Bay offense just could not catch back up. Glennon finished with respectable numbers, but they don’t reveal his final product, which featured a near-interception on a drive late in the fourth quarter.
The Tampa Bay Defense Is Prone to Breakdowns
The Buccaneers did not have a great day on defense, and it was mainly due to breakdowns and miscommunications.
The Tampa Bay defense left DeSean Jackson open for two touchdowns, and both appeared to prominently feature Buccaneer safeties failing in their responsibilities. The first touchdown was allowed when Darrelle Revis gave Jackson the middle of the field, expecting safety help. There was no help to be found, and Jackson sped into open space for an easy score.
The second score for Jackson was even easier, as Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron were both playing very shallow zone coverage, with no one deep to keep up with the speedy Eagle receiver. Foles dropped in a perfect pass for a score.
The safeties for Tampa Bay seem to be too aggressive and not disciplined enough to help their cornerbacks and run the zone looks the coaching staff continues to call.
There Is No Pass Rush Without the Blitz
The Tampa Bay defense has taken down opposing quarterbacks with a surprising frequency this season. For a unit that finished 29th in the NFL in sacks in 2012, the 14 sacks the Bucs have tallied in 2013 are a huge surprise.
But they've mostly come on blitzes, as the front four for the Buccaneers cannot get consistent pressure on their own. Gerald McCoy has been fantastic at defensive tackle, but there’s no outside pressure, and teams can plan to stop him.
The lack of pass rush from the front four really puts a huge strain on the defensive backs. The team must either blitz and leave fewer players in pass defense, or rush only four and allow quarterbacks far too much time to throw.
Lavonte David Continues to Shine
With Von Miller out, Lavonte David has emerged as the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL with a fantastic start to the 2013 season.
Coming into the week, he was dominating the NFL in Pro Football Focus’ “Run Stop Percentage” statistic, (subscription required). It’s a metric that measures how often the player is involved in a play that prevents a successful run for the opponent.
He continued that trend on Sunday.
David tallied nine tackles and a sack, with multiple great plays of pursuit in the backfield. He’s been very active in both run and pass defense and is shining brightest among the stars on the Tampa Bay defense.
And while the Eagles did run fairly well against the Bucs, David was key to stopping multiple LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown rushing attempts.
Doug Martin Still "Has It," but He Can't Do It Alone
Martin had 16 carries for 67 yards on Sunday and showed a continued ability to fight and claw for yardage on every play.
He also showed the ability to break free and get a big run on a 24-yard scamper in the first half, which set up a one-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson.
But he cannot do everything for the Tampa Bay offense, and he’s regularly faced with stacked boxes and telegraphed playcalls. For instance, there was a play on Sunday in which the Buccaneers had only one wide receiver on the field, and it was the newly signed Tiquan Underwood. The remaining players were a fullback, an extra tackle and a tight end.
The Eagles knew what was coming and blitzed the run to stop Martin. It was far too easy to tell what was coming, and the Philadelphia defense responded accordingly.
The Bucs need to help Martin, or he'll be unable to come close to recreating his fantastic rookie season.
Penalties Continue to Hold the Buccaneers Back
The Buccaneers were called for eight penalties on Sunday, which accounted for 72 penalty yards. That’s not positive and encouraging play for a struggling football team.
But it’s worse when you consider the plays which were called back for penalties. The team nullified multiple key running plays with holds and also gave the Eagles a free first down on a 4th-and-short late in the game.
The team lacks discipline and self-control, which is something Greg Schiano claims he brings to the team. He believed the team was a laughingstock before he arrived (as tweeted by The Pewter Report), but he has done nothing to make the team any less laughable.
Tiquan Underwood Isn't the Depth at Receiver the Buccaneers Were Seeking
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added Tiquan Underwood to the roster hoping he would provide a spark at wide receiver.
He did the exact opposite.
Underwood was on the field for almost every offensive play for Tampa Bay but failed to register a catch. Instead, his most memorable moments were two plays that benefited the Eagles.
The first and most painful was Mike Glennon’s lone interception, which appeared to be caused by a miscommunication or lack of effort from Underwood. The wide receiver stopped on his route, either to avoid contact or because he believed he was supposed to do so. Glennon threw the ball past him into the hands of a Philadelphia defender.
The second was an offensive pass interference penalty in which he turned himself around on a deep route and attacked his defender’s facemask rather than turning around to make a play on a football going over his head.
If the recently released Kevin Ogletree wasn't good enough with his mental-error drops, there’s nothing positive that Underwood did today to show he’s any better. The Bucs badly need depth at wide receiver, and Underwood isn't the solution for that need.
Johnthan Banks Is Still a Rookie
Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner Johnthan Banks is still a rookie, and that showed on Sunday.
He was victimized by Riley Cooper on multiple plays, including a deep touchdown throw on a simple go route. Banks was left in the dust, and Nick Foles delivered a perfect throw to Cooper as pictured above.
The other play was a short throw to Cooper that resulted in a long catch and run, because Banks was left on the ground after unsuccessfully trying to tackle Cooper.
The young Mississippi State product has shown signs of positive play this season, but it’s easy to forget that he’s a rookie playing across from the best corner in the NFL. He’s getting picked on by opposing quarterbacks and not always living up to the task.
Eric Page Is a Much-Needed Boost on Special Teams
One of the touchdowns scored by the Buccaneers on the day was set up by a fantastic punt return by Eric Page, who has proven to be a very reliable special teams player.
For years the Buccaneers have struggled on kickoff and punt returns, but Page may be a bright spot in that area. He shows great vision on returns and has good quickness.
It will be interesting to see how the team uses Page and his fellow return man Jeff Demps as the season goes on. They’re both dynamic returners and can certainly help an inefficient offense earn some field position.
It would also be beneficial to give Page a chance on offense, as he’s proven to be an exciting athlete that could be an answer to the team’s need for depth at receiver.