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Bucs have no love for the Eagles’ Brotherly Shove

TAMPA — You would call it a quarterback sneak but the only secretive thing about the Eagles’ short-yardage play is that no one has found the cheat codes to stop it.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts is the recipient of the club’s signature call. It started a year ago when coach Nick Siriani’s team converted 90% of sneaks on their way to representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

It’s a simple formation. Hurts is bent behind center Jason Kelce, who is shoulder-to-shoulder with the Eagles’ offensive linemen. Running back Kenneth Gainwell and tight end Dallas Goedert are directly in back of him. After the snap, Hurts burrows toward the goal line behind his center and guard as Gainwell and Goedert push the behinds from behind.

It’s known as the Brotherly Shove or the Tush Push. Some NFL teams believe it’s a rugby play with no business being allowed in the NFL. Last March, Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy wrote that he hoped the play was banned and “raised his issue with the league.”

But the NFL’s competition committee was split on whether to outlaw the play at the annual spring meeting.

While the Bucs stopped it once in their 25-11 loss to the Eagles in September, coach Todd Bowles isn’t offering up any solutions heading into Monday night’s NFC Wild-Card Game.

“It’s a big advantage for them,” Bowles said Thursday. “I think it’s a very good play. The only way you counter that is to try to not get into it. You want to keep them at 5 or more (yards) if you can. But they do a very good job at getting it in.

“If I had the answer right now, I’d be upstairs diagramming, calling it and writing books on it.”

If there is a equalizer, aside from just keeping the Eagles out of short-yardage situations, it may be 355-pound nose tackle Vita Vea.

Kelce has a knack for getting even lower and providing leverage to move the pile. But the Bucs have quickness and big bodies to throw into the mosh pit as well.

“I think it’s just how they work collectively as a group,” defensive lineman Will Gholston said. “All five of them are working together. And the tight ends come in and the receivers come in, so it’s really like a collective group just trying to get 3 feet or maybe a shorter distance. It’s pretty hard to stop.”

Helping the Bucs this time around will also be rookie Calijah Kancey, who didn’t play in the regular-season meeting, and rookie Yaya Diaby.

The basic tenant in football is that low man wins, and Kelce is 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, smaller than many NFL linemen by comparison. Kelce has gone as far as to suggest that some players may be faking injuries after the play to get the attention of the league in hopes of getting it banned.

“I think we put in certain personnel when we know they’re going to run it,” linebacker Devin White said. “Vita gives you kind of an edge and I think I’ll take him over Kelce in the middle all day. Man, we’ve just got to keep them out of it. I think that’s the best way to stop them, is not to let them get into those formations.

“But at the end of the day, if it does come up, we’ve got have something in play to try and stop it. We’ve just got to have a better push than they do.”

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