Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers received a kelly green reality check on Monday Night Football, courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles. In an ugly 25-11 loss, Tampa Bay learned that despite their winning record, they just are not quite ready to play with the big boys.
The Eagles were simply dominant in the trenches on both sides of the ball. With arguably the best offensive line in the NFL, Philadelphia pounded the rock against an ordinarily stout Tampa defensive front. Running back D’Andre Swift put up 130 yards on 16 carries thanks to running lanes wide enough for a Gasparilla parade:
Swifties will love this run.
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2023
On defense, the Bucs simply had no answer for Philadelphia’s defensive line. The offensive line was so overwhelmed that they allowed a third-quarter safety despite having their jumbo package on the field. The interior linemen in particular were routinely and soundly beaten in every respect by the Eagles’ rotation of former Georgia Bulldogs Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter.
The game might have been closer had the Bucs’ offense gotten out of its own way, especially in the first half. After two games of largely mistake-free football, Tampa Bay turned the ball over twice in the second quarter, first with an interception from Baker Mayfield and a Rachaad White fumble.
Mike Evans had a rough start as well, dropping two passes, including a potential third-down conversion on the Bucs’ first drive and touchdown early in the second half. He did his best in the second half to make up for his dismal first, making one of the most spectacular catches of his career in the fourth quarter on the Bucs’ only touchdown drive:
Unreal one-handed grab from @MikeEvans13_
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2023
More than any game previous this season, pressure from the defense got to Baker Mayfield, who was unable to keep his sack escape artist act going. He went 15-for-25 for 146 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT while taking two sacks. While his receivers frequently let him down with bad drops, Mayfield was seeing ghosts on the field by the second quarter and was missing open receivers. Tampa Bay possessed the ball just over 21 minutes, pale in comparison to Philadelphia’s nearly 39 minutes with the football.
With little help from the offense, Tampa Bay’s defense went into “bend, don’t break” mode. Despite allowing 472 total yards, they held Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense to field goals on three red zone trips and picked him off on a fourth.
The Bucs defense was tested in every way possible as injuries clearly affected some performances while additional players were lost. Devin White’s groin injury made him appear to be playing in mud and likely kept him from returning his interception to the opposite end zone. Cornerback Jamel Dean went down early with a shoulder injury and tried to play through it before he was declared out in the second half.
Quite simply, the Bucs were outclassed by the Eagles. They were soundly beaten on both sides of the line, and offensive coordinator Dave Canales looked every bit as green as the Eagles throwback jerseys from a play-calling perspective. The bootlegs, counters and screens to avoid Philadelphia’s stout defensive interior were missing in action, and futile insistence on running the ball straight at Jordan Davis was reminiscent of Byron Leftwich’s inability to adjust to anything opposing defenses did last season.
Tampa Bay faces a slightly less daunting foe next week in New Orleans. While the Saints also have a solid defense, their offensive line lacks the talent and seasoning of Philadelphia’s. The main question will be just how beat up will the Bucs be heading into a short week after this physical loss to Eagles.