Anything that could have possibly gone wrong did go wrong for the Eagles — and now their season is over.
Philadelphia was destroyed by the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-15 on Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium in the NFC Wild Card Round in what might be properly described as a no-contest. The Eagles trailed 31-0 heading into the fourth quarter before two garbage-time touchdowns ever-so-slightly salvaged the scoreline.
Tom Brady ripped the Birds apart, completing 29-of-37 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s offense that is so reliant on the run had to play from behind immediately, neutralizing its impact. Forcing to air it out much more than the gameplan had hoped for, Jalen Hurts threw for 258 yards (23-of-42) with a touchdown and two interceptions. Dallas Goedert accounted for 92 of those yards on 6 receptions.
The officials played a hand in getting the Buccaneers on the board first. On Tampa Bay’s opening drive, following an incompletion on 2nd-and-10, Derek Barnett was called for a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Brady — though the defensive end pulled up while delivering a soft hit to the quarterback’s hip.
What would have been a 3rd-and-10 gave the Buccaneers a free 15 yards and a first down. They took full advantage as the Eagles offered little resistance over the next 10 plays on the 75-yard drive that ended with a Giovanni Bernard 2-yard touchdown rush five minutes into the game.
A slow start from the Eagles’ offense, which was a credit to Tampa Bay’s ability to snuff out the RPO-driven attack, saw the visitors accrue just 17 yards on seven plays over their first two drives in the first quarter — their lowest output in a single quarter in any game this season.
By the time they got the ball back for their third possession to start the second quarter, they were down 14-0 with after the Bucs marched 70 yards on 10 plays in four minutes, ending with a 1-yard rush from Ke’Shawn Vaughn.
Following a Tampa field goal to go up 17, Philadelphia answered with its most productive drive to that point. An 11-yard Hurts scramble was followed by 16 and 10-yard completions to Goedert — the latter on a 4th-&-4 to move well into Tampa Bay territory.
But the Eagles passed up a chance at a 55-yard field goal on a 4th-and-10 just four plays later. This time, Hurts’ attempt for Jalen Reagor was cut off by Carlton Davis to turn the ball over on downs and keep Philadelphia off the board.
Questionable flags continued to impact the Eagles’ comeback trail. A 30-yard completion to Goedert was wiped away due to a bad holding call on Jason Kelce before rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith’s first reception of the game, a 9-yard screen, was negated by a pass-interference call on Quez Watkins.
Smith would haul in four catches for 60 yards on the day.
Still, the Eagles made their way into Tampa territory after a 35-yard completion to Watkins. But two plays later, Hurts was picked off by Mike Edwards at the front-left pylon of the end zone when he tried to laser a pass to a wide-open Smith from 25 yards away.
It was the last disappointment of an abysmal half that also featured the Eagles’ league-best rushing attack run the ball just nine times as they immediately were forced to play catch-up.
Things didn’t get better in the second half, even after the Eagles forced a three-and-out on Tampa’s first possession of the third quarter.
The ensuing punt was flubbed by Jalen Reagor at the Eagles’ 48-yard-line, which was recovered by Ross Cockrell of the Buccaneers to gift Brady some prime field position.
It turned out to be the dagger of the Eagles’ season as the Buccaneers ended the five-play drive with an easy touchdown connection from Brady to a wide-open Rob Gronkowski from two yards out to go up 24-0 with 7:38 left in the third quarter.
Eagle embarrassments continued when Hurts was picked off by Shaq Barrett while going for it on a 4th-and-3 near midfield. On the very next play, Brady hit Mike Evans — who posted a monster nine-reception, 137-yard day — for a 36-yard score to put Tampa up by 31.
With the game well out of reach, the Eagles finally got on the board with 12:08 left in the game. In a drive that started with a 31-yard screen completion to Smith, Boston Scott bolted 34 yards for Philadelphia’s first points of the game.
Kenneth Gainwell added a second score with 4:45 to go when he bruised his way into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. An ensuing two-point conversion by Smith — who made a circus diving catch — cut the Eagles’ deficit to 16 points.