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Birds Bounce Bucs in Battle of Unbeatens

Sept. 26, 2023

Morgan Killian-Moseley

TAMPA, Fla.- A Monday Night Football matchup of two unbeaten teams showed the difference in the talent level of the two, as the Eagles took down the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium 25-11. The win was quarterback Jalen Hurts's tenth straight on the road, breaking an Eagles QB franchise record which had been held by Donovan McNabb, who had two streaks of nine straight road wins in his Eagles career.

Once again the Eagles offense started slow, turning the ball over on downs in the red zone on their first possession and only netting a 36-yard field goal from Jake Elliott on their next, despite getting right back into the red zone after being set up by a 52-yard punt return by Britain Covey to the Tampa Bay 44.

The Eagles offense did, however, chew up quite a bit of clock, and the defense made sure Tampa Bay's didn't do the same. The Buccaneers offense wouldn't get into Philadelphia territory until the second quarter, but the Birds stood tall in the red zone and forced Tampa to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Chase McLaughlin to tie the score at 3-3.

On the next Eagles drive, Hurts worked his magic, finding multiple targets for chunk plays. With a couple runs from Kenneth Gainwell mixed in, the Eagles worked their way to the Tampa 29 for a 3rd-&-5, but tight end Dallas Goedert was called for a false start to make it 3rd-&-10. With the defense breathing down his neck and taking a big hit from Tampa's Greg Gaines as he released, Hurts delivered a well-aimed 34-yard strike to Olamide Zaccheaus for the touchdown to put Philadelphia up 10-3, after Elliott's extra point.

One of the reasons why the Bucs started 2-0 is that they didn't turn the ball over in those first two games. But the Eagles defense stopped that streak on Tampa's next possession, as safety Reed Blankenship read Tampa QB Baker Mayfield's eyes and undercut the route by wideout Chris Godwin for the interception.

But the Bucs defense would return the favor, as veteran linebacker Devin White would pick off Hurts on the ensuing possession and give Tampa good field position with a return to their 43, with less than a minute to go in the first half.

The Eagles would respond in kind. Rookie defensive end Jalen Carter would team up with Fletcher Cox to sack Mayfield for an 11-yard loss. After a Bucs timeout, Carter would then strip Buccaneers running back Rachaad White on a checkdown pass on the next play, the fumble recovered by corner James Bradberry.

Taking advantage of the takeaway with 32 seconds left, the Eagles offense would work into position for Elliott to deliver a 38-yard field goal as time expired to give Philadelphia a 13-3 lead at halftime.

The Eagles offense got the ball to start the second half, looking for the double-up. Running back D'Andre Swift provided a major spark on the drive; delivering 41 yards on the ground, including a 26-yard gallop up the middle on a 2nd-&-1 from the Tampa 42. The nine-minute-plus drive culminated with Hurts hitting paydirt on the Birds' much-despised, nigh-unstoppable "push sneak'' on 4th-&-goal to push the lead to 20-3.

The Eagles' next possession started well enough, as Swift would rip off a 29-yard scamper off right guard into Tampa territory. Hurts would then go for the bomb, looking for Devonta Smith, but Buccaneers defensive back Dee Delaney was able to undercut the pass and get his feet down in bounds to get the takeaway.

While no QB wants to throw an interception, there are some that turn out to be for the best. In this case it worked like a pooch punt that put the Bucs at their own 1-yard line, and gave the Eagles defense, as MNF analyst Troy Aikman put it, the opportunity to hunt.

Not only would they hunt, they would feed; as even with an extra Buccaneer lineman, linebacker Nicholas Morrow would bring down Rachaad White in the end zone for a safety.

The Eagles would tack on three more in the drive that followed, as a chip shot 26-yarder from Elliott would make it 25-3 Philadelphia just over a minute into the fourth quarter.

If there was any solace for Buccaneers fans, it's that Mike Evans can still take over a game on any given drive, as the wideout put the Tampa offense on his back with two big chunk plays on their next possession, including a one-hander over the middle while taking a hit in the back from Blankenship. Evans would cap the drive off with a touchdown catch on a quick slant on 3rd-&-goal from the 1. Godwin would make the catch for the two-point conversion to make it a two-score game again.

That drive had to have given Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles some hope that his offense could put it together and at least make it competitive at the end.

But the Eagles offense said "Nope" to those hopes by ensuring Tampa didn't get the ball back again. By mixing well-drawn up runs by Hurts and Gainwell with timely catches by Goedert, Smith, and A.J. Brown, the Philadelphia offense chewed up yardage and drained the rest of the clock. With less than a minute to go and a 4th-&-2 from the Tampa 11, Philadelphia head coach Nick Sirianni kept the offense on the field to put it away. Hurts found Brown to move the chains and that was that.

All in all, Hurts went 23-for-37 passing for 277 yards and the touchdown to Zaccheaus, with the two interceptions. On the ground, Hurts had 10 rushes for 28 yards and a score.

Swift had 130 yards on 16 carries, plus one catch for eight yards. Gainwell chipped in 43 yards on 14 rushes while adding a catch for five yards.

Brown was the Eagles' leading receiver, with nine receptions for 131 yards, while Zaccheaus had 53 yards and the touchdown on his two catches; his first with the Eagles since coming over as a free agent from Atlanta. Goedert added 41 yards on his five catches while Smith chipped in 28 with his four.

For the Buccaneers, Mayfield went 15-of-25 passing for 146 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He added two yards on his only carry.

Rachaad White had 14 rushing attempts for 38 yards while making three receptions for 24 yards, but had the costly fumble as well.

Evans had five catches for 60 yards, but three of those catches and 45 of those yards came on Tampa's last drive, where it could be argued that the Philadelphia defense relaxed a little. Godwin added three receptions for 32 yards, plus the two-point conversion, while tight end Cade Otton added a catch for 16 yards.

The Eagles dominated the time of possession game, as expected, holding the ball for almost 39 minutes to Tampa having it for just over 21.

Both offensive lines protected their quarterbacks well. Mayfield was sacked twice, with Eagles third-year defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu getting a solo sack in addition to the Carter-Cox combo.

Hurts was sacked only once, by Buccaneers veteran linebacker Lavonte David; who had a game-high 13 tackles.

Tampa defensive backs Ryan Neal and Antoine Winfield Jr. each had 11 total tackles as well. One of Neal's stops was on Philadelphia's first drive, forcing the turnover on downs.

Blankenship led the Eagles in tackles, credited with seven total; while linebacker Zach Cunningham, defensive back Josh Jobe, and defensive end Josh Sweat each had a hand in four.

While both teams turned the ball over twice, the Eagles managed to get three points on their takeaways while the Bucs actually gave up two on theirs (the Morrow safety).

With the win, the Eagles are one of three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. (Dolphins and 49ers being the others) They'll be in action at home early Sunday afternoon, taking on the NFC East rival Washington Commanders, who are 2-1 after taking a 37-3 shellacking at home at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.

The 2-1 Buccaneers will also be in action against a division rival early Sunday afternoon, as they head to the Big Easy and the Superdome to battle the New Orleans Saints, who stand at 1-2 after getting edged out by the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field 18-17.

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