An improved Eagles team looks to upset Bucs

by Gary Shelton on January 14, 2022

in general

Bowles' defense faces a running quarterback./TIM WIRT

Friday, 3 a.m.

At the time, they were an annoyance. A victory that was easy that the score would suggest. Another speed bump on the highway.

At the time, there was no reasonable expectation that the Philadelphia Eagles would pose any sort of legitimate threat to the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Ah, but times change, and teams grow. The Eagles team that the Bucs play Sunday isn't one of the great teams in the NFL, but they are feisty enough

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"They’re a completely different team than what we saw in Week 6," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "(Jalen Hurts) has a great pocket presence and he runs like a halfback, but he can throw the ball very well. I think as a group, they’ve gotten together.

"I think Shane [Steichen] and Nick [Sirianni] have done a great job of expanding the offense and running the football – getting that done and getting deep-ball plays, as well. They do a heck of a job with their scheme, and they’ve kind of been beating everybody up. Jalen kind of drives the offense. You can see the maturity, you can see the control of the offense and I think he has done a hell of a job.”

Back in the middle of October, it wasn't so. The Eagles fell to 2-4 with a 28-22 loss to Tampa Bay, even though they scored the last 15 points of the game to make it closer. But the Bucs had 120 yards in penalties in that one. The Eagles weren't a serious threat.


After that, however, the Eagles had a streak in which they won six of seven games. Their defense got better. Hurts got better. And now? Now they have a slugger's chance to upset the Bucs on Sunday.

“They’re playing good football," offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. "Their D-line is attacking the quarterback. They were a good football team when we played them. [They] always had good players, have a difficult scheme to go up against and veteran guys in the secondary who’ve been around a lot of good football.

"They have veteran guys on all three levels when you look at them – veteran guys who have been in a lot of situations. We know we’re facing a veteran ball club that’s a playoff team. What happened earlier in the year doesn’t mean anything. Going out here Sunday, play our best football and preparing ourselves for a really good football team.”

Tom Brady threw for 298 yards against Philadelphia, but his team didn't score in the fourth period. He remembers Philly, too.

"They have a lot of good players," Brady said. "They've obviously got a very good front. They're really settled in at linebacker, they're playing really well at linebacker. And they've got a very veteran secondary who is playing very well together. Talented players at all the positions. They're a very good defense – they make you earn everything. You make a mistake, you get a penalty – you’re going to punt. The ball gets batted up in the air, they're going to intercept it. You hold onto the ball too long, they're going to strip-sack it.

" It's a team that just doesn't let you off the hook, and I think they do a good job with their coverages, they show enough disguise. They're all covering for one another. There's really good communication – I can tell that. Really well-coached defense with a lot of good players. It makes it really tough for the offense to score."

This thing is, Philadelphia's resume can fool you. Consider last week, when the Cowboys scored 51 points on them. But quarterback Hurts was one of the Eagles than didn't play.

This week, he threatens to break contain -- as running quarterbacks have done against Tampa Bay this season. No one on the Bucs should think this won't be a test.

The Bucs and Eagles kick off at 1 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.

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