Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Full Report Card Grades for Philly
With the Philadelphia Eagles riding a 31-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get back to .500, and a rare quarterback controversy where there may be no wrong answer, it’s tempting to gloss over the details and just feel good about where Philadelphia is at. First place in the NFC East is never a bad thing.
That’s all well and good, but it’s worth pointing out the Eagles are still a flawed team. For all of the good they’re doing with the NFL’s second-ranked offense, which is perhaps more potent with Nick Foles under center than Michael Vick, the defense is still a barely adequate partner too often in this deal.
The Birds defense had one job to do in Week 6—pressure a rookie quarterback—and it failed. Nor did it really shut down the Bucs’ running game for that matter. It just sort of held on until Foles and Co. scored enough points to put the game away. Not good enough.
We break it all down and more in our weekly report card grades. Suffice it to say, one unit scored very well, the other not so much.
For the first time this season, I feel comfortable proclaiming quarterback play won the Eagles a game.
Foles did just about everything that could be asked of him. The second-year quarterback threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. He only took one sack and didn’t turn the ball over. Foles was willing to take what the defense gave him, completing 71 percent of his passes, but not at the expense of big plays, going for 9.5 yards per attempt.
Had Foles been unable to stay on an even keel for 60 minutes, it’s entirely possible the final outcome would have turned out different. The 24-year-old kept the offense moving and put points on the board until he had put the Bucs away for good.
We have much more on Foles’ impressive performance in postgame takeaways.
LeSean McCoy was his usual incredible self, rushing for 116 yards on 25 carries—a solid 4.6 average despite a sizable portion of those touches coming in the fourth quarter while the Eagles were killing clock. He also added two receptions for 55 yards.
Shady did fumble late in the first quarter, though. It’s hard to blame him for not holding on that one considering he was flipped over like a flapjack, but it was a turnover nonetheless.
And as great as he is, McCoy almost seems to get a little too cute with his jukes sometimes. There were a few occasions where it seemed like the All-Pro back tripped himself up as much as anybody did on Tampa Bay’s defense. I suppose that could qualify as nitpicking.
Bryce Brown had five carries for 20 yards, contributing to an all-around fine day for Philly backs.
With 64 yards in Week 6, DeSean Jackson retakes the NFL lead in receiving yards. All six passes intended for Djacc were complete, and it was the first time he’s hauled in two touchdown passes in one game over his six-year career.
Once thought to be useless in the red zone, this also happens to be the second week in a row Jackson caught a touchdown pass inside 20 yards. Foles tossed them both.
The big surprise here, though, was Riley Cooper posting a career game. Coop finished with four catches for 120 yards and a score, two of his receptions going for over 40 yards after entering the week with eight catches for 93 yards and a TD. It was great to see the fourth-year veteran picking on rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks.
Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson and Jeff Maehl each caught at least one pass to get all five active receivers on the stat sheet.
For whatever reason, the tight end position just doesn’t seem to be getting overly involved in this offense regardless of who is under center.
Brent Celek and Zach Ertz combined for four receptions, but for only 23 yards. Celek had a long gain of 10. Not that it affects the grade one way or the other, but James Casey was inactive with a groin injury.
Jackson and Cooper had great games, so the low output from the tight ends probably doesn’t matter anyway.
Philadelphia’s offense continued to experience its ups and downs in Tampa Bay. Foles made the best of the situation, though—at least better than Vick would have.
Despite getting smacked around in the backfield quite a bit, Foles was sacked just once on the afternoon. He gets rid of the ball faster but also knows how to move subtly within the pocket to buy himself that extra second. Those kinds of plays make the line look a lot better than it actually performs.
The Eagles’ other issue up front was penalties, a couple of holds that subtracted 20 yards.
It’s hard to complain, though, when the Birds offense line is such a dominant force in the running game. McCoy and Brown combined for a quality 4.5 yards per carry.
Allen Barbre replaced an injured Jason Peters at left tackle in the second half, but there was no noticeable drop-off as the Eagles were mostly running out the clock by then.
Fairly disappointing effort from the Eagles defensive line, especially given Pro Bowl left guard Carl Nicks was out for the Bucs. Not many noteworthy performances to speak of one way or the other.
Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton started out fast but were getting very little penetration as the game progressed. Third-round rookie Bennie Logan registered a sack in garbage time, but otherwise that was the only tackle for loss Philadelphia got from its front all day. Cox managed to hit to hit the QB once, but that was it.
Making just his second NFL start, rookie Mike Glennon was able to get comfortable in the pocket, while running back Doug Martin found lanes in the running game. Then again, the Bucs kept getting called for holding on those runs, so maybe the line was more disruptive than it’ll get full credit for.
At this stage, it’s becoming clear DeMeco Ryans can on occasion make a nice play in run support—even rarer in coverage—but mostly he’s a guy making sure tackles eight yards down the field. That’s not helping anybody.
Mychal Kendricks has tremendous athleticism, but who is that getting burned by little-known tight end Tim Wright for seven receptions, 91 yards? Insider linebacker is an area that will need to be addressed next offseason.
The outside linebackers didn’t fare much better, particularly at rushing the passer. Connor Barwin and Trent Cole were very quiet out there, with Barwin picking up the lone tackle for loss for the unit. They didn’t seem to make up for their lack of pressure with any significant presence in the running game either, as Martin was allowed to average 4.2 yards per carry.
Aside from Vincent Jackson pulling down nine passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns—not all on the cornerbacks mind you—the corners did a relatively good job. Of course, the Bucs were also limited at quarterback and without their No. 2 receiver, Mike Williams, so take that for whatever it's worth.
Still, one player in particular who has really stood out of late is Bradley Fletcher. He followed up a strong performance in New York last week with three pass breakups and his first interception of the season in Tampa.
Cary Williams had a decent enough day as well, but not great. One of Jackson’s touchdown passes was working against Williams, but it was the kind of acrobatic grab that is nearly impossible to defend.
Brandon Boykin kept up the fine work in the slot. He also filled in for Williams on the outside late in the game while he was getting checked out, dropping a sure interception in the game’s closing seconds. This group generally gets the job done.
Up-and-down game for the Eagles safeties. It looked like Nate Allen bit on the play action on Jackson’s first touchdown reception (although we can’t be sure). Earl Wolff was late or out of position on several occasions as well.
Then again, both Allen and Wolff made some nice plays in coverage as well, especially down the field. Allen finished with nine tackles.
Patrick Chung also gave a gutsy performance before he left with a shoulder injury again. His blitzing appeared as if it really might’ve been missed, as it was making a difference in both phases during the first few series.
Always hard to tell from the broadcast what the safeties are doing or precisely what they are responsible for on any given play, but not many big gains over to the top to speak of is always a good start. Philadelphia's safeties aren’t necessarily killing the defense, but they certainly aren’t changing games either.
Alex Henery boomed all but two kickoffs out of the end zone and hit his only field-goal try. It was the second consecutive week the third-year place kicker didn’t run into any problems.
The rest of the special teams play was less than spectacular.
Damaris Johnson has been below average as a return man, which might give him pause the next time he decides to bring one out of his own end zone. And Donnie Jones’ best punt of the day to pin the Bucs on their own 1-yard line took a fortuitous 20-yard bounce to wind up there.
There was also the matter of a big punt return going against the Eagles to set Tampa Bay up in scoring with tremendous field position in the first half. Not a backbreaking performance from the special teams, but not good either.