For the third consecutive year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won the NFC South and will now be returning for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. This time, they will host a familiar face in a week three rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles. The two teams will square off again on Monday night football.
In case you forgot, the first game between these two teams didn’t go as well as the Bucs would have hoped. It was a 25-11 home loss where the Buccaneers scored a fourth quarter touchdown and two point conversion to make the game look closer than it really was. This marked Tampa Bay’s first loss of the season.
To not repeat the mistakes of the past, it’s important to remember what went wrong in this game. I took some time and went back to rewatch the first game these two played. Here were the important details to remember.
The Eagles offense really had their way in this game. Philly out rushed the Bucs 201 to 41, including 130 rushing yards from De’Andre Swift. They also out gained Tampa Bay in passing yards 271 to 133. That’s a total difference in yards of 472 to 174.
One thing that went in the Buccaneers favor is that they did force a pair of interceptions on Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. Unfortunately, the Bucs committed a pair of turnovers of their own with a Baker Mayfield interception and a Rachaad White fumble.
One thing that really stood out to me was how the Eagles put together long drives. They controlled the time of possession by having the ball for nearly 39:00 minutes of the game. One thing that led to this was the Buccaneers inability to get off the field, allowing the Eagles to convert 10/16 third down attempts and 2 / 3 fourth down attempts.
It was early in the year when these two teams played, so both were relatively healthy. However, there were a few notable injuries in this game. Specifically injuries that impacted the Buccaneers defense.
The Bucs had two current starters who were inactive for this game due to injury. Starting cornerback Carlton Davis missed the game due to a toe injury. Rookie defensive tackle Calijah Kancey also missed this game with a calf injury that he re-aggravated early in his first game after missing most of training camp and the entire preseason.
There were two other starters on the Tampa Bay defense who were questionable going into this game. Linebacker Devin White sustained a groin injury earlier that week and was clearly hampered in the game, specifically when he intercepted a pass and ran out of bounce as opposed to returning it for a large gain. Vita Vea was also limited throughout the week with a pectoral injury.
That’s four key starters, including both starting defensive tackles. This obviously played a big role in the outcome of the game. Would the Bucs have won if those guys were healthy back then? Probably not. But they will certainly make a difference in this week’s game.
I have already mentioned that the Buccaneers first round pick, Calijah Kancey, didn’t play in this game. His impact as a pass rusher is significant and a big absence in the game when you look back on it. However, he isn’t the only new rookie who will be in the starting lineup this time around.
Third round pick Yaya Diaby has also joined the defense as the starting outside linebacker after being a rotational piece for the first few months. There is a case to be made that Diaby is the leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year with his 7.5 sacks which leads all rookies. He will add an element on the edge that the Bucs were lacking in the first game.
Beyond new additions, the experience gained for these rookies have been invaluable since week three. Consider the growth of right guard Cody Mauch who was making his third NFL start back then after playing his college ball at North Dakota State. Or Christian Izien, who the Bucs signed as an undrafted free agent to be their starting nickel. Or sixth round pick Trey Palmer who has since emerged as the Buccaneers third wide receiver with his blazing fast speed.
The Bucs have depended on many rookies this season. The difference in their development between week three and week nineteen is significant. That much is obvious when looking back on the first game against Philadelphia.
This was an ugly game for the Bucs. They were beaten in every conceivable way in a dominating Philadelphia win. If Todd Bowles and his staff don’t learn from this game, then history will surely repeat itself.
However, this is a very different Tampa Bay team now. Nearly half the starters on the defense will be healthy in this game that weren’t in the first game. It’s also worth noting that the Buccaneers have won five of their last six games while the Eagles have lost five of their last six.
We can learn a lot from the week three matchup these two played, but in all reality these are totally different teams now.