TAMPA — Want to see an Eagle fly? Check out the 26-yard run by running back D’Andre Smith, who hurdled skyward over safety Antoine Winfield Jr. during Monday night’s 25-11 win over the Bucs.
Smith chose to go over defenders on that third-quarter play, but most of the time Philadelphia ran through Tampa Bay’s second-ranked run defense.
The Eagles held a huge 201-41 advantage in rushing yards, even though the Bucs entered the game second only to Philadelphia in stopping the run, allowing 54 yards per game. Running back D’Andre Swift did most of the damage, rushing 16 times for 130 yards.
“I tell you what, when I left the game, I thought it was a lot worse than it was,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said Tuesday. “I just thought they killed us. Then watching the film this morning, we mis-fit some things and had some self-inflicted wounds.
“I thought they schemed up one of our defenses pretty good and got two runs out of it, which was good on their part. Then I thought we kind of mis-fit or ran out of our gaps on certain things, which is encouraging because it can be corrected. But at the same time, you don’t want it to happen.”
The score could have been much worse. Philadelphia was 1-for-5 in the red zone. Its first drive ended when safety Ryan Neal stopped Kenneth Gainwell for no gain on fourth and 1 at the Tampa Bay 14-yard line.
After that, any time the Eagles faced a short-yardage situation, they deployed the tush push, a quarterback sneak method not outlawed by the NFL in which players get behind Jalen Hurts and shove him forward.
The Eagles finished 10-for-16 on third-down conversions and 2-for-3 on fourth down.
“We have to focus on us, get back to the drawing board,” Bucs linebacker Lavonte David said. “We always make an emphasis on stopping the run, and we didn’t do that (Monday). Now we’re going against a division opponent, going into a hostile environment (Sunday at New Orleans), so we have to be ready for whatever they throw at us.”
The 201 rushing yards feel like an outlier, but the Bucs had the same problem last season against two teams that emphasized the run. The 49ers rolled up 209 yards on the ground, and the Ravens tallied 231. Prior to that, there were only a pair of 200-yard rushing games against Tampa Bay in the previous decade.
“It’s not ideal,” defensive tackle Greg Gaines said of an opponent rushing for 200 yards in a game. “They executed really well, and they’re really efficient with their blocks, getting a hat for a hat.”
Meanwhile, the Bucs’ run-happy offense under Dave Canales got nothing done on the ground.
Tampa Bay was limited to 41 yards on 17 carries for a 2.4-yard average while picking up only one rushing first down. The Bucs are averaging only 78 yards per game and 2.79 per carry, which is last in the NFL.
“We’ve got to stay on our blocks a little longer, and obviously it goes hand in hand,” Bowles said. “(Running back) Rachaad (White) has got to hit it. I think he tried to make too many big plays when it was a grind-out type of game. You’re not going to get big plays on these guys.
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“You’ve got to start hitting it up in there, getting 2, 3 and 4 yards and hoping you’re going to break one later on. But he probably had too many cuts trying to make an explosive play, something out of nothing, as opposed to taking what they give him. Then, given the magnitude of the game, knowing it was going to be one of those games, he can get better that way, and he will.”
Carlton Davis missed his second straight game with a toe injury, and fellow cornerback Jamel Dean didn’t finish the game due to a shoulder injury. At one point, Dee Delaney left too, before returning on special teams. Bowles said he had no update Monday morning.
“I don’t know much right now until they come in and get checked out,” Bowles said. “I did see Dee Delaney go back in on special teams, so that was encouraging. I’ll find out how bad these guys are in a little while.”
Outkicking the coverage?
Punter Jake Camarda had another strong game, averaging 57.5 yards per punt, including a career-high 73-yarder. But the Bucs only netted 37.3 per punt, thanks mostly to a 52-yard return by Britain Covey.
“We got to be able to tackle, especially when it’s single outside on gunners,” Bowles said. “We’ve got to be able to force fair catches. We’ve got a lot of young guys playing special teams from an experience standpoint, but we’ve got to learn to play off each other much better than that.
“We made plays the first two weeks. I don’t think we made them (Monday) night. We want him to kick them. When we’re backed up, we want him to put it out there. We’ve got to run down and cover.”
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