The three best takeaways of the Buccaneers vs. Eagles

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1. The balanced offense seems here to stay.

I’m going to stress again the time of the battle for possession because I really think that’s one of the most important indicators of a win. It was another unbalanced advantage for the Bucs as they held the ball for 39:56 versus 8:04 for Philadelphia.

It was really unbalanced at first. The Eagles offense didn’t even get the ball in the first quarter… and I’m not entirely exaggerating. They scored on their first possession of the game, which took 3:58 and then didn’t get the ball back until 33 seconds were left. That’s because the Bucs have run back-to-back 75-yard practices, one that took 5:34 clock and the other took 5:28, both ending in scores. It’s about as efficient as it gets.

Even outside linebacker Shaq Barrett said it was the fastest quarterback ever, saying after the game he felt like they were just watching the offense work the entire quarterback.

A big part of that is the Bucs’ focus on racing lately. The first downs are almost split midway through this season, with Tampa Bay choosing to spend 55 percent of the time and throw the ball on the first down 45 percent of the time. They now have over 100 rushing yards in the last three games, which have all been wins and all come in the last 11 days, come to think of it.

It’s gotten to the point where the Bucs don’t have to “set the race” on a game-by-game basis and can start with effective playing action play, which Brady is good at. In fact, according to NFL Next Generation stats, Brady used playing action on four of his six setbacks in the Bucs’ first practice of the game Thursday night and completed three of four passes for 40 yards and a touch.

That being said, the Bucs ended up throwing the ball 31 times Thursday night, although Brady still attempted 42 passes. Hey, the offense had a lot of ball, remember? Most of those 31 runs went to running back Leonard Fournette, who received the call 22 times. Two of those times were right in the end zone. Fournette’s one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter boosted the Bucs’ odds of winning to 98.4 percent, according to Next Gen Stats.

“He’s a great fullback,” Brady said of Fournette after the game. “He’s tall, strong, catches him, runs, blocks, does everything for us. [It’s] great to have it in there. Obviously when it’s rolling it’s hard to stop. “

And while Fournette deservedly gets a lot of credit, the unsung heroes of the ground play effort are the Bucs’ offensive line. Fournette’s two touchdowns came with major help from right tackle Tristan Wirfs. I think I could have crossed the path bulldozed by Wirfs during Fournette’s second touchdown. Wirfs also shared with us this week’s line-up last week, saying Brady had actually met the line and full-backs every Friday to work on race blocking plans and make sure everyone world was on the same wavelength. It is clearly paying dividends on many levels and the Bucs should be looking to maintain what they started.

2. The defense had a great plan to face their first double-threat quarterback of the season.

The Bucs have done a great job pulling out runs designed for quarterback Jalen Hurts, which he can generally be good at. Midway through the second quarter, Tampa Bay had already registered a few tackles for a loss to the Eagles signalman. They have also won races designed by real backers, except for a period in the fourth quarter with the match ending, forcing Hurts to do what he could in the air most of the time or to stand scramble to get as much as he could.

“Yeah, that’s about all the offense they had,” Arians said after the game. “They did a few runs late when we were playing pass defense. Just him traveling, taking him out of his pocket, improvising. I liked the way we handled all of the design games, these improvised games that are difficult. “

They only allowed the Eagles 213 total attacking yards. Hurts attempted 26 passes but only completed 12, giving him a dismal 46% completion rate. In addition to his interception from Hurts, it was cornerback Jamel Dean who alone counted for four breakage passes. Hurts gained 44 yards on the ground as he struggled to move the chains as much as he could. Philadelphia was only 16 and was only eight in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs’ defense seemed to make their best James Bond impression for most of the game, deploying spies on Hurts to make sure he couldn’t escape the pocket and burn them. And despite how elusive he can be, they had two sacks on them and a total of seven quarterback hits. Hurts attempted eight passes under pressure and completed only two, while being intercepted once.

In the first three quarters, the Eagles only managed 99 offensive yards. They’ve received more penalty yards than actual attacking yards at this point, which brings me to my next point …

3. Penalties were only a glaring problem.

Because as manual as this game was for the Buccaneers, these penalties certainly weren’t. Tampa Bay gave the Eagles 95 yards on just two defensive pass interference penalties. It’s an extreme case, of course, but the second DPI led straight to seven points, which put Philadelphia back into the game, if only for a brief period. In total, the Bucs have committed seven penalties (again), for a total of 120 yards.

As bad as it sounds, a lot of those penalties just come from aggressive play and very few are the dreaded pre-snap penalties that the Bucs are really trying to limit. In fact, only two of the seven were penalties before the snap. And at the end of the day, if this is the biggest problem Tampa Bay is facing right now, hopefully they will be able to fix it. The Bucs did so last season, turning into one of the least penalized teams in the league after Week 4. They might just take a little longer to go around.


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