Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds offers up his analysis on how Tampa Bay's
defense played against Philadelphia and its rookie tandem of QB Nick Foles and RB Bryce Brown in the Bucs' stunning, 23-21 loss to the Eagles, and
dishes out the game grades for each defensive unit and the Bucs special
With legendary Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp in attendance, Tampa Bay’s defensive line started out hot with a pair of sacks in the first quarter by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett. McCoy’s sack was his first since the Bucs played the Cowboys in Week 3 and he added another one in the third quarter to finish with two on Sunday. McCoy played his best game as a pro with five tackles, three tackles for loss, three quarterback sacks and two sacks, which tied his career high and gives him a career-high five on the year.
Bennett also notched two QB captures to push his 2012 total to a team-leading and career-high nine sacks. Bennett, who is in a contract year, had a career-high four tackles for loss and moves ahead of Lavonte David for the team lead in tackles for loss this season with 15 as David has 14 this year.
Defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim had a sack in the second quarter, which was his third of the season. He finished the game with two tackles and a tackle for loss, but was flagged for not getting off the field in time during Philadelphia’s final scoring drive, which resulted in Tampa Bay having 12 men on the field. That infraction cost the Bucs five yard and made the Eagles’ touchdown drive easier.
Nose tackle Gary Gibson started in place of the injured Roy Miller and had a tackle and a quarterback hurry. Fellow defensive tackle Corvey Irvin also br>Defensive ends Aaron Morgan and Da’Quan Bowers didn’t show up on the stats sheet, but played well with some quarterback pressures and Bowers’ penetration on a run play in the first quarter resulted in one of Bennett’s tackles for loss.
The Bucs defensive line accounted for five of the team’s six sacks and took away the running game by limiting Bryce Brown to just six yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Nick Foles accounted for 27 yards of Philadelphia’s 29 rushing yards on three carries as the Eagles averaged just 1.8 yards per carry.GRADE = A-LINEBACKERS
A week after notching his first career interception, weakside linebacker Lavonte David recorded his first NFL sack against Philadelphia. David tied for the team lead with nine tackles on Sunday, and saved a touchdown in the fourth quarter by pushing Jeremy Maclin out of bounds on a wide receiver screen that picked up 24 yards. David leads the Bucs and all rookie defenders this year with 117 tackles and is second on the team with 14 tackles for loss.
Middle linebacker Mason Foster had a very quiet game with three tackles and didn’t make any splash plays against the Eagles.
Strongside linebacker Adam Hayward played sparingly as the Bucs played a lot of nickel and dime defense and he notched one tackle.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers helped in shutting down Philadelphia’s ground game, but didn’t make enough plays in the passing game in coverage or on blitzes – outside of David’s sack – to make a real difference against Foles.GRADE = B-DEFENSIVE BACKS
Foles, a rookie quarterback making his fourth NFL start on Sunday against the Buccaneers, was able to shred Tampa Bay’s secondary for 381 yards and two touchdowns – both of which came in the fourth quarter. The Bucs defensive backs allowed eight passing plays of 20 yards or more on Sunday, which is unforgivable. Philadelphia wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant combined for 16 catches for 237 yards and one touchdown against Tampa Bay.
Bucs rookie strong safety Mark Barron has seen his play fall off in recent weeks and had just three tackles on Sunday. Barron gave up Foles’ first touchdown, which was an 11-yard strike to tight end Chad Harbor on third-and-7 and didn’t make any plays in the passing game.
The secondary’s best player on Sunday was free safety Ronde Barber, who had nine solo tackles to lead the Bucs, including a tackle for loss. Likely at head coach Andy Reid’s direction, Foles avoided throwing the ball in Barber’s direction.
Cornerback Anthony Gaitor saw his first action of the 2012 season after being activated from injured reserve and got his first NFL start at nickel cornerback. Gaitor played very well and showed promise while recording three tackles and breaking up two passes.
Fellow cornerback E.J. Biggers was fair in coverage, breaking up two passes while making six tackles, but he was often giving the receivers he was covering too much cushion.
Rookie cornerback Leonard Johnson had three tackles and one tackle for loss, but gave up several plays in the passing game, including the game-winning touchdown pass to Maclin on the final play of regulation.
Foles was able to find wide-open receivers for big gains all day, as there were numerous breakdowns in coverage. If a rookie like Foles put up 381 yards against this secondary, what is a veteran like Drew Brees going to do next week in New Orleans? In recent weeks Barber’s play continues to be the lone redeeming quality of Tampa Bay’s secondary.GRADE = D-SPECIAL TEAMS
For the first time all year, Bucs kicker Connor Barth did not attempt a field goal in one of Tampa Bay’s games. He was perfect on all three of his extra points.
Punter Michael Koenen struggled on Sunday, averaging 42.4 yards per punt with a 34.9-yard net. Koenen had two punts downed inside the 20-yard line, but also had two touchbacks. While one his punts was muffed by Damaris Johnson at the Philadelphia 5-yard line and recovered by linebacker Dekoda Watson, Koenen’s final effort of the day traveled just 31 yards and gave the Eagles great field position at their own 36 for their final touchdown drive.
Johnson averaged just seven yards per punt return on five attempts with his longest traveling 18 yards. Kick returner Brandon Boykin averaged 27.5 yards per kick return with a long of 32 on Sunday.
Punt returner Roscoe Parrish had his best day as a Buccaneer, returning five punts 63 yards for a 15.8-yard average. His 30-yard punt return was the Bucs’ longest of the year.
Tiquan Underwood returned two kickoffs on Sunday while filling in for the injured LeQuan Lewis. He averaged 23.5 yards per kick return with a long of 25.
Watson’s recovery of Johnson’s muffed punt was the highlight on special teams for Tampa Bay, while Koenen’s poor punt in the fourth quarter greatly aided Philadelphia on its final touchdown drive to win the game.GRADE = B-
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