Just when it looked like things could get ugly after the opening drive, the defense quickly responded and turned in an excellent performance for the second straight week. Once the Eagles got behind the eight ball, their up-tempo offense played into the Bucs’ favor as Tampa Bay dominated time of possession (35: 54- 24:06) and made Philly’s offense predictable. After getting a 10-minute rest to start the second half, the defense kept the pressure on, limiting Demarco Murray and capitalizing on an erratic Mark Sanchez en route to a commanding 45-17 victory on Sunday. Find out how each position group on defense graded out according to PewterReport.com and share your thoughts.
DEFENSIVE LINE For the second straight week, the defensive line played gap-sound through 3 and a half quarters (other than the opening drive), sealing the edge on the Eagles east and west style of running while giving way to linebackers to make key stops inside.
Will Gholston was particularly strong against the run on Sunday, using speed to his his advantage to chase Murray down on a couple sweeps, while overpowering tight ends (see forced fumble in the first quarter when Brent Celek tries to block him) to make tackles inside. Gholston finished the game with five tackles.
Akeem Spence also played another solid game, with his best play coming in the third quarter when he shed a block by center Jason Kelce to tackle Darren Sproles for a loss.
As for the pass rush, Gerald McCoy contributed with two sacks, one of which on third down in the third quarter to stall an Eagles’ drive that reached the 50-yard line. Whether it was Philadelphia tackle Matt Tobin, who McCoy ran over for the first sack, or Allen Barbre, who McCoy shoved to the ground in the third quarter causing Sanchez to make an off-balanced throw, the three-technique was a force to be reckoned with for the offensive line. It was a long-awaited game for the Bucs dominant defensive tackle.
While Jacquies Smith didn’t have a ton of success trying to get around tackle Lane Johnson, the lack of edge pressure didn’t prove to be costly on Sunday and there seemed to be enough inside pressure to force Sanchez’s hand.
Stopping the run was the name of the game, and the defensive line set the tone for Tampa Bay to hold the Eagles’ backfield for 122 yards on the ground. While stats would show a decent outing from Murray – 13 carries for 64 yards– a few of those runs came during the fourth quarter when the defense, up three scores, was more concerned with preventing big plays and draining the clock. GRADE= A
LINEBACKERS When Lavonte David or Kwon Alexander had an opportunity to make a big play, they made it.
David, coming off a season-best performance from the week before, outplayed himself again on Sunday. The weakside linebacker recorded two interceptions, including one before the half that was perfectly read and another off an overthrown screen that he took back for six, putting the final dagger in the 45-17 win.
Once again, a strong case could be made for Alexander as the defensive MVP for Tampa Bay. The rookie linebacker was a nightmare for Murray, making open field tackles on the star running back all afternoon and single handedly taking a huge element away from the Eagles offense. Whether it was a sweep, handoff or swing pass, Alexander was seemingly always there for the stop and let Murray hear it (see second quarter screen). He finished the game with a team-leading 10 tackles.
Unless it was on special teams, Danny Lansanah’s name wasn’t called too often, though the strongside linebacker contributed with a nice pass breakup to Zach Ertz in the first quarter that prevented a first down. The next play was McCoy’s third-down sack, a needed stop for the Bucs down 7-0.
Overall, the linebacker play was on point for Tampa Bay Sunday, as the unit continues to progress and capitalize on splash play opportunities. GRADE= A
SECONDARY Takeaway a 39-yard screen to Josh Huff that got in front of Sterling Moore and froze Alterraun Verner, and the secondary put together another impressive game.
Moore made up for his first quarter mistake with a few solo tackles on screen passes that went for no gain, while Jude Adjei-Barimah’s name was hardly called – always a good thing for a cornerback. The newest tandem combined for nine tackles on the afternoon, and seem to be in zero jeopardy of losing their job.
At the third level, Chris Conte had another outstanding day against the run and underneath passing game, finishing tied for the team-lead in tackles with 10, while adding an interception in the fourth quarter. Conte also saved what could’ve been a backbreaking run by Murray in the second quarter, stopping him from further damage after Murray spun away from Bradley McDougald.
While the secondary certainly benefited from facing Mark Sanchez, who overthrew receivers and looked confused throughout, it shouldn’t take away from their performance. After a slow start to the season and a myriad of different combinations, the backend seems to be coming along for the Buccaneers and finding its stride in the second half of the season. GRADE= A
SPECIAL TEAMS The cold temperature and windy conditions may have hindered Connor Barth’s ability to kickoff through the end zone, but the weather didn’t affect his place-kicking. Barth finished 1-for-1 on field goal attempts and 6-for-6 on PATs, and despite not kicking through the end zone, 7 of 8 of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.
In regards to kick coverage, it’s well-known that Philadelphia presents one of the most dangerous threats in Darren Sproles, but the Bucs special teams bottled up the 5-foot-6 burner well on Sunday. Danny Lansanah made two stops on punt returns, while George Jeremiah had an open-field tackle on a kickoff in the first quarter. Bobby Rainey is also credited with the the game’s first tackle, starting Philly’s offense at the 17-yard line.
For his part in the return game, Rainey returned five kickoffs for a total of 112 yards (22 yards) and returns of one and five yards on two punts. His best return, however, was called back for an illegal block in the second quarter.
Jacob Schum punted four times, averaging 44 yards, but his best punt (inside the 10-yard line) was also negated due to a penalty. The difference of field position for Philly didn’t prove to be costly. GRADE= A
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: email@example.com
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