Eagles complete nosedive, go splat vs. Bucs in playoffs

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) is sacked for a safety in the end zone by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Anthony Nelson (98). (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Whiffed tackles. Bad coverage. Missed passes. A bad game plan. Even worse body language.

Really, the script for the Philadelphia Eagles’ playoff loss could have been any of their games since the start of December. Somehow, someway, the Eagles went from a 10-1 start to this season as defending NFC champs to losing six of their last seven, including a miserable 32-9 wild-card playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night. The Buccaneers move on to play the Detroit Lions. Philadelphia made the same mistakes that it made consistently as it blew the NFC East late in the season.

The Eagles, with arguably the most talented roster in the NFL from top to bottom, suddenly turned into one of the worst teams in football after a 10-1 start. It’s going to be a long offseason figuring out what comes next. Head coach Nick Sirianni, who had the Eagles a quarter away from a Super Bowl title just 11 months ago, can’t feel completely safe. The Eagles’ collapse was so complete on both sides of the ball, no change seems too extreme.

The Eagles’ late-season slide wasn’t just about the losses. It was who they lost to and how. They looked detached as the season slipped away. They lost to some bad teams down the stretch, and some of their losses were uncompetitive blowouts. The Buccaneers were just 9-8 and won the worst division in football, and on Monday the Eagles were completely outclassed by them.

None of it will go over well in Philadelphia.

Eagles slump doesn’t end

The Eagles were bad for the final six weeks of the regular season and that carried into their playoff opener.

The Buccaneers jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead. The big play was a 44-yard touchdown to David Moore that was helped by a few failed tackle attempts.

They made it 13-0 early in the second quarter. The Eagles were flat and had a strange game plan. With A.J. Brown inactive with a knee injury, the Eagles threw the ball on 12 of their first 15 plays instead of trying to get their running game going. At halftime, Jalen Hurts, who was dealing with a finger injury that affected his grip, had 20 passing attempts and the Eagles had only run it five times.

DeVonta Smith did keep Philadelphia in the game. He had 111 yards in the first half, including a 55-yard catch to set up the Eagles’ only touchdown. The Eagles went for the 2-point conversion after the Bucs were offsides on the extra point attempt, but Tampa Bay‘s defense stopped a “Brotherly Shove,” in part because of a facemask that wasn’t called.

The Buccaneers led 16-9 at halftime and it should have been more. They had plenty of dropped passes. The Eagles hadn’t played that well but were still in the game.

Buccaneers get a safety and then a long TD

The third quarter was a slog for both teams until a disastrous sequence for the Eagles.

On a third down, Hurts retreated into his end zone and had no way out against Tampa Bay’s pass rush. He tried throwing it away but it was intentional grounding in the end zone, which is a safety. Two plays later, Trey Palmer had a short catch on the sideline and poor tackling and pursuit allowed Palmer to go 56 yards for a touchdown. The Buccaneers led 25-9 after that.

That pretty much ended the game. The Eagles didn’t have much fight late in the season. Before the game on Monday there were stories of Hurts being disappointed with the offensive scheme and Hurts’ shortcomings as a leader. As the Buccaneers went out to a big lead on Monday night, the Eagles looked like a team that couldn’t wait for the offseason to start so they could get away from each other.

Late in the game, Bucs QB Baker Mayfield threw a touchdown to Chris Godwin. ESPN’s broadcast immediately showed three Eagles fans in the stands with bags on their heads. That scene would have been unfathomable a month and a half ago. The Eagles weren’t quite as good as their 10-1 record then, but they were still 10-1 and not far removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Then it all fell apart.

The Eagles will disperse for their offseason a lot sooner than expected. Based on how bad the season ended, many of the players and coaches might not make it back to Philly for next season. Get ready for a loud and tumultuous offseason for the Eagles.

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