For the Philadelphia Eagles to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium Sunday, they needed to play close to a perfect game. Unfortunately, they were far from perfect. Philadelphia turned the ball over three times, leading to 14 points for Tampa Bay.
After three quarters, the Buccaneers led 31-0 and would defeat the Eagles 31-15 in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
Tom Brady completed 29-of-37 passes in the game for 271 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions.
With the win, Tampa Bay will host the winner of Cardinals-Rams in the divisional round, while the Eagles go home and think about next season.
In his first career playoff start, the 23-year-old Jalen Hurts, the youngest Eagles quarterback to start a playoff game, struggled. He was 23/43 for 258 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions. Many of those 258 yards came when the game was out of reach.
“We didn’t do our jobs good enough, I didn’t do my job good enough – communicating and doing the little things,” Hurts said. “I could have been better, definitely, and I think there are a ton of different areas where we can kind of shoulder this as a team, but I take accountability for my actions and everything.”
The biggest question for the Eagles coming into the season, and the biggest question as the season ends, is Hurts, the team’s franchise quarterback. The second-year quarterback got a ringing endorsement from his head coach postgame.
“Again, we’re all going to say for today’s game he didn’t play his best game, as we all know,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said. “But you don’t take the body of work that he had for 17 weeks – and I know he didn’t play two games, so 15 weeks – and put everything on this game. I know we’re all judged on the last game that we play, I understand that and fully get that, but I felt like Jalen grew throughout the year, and he got better as a passer, and he got better reading the defenses, getting the ball to the right place.
“He developed so much in his ability to extend plays of not only making plays with his feet but also making plays downfield on the scramble. I know the one today; he scrambled and threw the interception. He had some other scrambles that were good throws. So, I feel really good with what we have in place right here at the quarterback position. I thought he had a great year, and he came a long way, and that’s what I expect from Jalen because of the type of football character he has, the type of character he has, the toughness that he has, the love for football that he has. I can’t say enough good things about Jalen, the person, and the player, so I feel good about him. I know again, this wasn’t the game that any of us are going to be satisfied with – me, him, multiple guys on that football team, but I’m really pleased with how he came along this year and the leader he is on this football team.”
Despite the loss, Hurts feels the future is bright in Philadelphia.
“I’m not going to make any expectations for anything, but I know for us as a football team, the sky is the limit,” Hurt said. “And I’ll reiterate, nobody likes this feeling. Nobody likes this feeling. Nobody likes this feeling. We’ll do the things we need to do so we don’t feel this feeling again. I think with the guys that we have, especially in the youth, the young guys we have, we’re hungry. We’re going to come back hungry, but this season was far from a failure. It’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it. So, we’ll take it as a lesson; I’ll definitely take it as a lesson. My third year starts tomorrow.”
The Eagles’ 2021 NFL season was a success, but Philadelphia will have an interesting offseason. They have three first-round picks in the upcoming draft. Do they use those assets to trade for a quarterback, or do they use them to build a team around Hurts?
After the way he played against Tampa Bay, there will be questions about Hurts, and the Eagles will have to answer those questions in the offseason.
The NFL announced Sunday night the schedule of sites, dates, and times for the Divisional Playoffs on January 22-23.
Saturday, January 22:
AFC: 4:30 PM (ET) Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (CBS, Paramount+)
NFC: 8:15 PM (ET) San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (FOX, FOX Deportes)
Sunday, January 23:
NFC: 3:00 PM (ET) Arizona Cardinals or Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(NBC, Peacock, Universo)
AFC: 6:30 PM (ET) Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (CBS, Paramount+)
On Sunday, Jalen Hurts and the upstart Philadelphia Eagles(9-8) will try to go on the road and defeat Tom Brady and the world champion Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Before losing a meaningless game to the Cowboys in Week 18, the second-year quarterback had the Eagles on a four-game winning streak, and after starting 3-6, the Eagles have won six of their final eight games.
In Week 6, Hurts and the Eagles fell to the Buccaneers 28-22 at Lincoln Financial Field. In that game, Philadelphia was down 28-7, but the Eagles trimmed the lead to 28-22 with just under six minutes left, but they could not get the ball back.
Hurts, who was 12/26 for 115 yards, touchdown, interception and two rushing touchdowns in the regular season matchup against Tampa Bay, won big on the collegiate level, including winning a National Championship at Alabama, but this is the NFL, and he’s playing Brady in the playoffs, so it won’t be easy.
According to Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia will have to play very good football to defeat Tampa Bay.
“It’s going to take everybody’s best effort, but the process remains the same of how we go about our business, right? When it’s about the process when you’re process-driven, and you’re results-aware, then you don’t ride the highs and lows of the season,” Sirianni said on Monday.
Sirianni expects Hurts to be ready against the Buccaneers when it’s all said and done.
“I know he’s ready for the next game, which just so happens to be a playoff game, and he’s going to prepare the same way he has prepared,” he said. “I know, from the outside, it looks like it’s a bigger game and everything, but to us, we understand the consequences of losing, and when you win – you’re done if you lose, so we understand that.
“But our process remains the same through it all, and I’m confident in our process. I’m confident in [QB] Jalen [Hurts’] process that he’s going to go out and be ready to play in this game.”
On paper, the Buccaneers are the better team, and for the Eagles to defeat Tampa Bay, they will need Hurts to be at his best, and they will need the team to be at their best.
However, no matter what happens, 2021 is a successful season for the Eagles.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently isolating at home, the team announced Tuesday. Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin will serve as interim head coach in Arians’ absence.
“I tested positive for COVID-19 this morning but have only experienced mild symptoms to this point,” said the 69-year-old Arians. “Harold Goodwin will take over my duties during my absence. I have complete confidence in him and the rest of our coaching staff to prepare the team for this week’s game against the Jets. I look forward to rejoining the team and being back in the facility as soon as I can test back in.”
The Buccaneers also placed cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
In addition, Tampa Bay signed outside linebacker Elijah Ponder to the practice squad and released safety Chris Cooper from the practice squad.
Ponder entered the league as a college free agent with the Buccaneers this offseason. He spent training camp and preseason with Tampa Bay and spent four weeks on the team’s practice squad earlier this season.
The Buccaneers travel to New York to play the Jets on Sunday.