ReFo: Eagles @ Buccaneers, Week 14
One team needed the win to improve their chances of making the playoffs and the other had seemingly quit on their head coach weeks ago, but somehow it was the latter that rallied from two scores down in the fourth quarter to grab the win. It will be a game that Eagles rookie quarterback, Nick Foles will never forget, orchestrating two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to steal his first ever win in the NFL from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If Tampa Bay misses the playoffs by one game, this will be the one that they play over in their heads time after time all offseason. After being outplayed most of the first half, two missed field goals and a muffed punt gave the Bucs an opportunity to take control of the game. They seemingly had done just that, going up by 11 with a little over seven minutes left, but the defense couldn’t hold twice and the Bucs lost a pivotal game.
There were some spectacular efforts that dictated this outcome, so let’s delve into them a little deeper.
Philadelphia — Three Performances of Note
If there is anything that can salvage the 2012 season for Eagles fans, it would be the emergence of a franchise quarterback. We won’t anoint Foles (+6.1) based on one great game, especially because it came against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, but on this day he looked like the real deal. Eliminating spikes and balls he threw away, Foles finished 32 of 46 for 381 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Most impressive was that he did most of that damage on the final two drives of the day with the game on the line. His biggest pass of the game came on fourth down with time running out when he hit Jason Avant on a post in between defenders to bring the ball to the 1-yard line. The play that followed would be another good throw on a rollout, hitting Jeremy Maclin for the game-winning touchdown. Foles did a great job of recognizing blitzes and making throws to beat a blitz, something Eagles quarterbacks have struggled with this season. He finished 9 of 15 for 115 yards when blitzed.
Over the years Jason Avant has made a few one-handed catches, but his best may have been early in the game to set up an Eagles score. Avant (+3.5) corralled a pass floated by Foles near the sideline with one hand and was able to stay in bounds for the completion. While that reception was his prettiest, it wasn’t nearly the biggest. Avant was a dependable outlet all game catching 7 of the 10 balls thrown his way for 133 yards and zero drops. His fourth-down catch to set up the game-winning score was the biggest of all the catches, but Avant made plays all game and Foles’ QB rating when throwing to Avant was 112.5.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had the type of game that Philadelphia expected when they traded for him last season. Rodgers-Cromartie (+2.7) was a target for the Bucs, being thrown at nine times, but he allowed only two receptions for 11 yards. Tampa Bay wanted to throw at DRC when he was matched-up with receiver Vincent Jackson, but on four pass attempts only one would be complete to Jackson. Conversely, Nnamdi Asomugha (-0.9) the Eagles other cornerback had a rough day in coverage. Asomugha allowed five of the seven passes thrown his way to be completed for 101 yards and a touchdown. As strong as Rodgers-Cromartie was against Jackson, Asomugha struggled. Jackson caught all three passes thrown his way when matched-up with Asomugha. The best part of the game for the entire Eagles secondary was the lack of a complete coverage bust in the entire 60 minutes.
Tampa Bay — Three Performances of Note
Off Day for Freeman
Buccaneers quarterback, Josh Freeman (-1.8) was a little off for most of the game. He never seemed to settle into a rhythm, finishing the game 14 of 32 on his graded passes. All year Freeman’s struggles have come when he is under pressure, and this game was no different. When under pressure Freeman didn’t complete a pass, going 0 of 9, and many of those nine were way off target. As soon as he feels pressure he rushes his throws and becomes extremely inaccurate. His QB rating with no pressure was a very impressive 106.9, but against pressure just 39.6. Freeman was at his best when throwing to his favorite receiver, Vincent Jackson. The former Charger was exactly the sort of safety blanket the Bucs were looking for in this game, with Freeman collecting a passer rating of 146.8 on passes in his direction, however that comfort didn’t manifest itself into a better all-around performance by Freeman.
Taking advantage of a weak Eagles offensive line, defensive end Michael Bennett (+7.1) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (+7.3) had very impressive games. Both were in the Eagles’ backfield on nearly every snap. Bennett abused Eagles right tackle Dennis Kelly all game, finishing with six hurries, two hits and two sacks, and wreaking havoc on the Eagles’ passing game all day. He also made plays in the running game, making four stops. McCoy was just as disruptive, dominating right guard, Jake Scott. McCoy finished with five hurries, one hit and two sacks. On a third down early in the third quarter, McCoy slipped right by Scott for an easy sack. The left side of the Bucs’ defensive line whipped the right side of the Eagles’ offensive line.
One of the biggest plays of Ronde Barber’s career was an interception against the Eagles in the NFC Championship game to send the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl. This game wasn’t nearly as big, but Barber (+4.6) had another big performance. Playing almost exclusively in the box, roaming around, Barber just kept making tackles. He finished with nine tackles total, and when called upon to blitz he generated two quarterback hurries. On one play, he took on a block from King Dunlap, who has nearly 200 pounds on Barber, to stop a screen pass that could have been a big gain. Barber was solid in coverage too, allowing just four receptions for 54 yards.
— Defensive end Brandon Graham played 48 snaps, his highest total this season in his first game without Jim Washburn as his coach
— Tight end Dallas Clark was limited both by his own team and the opposition, collecting only 33 snaps and being limited to one reception
— Bryce Brown averaged 0.5 yards per carry on 12 attempts after averaging 8.0 yards per carry the previous two weeks
PFF Game Ball
Nick Foles gets his first career win as a starter, and his first career PFF game ball. Two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, a game winning throw as time expired and he was the Eagles leading rusher with 27 yards.
Follow John on Twitter: @PFF_Castellane