Eagles Defense Can’t Solve Fitz-Magic
(973espn.com) - In the modern NFL nearly every coach subscribes to one thesis: you either get the quarterback or you get to the quarterback.
From a defensive standpoint that's how a former MVP looks pedestrian one week and a long-time journeyman gashes you for over 400 yards with four touchdowns the next.
For the most part, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have kept Ryan Fitzpatrick clean during a 2-0 start and the typically hot-and-cold veteran has responded by throwing darts to big-play receivers all over the field, accumulating eight touchdown passes in two weeks, including the four during a 27-21 win over the Eagles on Sunday.
The mantra of Jim Schwartz's defense coming into the game was no big plays after Fitz-Magic turned the New Orleans defense into his own personal playground a week ago while tossing strike after strike to the talented Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.
The plan didn't even last one play as both Malcolm Jenkins and Jalen Mills bit on a double-move from Jackson, who soon raced into the end zone for a 75-yard score, just the latest home run by the ex-Eagle against the organization he still has some animus toward because of the way Chip Kelly treated him on his way out the door.
"It's on me," Jenkins said. "I have to be in the right position and I wasn't."
Mills also didn't shy away from his own responsibility, explaining, "I need to be better there. We knew they were going to take some shots. It wasn't a surprise at all. They just beat us there."
Lightning struck later in the first when O.J. Howard beat Jordan Hicks on a crossing route before avoiding a Ronald Darby tackle and then following a Chris Godwin escort for another 75-yard kill shot.
"We have to execute, and we didn't," Darby admitted. "We knew how good they were coming in, but we didn't do our jobs. We didn't tighten things up when we needed to."
Meanwhile, Evans, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound monster of a wideout, dominated the intermediate zones as well, hauling in 10-of-12 targets and a 4-yard score.
"Just too many mistakes all day," linebacker Nigel Bradham said.
Overall the Bucs piled up 436 total yards and 7.5 yards per play despite any real semblance of a running game. Typically, making a team one-dimensional is half the battle.
On Sunday, it's where the battle was lost because the Eagles couldn't get to the quarterback on a consistent basis.
"We have to bounce back and we will," Jenkins assessed. "There is a lot of football left, but we have to be better than we played today."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen