McMullen’s Quick Hits: Bucs Blow out Hapless Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - In the end Mark Sanchez never really got a chance to prove his worth as the Eagles' starting quarterback.
A puzzling year for Philadelphia continued as its much-improved defense imploded under the weight of Jameis Winston and Doug Martin Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
There was no truth to the rumors Chip Kelly replaced Bill Davis with Rob Ryan this week but Eagles stop unit allowed a season-high 521 yards in a 45-17 drubbing at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, completed 19-of-29 passes for 246 yards and five touchdowns, while Martin ran it 27 times for 235 yards, including a Bucs' franchise-best 84-yard rumble in the second quarter.
Winston's scoring throws went to five different targets -- Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Russell Shepard, Charles Sims and Cameron Brate -- as he tortured Davis' D with his pinpoint accuracy from the pocket.
"We are watching a young quarterback grow before our eyes," Evans said. "He did not turn the ball over, has five touchdowns which is great. If we have that type of consistency on offense, we will be a really dangerous team.
"In my opinion, he is already one of the best quarterbacks in the league, a top-10 one at least."
Sanchez, playing for the injured Sam Bradford (concussion, shoulder) completed 26-of-41 passes for 261 yards with two TDs and three interceptions, including a late-game pick-six to Lavonte David.
Overall the Eagles offense piled up 383 yards but a lot of that production was meaningless after an early 7-0 advantage quickly turned into a 21-7 deficit midway through the second quarter.
Tampa Bay put the game away with a massive 15-play, 80-yard drive to begin the third quarter that took nearly 10 minutes before Winston capped it with an eight-yard TD pass to Barth.
DeMarco Murray led the Eagles in rushing with 64 yards on 13 carries while Brent Celek was the top pass catcher with seven hauls for 79 yards.
Connor Barwin, who finished the game with six tackles, a tackle for loss, two hurries and two pass breakups, summed up his thoughts in a succinct fashion.
"We kind of (expletive) the bed today," the veteran linebacker admitted.
(Listen to John McMullen discuss the Eagles loss to the Bucs)
For a few minutes Martin had the all-time rushing record by an opponent against the Eagles as he hit the 240 mark, three yards better than performances by two certified legends, Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith.
Then the Eagles defense stiffened (yes, that's sarcasm) and threw Martin back on his final carries a few times. He finished with 235 and his name may not make the top of the media guide but Eagles fans who were forced to leave LFF early in drove will not soon forget the bowling-bowl, like 5-9, 223-pounder.
"We just didn't get the job done," nose tackle Bennie Logan said. "They outplayed us all around. We just have to really let this sink in. It's a good thing we have a short week so that we can get this taste out of our mouths and get ready for Detroit."
Sanchez and Darren Sproles weren't on the same page during the David pick-six and after the play the veteran running back was really hot at Sanchez, barking at the backup QB for the miscue.
“I know that those guys were yelling at each other a little bit and we stopped it,” Kelly said after the game.
Judging by Sproles' reaction the mistake was likely the fault of Sanchez but the blowup only made things worse and was certainly Sproles' fault. It was also an unprofessional reaction unless he is prepared to call out the entire defense for letting him down.
“We’re in the middle of a game where we are getting beat pretty good and I’m pissed that he stopped and he’s mad that I didn’t throw it right to him,” Sanchez explained. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. And so the mature part is that we talked about it again. If we would have left it there and just said, ‘You screwed up’ . . . ‘No, you screwed up’ then move on, well, then now we don’t get to the bottom of it.
"But Sproles, he is a total pro and a great player, and I know as mad as I was, I needed to hear his opinion and he wanted to hear what I had to say and then you move on. And they just made a good play.”
With veteran receiver Jackson active for Bucs, that meant 6-foot-5 and 6-5 outside the numbers for Winston. The imposing size of Jackson and Evans is always an issue when it comes to 50-50 balls and Evans opened the Bucs' scoring with a beautiful eight-yard catch over Nolan Carroll on a perfectly thrown fade by Winston. Jackson got into the action later with his own 13-yard score on a slant, also against Carroll.
Overall Evans caught four balls for 63 yards and Jackson had four for 56 but this isn't fantasy football and their presence on the football field was too much for an Eagles defensive backfield that has played pretty well this season.
"His presence will always be felt by defenses," Evans said when talking about his running mate. "He has been a great receiver for a long time. He made a lot of good plays for us in this game."
THE PETERS PRINCIPLE
He played but he didn't finish.
The mystery surrounding Jason Peters was answered 90 minutes before game time. The veteran All-Pro dressed and as we learned last week, that means he was starting at left tackle, a reality that enabled Lane Johnson to head back to the comfort of the right side and Dennis Kelly to return the bench, more of a comfort for Philadelphia fans.
The line played better but much like Sanchez, it didn't matter because the Philadelphia defense couldn't hold its own water.
By the end of the blowout Peters was back on the bench as Johnson flipped to the left side and Kelly entered but not due to injury, it was as a precautionary measure.
From feels good to feels really dirty.
At some point the Buccaneers are going to lose rookie middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
The mechanics of how we got to this point continue to be an issue. Alexander has had a very good rookie campaign, especially for a fourth-round pick, but he arrived on the national scene for overcoming a person tragedy, being named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 11 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in an overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons back on Nov. 1 just days after his younger brother was shot and killed in their hometown of Anniston, Ala.
That brought a tear to the eye of many and really still should but everything Alexander has accomplished so far is now stained by the fact that he tested positive for PEDs back in training camp.
The Bucs are expecting a letter from the league office Monday informing them of the suspension and everyone should understand there has to be due process in all of these situations. The league doesn't have the power to mandate and immediate implement punishment because the NFLPA is obligated to fight for the rights of their members, be they guilty or not, and has helped collectively bargain a policy that takes far too long and fails to accomplish what it's designed to do.
After all, the whole overblown scourge of PEDs is based on the fact that the drugs create a competitive imbalance. Logic, however, says so does the testing procedures.
Think about it, everyone in the NFL world now knows Alexander is about to get popped for PEDs back in August yet he's already played nine games and was in the middle of the Tampa Bay defense as usual on Sunday in Philadelphia. He'll also continue to play through the appeals process if he so desires.
Is that not affecting the competitive balance of the sport?
The Falcons are in the middle of a playoff push and were victimized by the guy and the Eagles are still in the thick of the moribund NFC East race yet had to deal with an emerging player rather than say the under whelming Bruce Carter. Isn't that tipping the scales toward Tampa Bay?
The NFL's policy on PEDs is every bit the performance changer as the PEDs Alexander is alleged to have been using. The holes of the process, namely transparency and the fact the testing evidently moves at glacial speeds, are readily apparent.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen