On Sunday in Tampa, the Eagles battled their way back and gave themselves a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.
Now, imagine if they didn’t give up two 75-yard bombs.
The Eagles went into their Week 2 game knowing about the Bucs’ deep threats and then on the first play from scrimmage got burned for a 75-yard touchdown. They got burned for another 75-yarder in the second quarter.
At one point, the Buccaneers had run 21 offensive plays. They gained 150 yards on those two touchdowns and just 68 on the other 19. A couple big plays can absolutely ruin a game.
“That’s 14 points, those two plays,” Jalen Mills said after the 27-21 loss. “We take those away, we win the ballgame.”
Let’s take a closer look at those two plays:
At the top of the screen, you’ll see how much of a cushion Jalen Mills is giving DeSean Jackson. He knows the kind of deep threat Jackson is, but it’s still not going to matter.
On the bottom of the screen, we’re going to see a blitz from Ronald Darby, which means Rodney McLeod is going to take over coverage. That leaves Malcolm Jenkins as the single high safety; that’s important to remember.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is looking at DeSean the whole way. He doesn’t care that Mike Evans has single coverage on the bottom of the screen. The Bucs are going deep to start this game. You can see here at the point of the throw, for whatever reason, Jenkins starts driving. But Jackson isn’t pulling up on this route; he’s running a deep post.
“I just vacated the post,” Jenkins said. “Inexcusable mistake.”
Look how far out of the play Jenkins is by the time Jackson catches this ball. Mills admitted his coverage needed to be tighter, but he just doesn’t have to speed to stick with DeSean, who got up over 20 mph on this touchdown.
Mills actually did a good job of cutting off Jackson’s angle and forcing him back inside. If Jenkins hadn’t completely blown his responsibility a few seconds earlier, he would have theoretically been there to make a touchdown-saving tackle. Instead, Mills’ momentum is going one way and Jackson uses a cut to get inside and speed into the end zone.
Just a brutal way to start the game, but the Eagles come back and tie it at 7-7. It looks like that one blemish won’t ruin the afternoon. But another big play is coming.
We’re now in the second quarter and the Bucs have the ball just after the Eagles scored to tie the game.
It’s 1st-and-10 from their own 25-yard line. Bucs TE O.J. Howard is circled in red. He’s going to run a cross, while Jordan Hicks is actually going to provide some pretty tight coverage. You’ll notice RCB Ronald Darby is circled at the top of the screen. Remember that.
We’ve got to give credit to Fitzpatrick, who is just feeling it right now. Not a big window to throw this ball into and if it’s a split second behind, Hicks knocks it down. But Fitz hits Howard perfectly in stride.
This image is pretty damning. It’s shocking to think this play is about to go for a 75-yard touchdown. There are three potential tacklers and just one potential blocker. Howard should have been brought down for a gain of like 15 yards.
But Darby is about to have a really bad missed tackle that takes McLeod out of the play. That will leave Jenkins as the last hope, although he starts jogging toward the play, likely thinking Darby and McLeod should be able to bring Howard down. Didn't like the hustle from him here.
Darby just takes a weird angle and the arm tackle of a big tight end like Howard isn’t going to work. You can see that McLeod was coming over to try to make a play, but Darby actually takes him out. That will leave Howard off to the races and the outside receiver is going to do a nice job blocking against Jenkins, who breaks out of his job into a sprint once Darby misses the tackle. Too late.
“It was just a bad play,” Darby said. “A missed tackle. Get it fixed and move on to next week.”
The Eagles desperately need to get these issues fixed, but it’s not like they didn’t know they couldn’t give up big plays coming into this game. It was a focus during the week. Now, they just need to correct these errors.
This is how good teams can lose games with just a couple big missteps.