After a very surprising win against the Saints, the onus was on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to prove that their season-opening victory was no fluke.
What better opportunity to prove a point against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles?
The Bucs took full advantage of their opportunity, using big plays and key defensive stops to hold the Eagles at bay and start the season 2-0.
Here are this week’s final grades.
You couldn’t have scripted a better start for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneer offense. Fitzpatrick recognized a corner blitz and unloaded a deep pass to DeSean Jackson for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.
Fitzmagic and DeSean Jackson aren't wasting any time... 1st play of the gamepic.twitter.com/VcNGFpPHIE— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) September 16, 2018
But it didn’t take long for the Eagles’ defense to settle in to the game. The next four drives saw the Bucs punt three times and O.J. Howard couldn’t corral a pass from Fitzpatrick that led to an interception.
The Bucs managed just 49 yards on 19 plays through four possessions. Three of those ended in a Bryan Anger punt while the other ended in the aforementioned interception.
Howard made up for miscue soon after, however, as he rumbled 75 yards down the field for a touchdown to break up a 7-7 tie and give Tampa Bay some major momentum. What made the play even better was Chris Godwin finishing a block all the way downfield to ensure Howard made it into the end zone.
OJ Howard turning on the after burners! 13-7 TB leading the defending champs pic.twitter.com/VF1BeNdhkw— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) September 16, 2018
Mike Evans and Godwin pitched in with a touchdown each themselves to push the Bucs’ total offensive output to 27 points for the game. They converted both of their redzone drives for touchdowns as well.
But there were still a few areas where they struggled.
After accumulating an efficient 112 rushing yards against the Saints, the Bucs only gained 43 yards against the Eagles. They also went 8/13 of third down in Week 1 compared to just 4/10 in Week 2.
The running game was absolutely miserable, averaging 1.9 yards per carry. The offensive line also gave up two sacks on the day after giving up zero the week before.
Evans also had a crucial drop in the first half that could’ve advanced the Bucs into Eagles’ territory and Ryan Jensen had a brain fart after a good run by Peyton Barber that resulted in an unnecessary roughing call that put Tampa Bay in a negative-yardage situation.
Despite the miscues, it was a good day for the offense, but there was definitely room for improvement.
Final Grade: 3.0 (B)
There is no doubt that defense had a much better game against the Eagles.
Now they weren’t facing Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, or Michael Thomas - but Nick Foles and co. did put up 41 points against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
They also have arguably the league’s best offensive mind in Doug Pederson.
The defense got off to an amazing start. They forced a three-and-out on the Eagles first possession, but it didn’t stop there. The next three drives totaled 35 yards on 14 plays and one turnover.
The Eagles had to convert two third downs and one fourth down on the next possession in order to get their first touchdown of the game. The defense held their own and was able to force a missed field goal right before halftime.
Philly was faced with another fourth down decision coming out of halftime, but the Bucs were able to stall the drive. Gerald McCoy got his first sack of the season on the next offensive possession for the Eagles, and it looked like the defense was starting to take over.
But the Eagles scored two touchdowns on the next three drives, going 185 yards on 25 plays and converting two fourth downs.
The Bucs deserve major credit on the third touchdown, however, as they stuffed Jay Ajayi three times from inside the eight-yard line before Foles hit Nelson Agholor with a perfect pass on a fade route to the back-right corner of the endzone.
If Tampa Bay were playing any other team than the Eagles, it’s safe to assume the defense would have had a better day due to Philly’s inclinations to go for it on fourth down.
Mike Smith’s defense did their job. Considering the fact that Beau Allen and Chris Conte both left with injuries and did not return, the rookies and depth-players that were left to step up did remarkably well in their place.
Final Grade: 3.0 (B)
That’s all I have to say. Chandler Catanzaro missed a kick for the second straight week. Whether it be an extra point or a field goal - it doesn’t matter. Every point in the NFL matters and the Bucs are already gun-shy when it comes to kickers.
The coverage units were spectacular, but Catanzaro was not. Consecutive misses in as many weeks is not good.
Final Grade: 2.0 (C)
This staff is on fire.
All Todd Monken needs to do is find a way to incorporate an effective second half run game, but at the same time, he should continue to call plays according to game flow. That has been his strength so far and it’s a big reason why the Bucs are 2-0.
The pass on 3rd-and-3 to Evans to ice the game took BAWLZ. Something tells me that Dirk Koetter would’ve called a run up the gut, forcing the Bucs to give the ball back and rely on their not-so-reliable defense to win the game.
Smith on the other hand, had to give many Bucs fans hope. Despite the second half mistakes, the defense looked competent and even dominate at times. As the season progresses, the defense should as well - as long as they’re healthy.
Final Grade: 4.0 (A)
Overall Grade: 3.0 (B)
Just like last week, the Bucs made plenty of plays to win, they just couldn’t ice the game when it mattered most. They must find a way to create a consistent running game and they need to become more consistent on third down.
Call me impatient, but I’m ready to declare Catanzaro a mistake. Two missed kicks in as many games is worrisome and Tampa Bay fans don’t need to play this down as a minor issue.
But as long as the offense continues to perform at this level, it’ll be hard for anyone to beat the Bucs.
It’s on to a gigantic home matchup on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.