On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs will face an Eagles defense that has struggled for much of 2013, especially against the pass. That, combined with an up-tempo Philadelphia offense that routinely puts up lots of points of its own, means the temptation might be to let loose on offense, throw the ball all over the field, and turn the game into a shootout.
However, the Bucs will still be featuring a rookie quarterback, Mike Glennon, making his second-ever NFL start, and a running back, Doug Martin, who ranks fourth in the league in rushing yards per game. Thus, despite the possibility that Sunday’s contest could turn into a high-flying, high-scoring affair, Head Coach Greg Schiano says the Tampa Bay offense will stick to its roots – a healthy dose of Martin, and hopefully even more production out of the Bucs’ talented young runner.
“Certainly we’re working on our run game and Doug’s a huge part of that,” Schiano said. “He’s performed at a high level this year in individual games, it’s just when you look at the body of work, we haven’t, as a unit, performed at the level that we want to.
“But certainly, Doug is a big part of that, so part of our self-evaluation [over the bye week] was just that – How are we going to be more effective in the run game? What are we running? Are we running the stuff we’re best suited to do, built to do? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, so that’s where the tweaks and adjustments are made.”
Defensively, the Bucs are in for a challenge, as the aforementioned Philadelphia offense has gotten off to a fast start this season – literally. Under first-year Head Coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles have assumed a similar offensive style to Kelly’s former Oregon Ducks teams – up-tempo, as many snaps as possible, little time to rest or substitute for the defense, and a variety of looks in both the running and passing game.
Schiano said the Philadelphia offense will present a unique test for the Bucs defense, especially due to the speed at which it is run. But, interestingly, Schiano says it’s the changing of speeds that is particularly difficult to prepare for.
“Well, you see people getting penalties, you see people not ready to play, so [the Eagles’ tempo] definitely has an effect,” Schiano said. “But it’s not that they do it every play. It’s the ability they have to do it whenever they want to. That’s what makes it a little tricky. You have to respect the fact that they could do it each and every play, although they don’t do it each and every play – I mean go super up-tempo.
“That’s going to be the challenge, and they lull you to sleep a little bit. You’re okay, you’re okay, and then bang – they hit the gas pedal and you’re not ready to go. Substitution, matching personnel, and being ready to play are three things we’ve got to be really alert to.”
On the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles, the biggest question mark heading into Sunday’s contest will be the availability of starting quarterback Michael Vick. Vick picked up a hamstring injury in last week’s game against the Giants, but has overseen an offensive unit that currently ranks second in the NFL in total yards per game, on average, and features the league’s top-ranked rushing attack (thanks in no small part to the 307 rushing yards Vick has amassed himself through five games).
It may not be until close to kickoff that the Eagles announce who will line up under center – either Vick or Nick Foles – but Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan says that despite Vick’s incredible athleticism, Foles is equally capable of running the Philadelphia offense at much the same level.
“I think the only difference might be a little bit more passing, as corny and simple as that sounds,” Sheridan said. “But they’ll still run the same rushing attack – or at least we’re anticipating that – and still with the ability for [Foles] to disconnect and run it himself. If you just avalanche down on the running back, they’re not going to foolishly hand it off to him. They’re going to run the same run concept, and if you do that, [Foles will] disconnect and he’ll run around the end. Even if he just slide-tackles himself, if you don’t defend it, it’s going to be a five-, six-, seven-yard gain.
“You think about what a threat Vick is with his scrambling ability, but really – we played this guy last year – Nick is very athletic and has no problem getting out of pressure and running the ball and getting first downs by running the ball. He did it to us last year in our game. He’s still a pain in the neck that way, just like Vick would be.”
Defensively, the Eagles have struggled in 2013, especially in stopping opponents’ aerial attacks. The Philadelphia defense currently ranks 31st in the league in total defense, and 29th against the pass.
Despite those potentially tantalizing numbers for an opposing offense, Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan says the Bucs can’t afford to overlook anyone and will be prepared for a hard-fought battle.
“I know [Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator] Bill Davis and he’s a heck of a coach,” Sullivan said. “I spent a year with him there in New York in 2004, and I know he’ll have those guys ready to go. It’s a talented group, and they present problems from the standpoint of being the 3-4 [defense] with odd spacing and then being able to do some even spacing, and the pressures.
“They did a heck of a job against the Giants [last week] and there are some similarities structurally to what the Giants do offensively to what we do offensively. We know that we’re going to have a heck of a challenge and right now our focus is just on the things we need to get better at and moving forward.”
Philadelphia leads the all-time series with Tampa Bay, 7-5, in the regular season, and the two teams have split four playoff matchups.
With Philadelphia’s 23-21 victory in 2012, the Eagles have won the last two meetings and four out of the last six. The two teams first met in 1977 in Philadelphia, a 13-3 Eagles win. Philadelphia also grabbed victories in 1981 (20-10 in Philadelphia), 1988 (41-14 in Tampa) and in the 2001 regular season finale in Tampa, one week before the two teams met in the NFC Wild Card game in Philadelphia. The 2001 regular season meeting, originally scheduled for September 16, 2001, was postponed until January 6, 2002 because of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The Eagles also defeated Tampa Bay in the 2002 regular season with a 20-10 victory at the Vet in October. The Bucs recorded their first win over Philadelphia in Tampa in 1991 with a 14-13 victory and also earned a 21-6 win in Philadelphia in 1995 and a 19-5 victory at the Vet in 1999. In the inaugural game played at Lincoln Financial Field, Tampa Bay took a 17-0 season-opening win at Philadelphia (9/8/03) on Monday Night Football.
The two teams have been familiar foes in the playoffs, having met four times. Three of those four meetings occurred between 2000-02, with Tampa Bay advancing to its first Super Bowl with a 27-10 victory in the NFC Championship Game in 2002. Philadelphia ended Tampa Bay’s season at Veterans Stadium following both the 2000 and 2001 regular seasons. The Eagles downed the Bucs, 21-3, in a Wild Card game (12/31) in 2000 and again the following year in a 31-9 win (1/12/02). Tampa Bay notched a 24-17 victory in an NFC Divisional playoff at Tampa in 1979, the first postseason game in franchise history.
Click here for more details on the all-time Buccaneers-Eagles series.
|Player ||Injury ||Game Status |
|CB ||Knee ||Out |
|CB ||Illness ||Questionable |
|S ||Hamstring ||Probable |
|T ||Illness ||Probable |
|TE ||Ankle ||Probable |
|S ||Foot ||Probable |
|DT ||Knee ||Probable |
|DE ||Shoulder ||Probable |
|CB ||Hamstring ||Probable |
|G ||Foot ||Questionable |
|WR ||Hamstring ||Questionable |
|Player ||Injury ||Game Status |
|LB Connor Barwin ||Knee ||Probable |
|CB Brandon Boykin ||Groin ||Probable |
|TE James Casey ||Groin ||Questionable |
|S Patrick Chung ||Shoulder ||Probable |
|P Donnie Jones ||Left Foot ||Probable |
|RB Chris Polk ||Ankle ||Probable |
|QB Michael Vick ||Hamstring ||Questionable |
|T Jason Peters || Finger ||Probable |
BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: QB MIKE GLENNON
Unsurprisingly for a rookie quarterback making his first-ever start in the NFL, there were some good moments for Mike Glennon in the Week 4 loss to Arizona, and some not-so-good ones too.
Fortunately, with the Bucs’ bye week coming immediately after that game, Glennon was afforded some extra time to not only review his performance but prepare for the next task at hand – the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I think the bye week came at a great time – just to be able to watch that film a few times, you get more comfortable and then get the extra practice in last week and then get a jumpstart on Philly,” Glennon said. “To be able to watch the film and kind of get the game plan ahead of time has helped my preparation and will help us have a better feel for things come the game.”
While Glennon’s focus will have obviously been on the Eagles’ defensive unit all week, he knows the up-tempo, high-scoring Philadelphia offense may prove tough to keep up with in terms of putting points on the board.
“They’re definitely an explosive offense,” Glennon said. “I know they’re one of the top offenses in the league right now, and we know we’re going to have to do our share on offense to score points and stay on the field as long as possible. We know the task at hand with their explosive offense. It brings a task, for us as an offense, to keep them off the field and for us to score more points than them.”
The Philadelphia defense may provide ample opportunities to do just that. Currently ranked as one of the most generous defenses in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game – particularly through the air – the Eagles could afford Glennon the chance to do some damage with his arm.
But, Glennon says feeding the ball to running back Doug Martin is still the first priority, and an effective rushing attack will only benefit him and the Bucs’ passing game – and vice versa.
“Teams are kind of loading the box up right now, because [Martin] is a great running back and we have great offensive linemen, so that’s what they’re going to do until we prove that we can throw the ball over the top of them and make them get out of it,” Glennon said. “That’s something we know will happen and something that we’ll prepare for, but we’ll also prepare for other things that they do. We feel confident in our passing game as well.”
Despite how quickly the Eagles move on offense or how porous the Philadelphia defense might be, Glennon says earning a win on Sunday will come down to one simple thing – execution.
“At the end of the day, it’s really just about scoring more points than the opponent,” Glennon said. “That’s our job as the offense: to score more points than them. We’re just going to take it one play at a time, one series at a time, and hopefully, along the way, we’ll improve as an offense from previous weeks. But really, we’re just focusing on winning and scoring more points than them.”
KEY MATCHUP: BUCCANEERS DE ADRIAN CLAYBORN VS. EAGLES T JASON PETERS
Earlier this week, noting Adrian Clayborn’s nonstop approach on the field and his ever-increasing confidence in a surgically-repaired knee, Head Coach Greg Schiano predicted that Clayborn would soon start producing big numbers.
“I think what he’s doing is he’s getting more precise now that he’s getting his football legs underneath him and he’s back from the injury,” said Schiano. “I don’t think he thinks about any of that anymore. I think what we’re going to see is his game’s going to go [up] as far as productivity, because when you play as hard as he does, it’s a matter of time. He plays so hard that he’s disruptive.”
Clayborn has one of the Bucs’ 13 sacks, the team’s best production through the first quarter of the season since 2000. If he does indeed add significantly to his total, Tampa Bay might have one of the most dangerous pass-rush units in the league. And disrupting the quarterback before he can get the play in motion could be particularly important this week against the Eagles and their second-ranked offense. That would be especially true if QB Michael Vicks is unable to play and Philly has to turn to second-year man Nick Foles, who is mobile enough but certainly not in Vick’s league.
The problem for Clayborn will be getting past left tackle Jason Peters, who has been to five Pro Bowls and is clearly the best blocker on an Eagles’ line that has been below average in protecting the quarterback this year. The 31-year-old Peters is a phenomenal athlete – he played defensive line and then tight end at Arkansas and only converted to the O-Line once reaching the NFL. He has been outstanding for most of his career in pass protection and should be one of Clayborn’s most intense challenges this year. If the Buccaneers get the better end of this one-on-one battle Sunday, they will have a much better chance of slowing down Philadelphia’s high-speed offense.
Click here to read about other head-to-head matchups that will help determine Sunday’s outcome.
The Buccaneers and Eagles have been a contrast in styles so far this year, with Philly games averaging about 60 combined points and Tampa Bay games running at about half that. That difference is seen in the league rankings, where the Eagles are near the top of the NFL in many offensive categories but closer to the bottom when it comes to defensive issues. Both teams are near the middle of the pack in turnover differential but the Bucs might find an advantage on third downs.
|OFFENSE ||BUCS RANK ||EAGLES RANK |
|Points Per Game ||31 ||8 |
|Yards Per Game ||31 ||2 |
|Rushing Yards Per Game ||18 ||1 |
|Average Per Rush ||22 ||1 |
|Passing Yards Per Game ||11 ||32 |
|Sacks Allowed ||5 ||22t |
|Interceptions Thrown ||18t ||2t |
|Third-Down Efficiency ||16 ||5 |
|Punt Return Average ||11 ||12 |
|Kickoff Return Average ||18 ||6 |
|DEFENSE ||BUCS RANK ||EAGLES RANK |
|Points Per Game ||8 ||30 |
|Yards Per Game ||13 ||31 |
|Rushing Yards Per Game ||9 ||17 |
|Average Per Rush ||10 ||17 |
|Passing Yards Per Game ||15 ||29 |
|Sacks ||14t ||24t |
|Interceptions ||11t ||17t |
|Third-Down Efficiency ||7t ||28t |
|Punt Return Average ||11 ||12 |
|Kickoff Return Average ||11 ||31 |
|OTHER ||BUCS RANK ||EAGLES RANK |
|Turnover Differential ||18t ||11t |
|Gross Punting Average ||23 ||15 |
|Net Punting Average ||21 ||23 |
|Field Goal Percentage ||24t ||15 |
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- Tampa Bay has not had an opposing player rush for 100 yards since Adrian Peterson last season (11/4/12), a streak of 13 straight games.
Lavonte Davidhas three sacks on the season and with one more can become the first Buccaneer linebacker to record four sacks in a season since Geno Hayes in 2010.
- RB Doug Martin has 1,796 career rushing yards and needs 143 more to pass LeGarrette Blount (1,939 from 2010-12) for 10th and 252 more to pass Earnest Graham (2,047 from 2004-11) for ninth in career rushing yards in franchise history.
- WR Mike Williams has 25 career touchdown catches and with two more he will tie WR Mark Carrier (27 touchdown catches from 1987-1992) for fourth-most in franchise history.
- Williams has 25 total touchdowns and with one more he will surpass Errict Rhett (25 touchdowns from 1994-97) for eighth-most in franchise history.