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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

'Back to the Drawing Board' for Bucs Following First Loss in 2023 

The Eagles imposed their will at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football, handing the Buccaneers a 25-11 defeat in Week Three

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A sluggish start for the offense and an inability to get off the field on third down on the defensive side of the ball sealed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' fate on Monday night. The visiting Philadelphia Eagles won a 25-11 clash, dominating the line of scrimmage. The Bucs drop to 2-1 on the season, snapping a two-game win streak. 

"Well, obviously, we didn't move the ball well," Head Coach Todd Bowles assessed following the game. "As a team, we didn't play well. It wasn't just the offense. We're going to win as a team and we're going to lose as a team. [The] offense didn't play well, [the] defense didn't play well and special teams gave up field position."

Issues that had not plagued the Buccaneers through the first two contests of the 2023 season, materialized against the Eagles on the gridiron. After holding the Vikings and Bears to just 17 points, Tampa Bay surrendered 472 total yards of offense, including 201 on the ground (40 carries). D'Andre Swift spearheaded the charge for Philadelphia with 130 yards on 40 totes, quickly getting to the second level with decisiveness and one-cut agility. Eagles' receiver A.J. Brown also eclipsed the 100-yard marker (131), largely due to his prowess after-the-catch. The instinctive runner in space consistently created windows with body control and Brown showcased the athleticism at slipping by tackles on hitches and crossers, sticking his foot in the ground, opening for short possession throws and then hitting the gas. The Bucs (second) and Eagles (first) both came into the Week Three matchup ranked atop the hierarchy in run defense, and Philadelphia was the more physical team on Monday night. 

"If you look at the score sheet, we take pride in the run game and we let [ D'Andre Swift] get over 100 yards," Devin White described. "I mean, that's a slap in the face to us, but we have to be better. We have to own it. We've got to do what we have to do so that it doesn't happen again because we are getting ready to play another explosive back [Alvin Kamara]." 

On offense, the Eagles outgained the Bucs by nearly 300 yards, 472-174. The Monday night showdown marked the first time since 2006 that the Bucs accumulated fewer than 200 yards and surrendered more than 450. Tampa Bay did not have success on first down, which put the club behind the chains and into disadvantageous third-and-long situations. After achieving balance against the Bears in Week Two with 120 rushing yards, the Bucs were held to just 41 yards on the ground. The Bucs converted just five of 10 third-down attempts and after not committing any turnovers through the first two games of the season, the team had two in a span of three snaps. Late in the second quarter, Baker Mayfield threw his first interception. Devin White secured a momentum-shifting interception just moments later, however, in a microcosm of the evening's events, Rachaad White fumbled the ball just two plays into the ensuing possession. 

"We have a 24-hour rule after we win or lose, so make sure we stick together," said Devin White. "Nobody had their head down. We are going to watch the tape. We are going to find ways to get better. The first thing [Baker] Mayfield said was, 'We are going to start faster for y'all, we have to.' At the end of the day, you hold up on your side of the ball, and I say, 'Hey, we got your back.' At the end of the day, we just stay a unit, have fun with it, and just keep ballin' out, man. At the end of the day, it's just one game, but it was a big game. I wanted to beat them so bad, but we'll see them again. We [are] in the same [conference]. We're going to the playoffs – I'm saying that right now. It is what it is." 

Baker Mayfield did lead a 75-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to trim the deficit, but too many miscues early on erased any disillusion of a comeback. The scoring possession culminated in a one-yard pass to Mike Evans, who made a sensational highlight-worthy one-handed acrobatic grab over the middle of the field earlier in the drive. Mayfield completed 15 of 25 passes for 146 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

 Now, the Bucs must put the loss to the Eagles in the rearview and gear up to face a divisional foe in Week Four on the road. Tampa Bay will go head-to-head with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, October 1, in a battle for first place of the NFC South. Both the Saints and the Atlanta Falcons are also 2-1 after three weeks of play in the 2023 slate. The Bucs will strive to capture the division crown for the third-consecutive season, beginning with a win in enemy territory on Sunday. 

 "We just have to focus on us, get back to the drawing board," stated Lavonte David. "We always make an emphasis on stopping the run, we didn't do that today, but now we are going against a division opponent, we know how that is going to be. Going into a hostile environment, so we just have to be ready for whatever they throw at us."

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