-The Buccaneers are about to take on the Eagles for the second time this year but just like Head Coach Bruce Arians said: 2021 is over. Playoffs are a whole new season. As such, it's only right that these Eagles will look different than the ones Tampa Bay faced at their place in Week Six. The differences are evident and they start with quarterback Jalen Hurts, who leads the league's top-ranked rushing unit… as a quarterback.
"It's not just him, I think it's the offense as a whole," Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles said on Thursday. "They're a completely different team than what we saw in Week 6. He's got a great pocket presence and he runs like a halfback, but he can throw the ball very well. I think as a group, they've gotten together. I think Shane [Steichen] and Nick [Sirianni] have done a great job of expanding the offense and running the football – getting that done and getting deep-ball plays, as well. They do a heck of a job with their scheme, and they've kind of been beating everybody up. Jalen kind of drives the offense. You can see the maturity, you can see the control of the offense and I think he has done a hell of a job.
"I think most of it is in the confines of their gameplan and what they're trying to do," Bowles went on. "I think if he gets pressured, he has the awareness and wherewithal to escape and do the things he needs to do to make the downs go forward. I think most of it is all within the gameplan, but he has an extra element to him if he needs it, and he pulls it out at the right time."
Speaking of players with extra elements, the Bucs might have one of their own when it comes to entering the postseason, though he'd never quite admit it that way.
"I feel like I always try to give everything I have," said quarterback Tom Brady. "I feel like I always try to. I think naturally just the urgency goes up because there's more energy around what we're doing, there's more energy on the field and everyone wants to come back and play in these games. There [are] more people that want to come to the games, there [are] more fans, there's a pep rally tomorrow, I guess. There's just a lot more excitement. There [are] fewer teams playing, there's more coverage and everyone's paying attention. You've got to feel it. You've got to feel the urgency and you've got to go out there and you've got to get the job done."
Helping him get the job done is Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich, who now has two seasons under his belt with Brady. It allows for a symbiotic relationship between quarterback and playcaller.
"It's a beautiful thing," Leftwich said. "We're the same. We're close in age. All me and him do is talk football. We're talking football every second we see each other, and we both love it in that way. It's a blessing to have someone to love the game the way that he loves it, to approach the game the way that he approaches it. As a coach, it's ball, ball, ball all the time. That's a special thing that you just love being involved with – that love and going to work with him every week."
That's a sentiment shared not only between Brady and Leftwich, but among Brady's teammates – especially when entering the postseason.
"You can look at it as pressure just being out on the field and understanding what the expectations are for this team," said running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn. "I think that alone is enough pressure itself. Then understanding that you are playing with Tom Brady and you have to protect your quarterback. He has to be able to trust you out on the field just like you have to be able to trust all the other 10 players on the field with you. I feel like there is pressure every day. It's just about how you look at it. I look at everything as a challenge, so we've got to complete the challenge."
Vaughn is young and already making his second trip to the postseason. But for a veteran on this offense, this will be his first time. After seven years in the league, wide receiver Breshad Perriman will be playing in his first playoff game on Sunday.
"Man, like I said, it feels almost like a movie or something," he said. "It's crazy just to be in this position, being able to play in a playoff game and games in January that really matter, especially with how the beginning of my season started for me. It's huge."
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