This Sunday, the Buccaneers will be playing against the Philadelphia Eagles in what is sure to be a close game. The Bucs are coming off a week 18 victory against the Panthers and are hoping to win their first playoff victory of the new year.
This will be the second meeting of the two teams this season. The first face-off between the two was during week six of the regular season and resulted in a 28-22 victory for the Bucs. I rewatched the game to find out what the Bucs need to do in order to win the rematch.
What I learned can be broken down into three things the Buccaneers must do to keep their Superbowl hopes alive.
Establish the Running Game Early
In their first meeting, the Buccaneers had the football for almost twice the amount of time of the eagles. The Buccaneers’ time of possession was 39:56 compared to Philadelphia’s 20:04. Tampa must try their best to replicate this going into the playoffs. The best way for the Buccaneers to chew the clock is by establishing the running game early.
Buccaneers star running back Leonard Fournette is on track to return this Sunday and will be a huge asset to Tampa’s running game. In the last game against the Eagles, Fournette led the team in rushing with 81 yards.
Establishing the run game early will be important as Tampa’s receivers are mostly banged up. It will also give the eagles less time to work with which will force them to throw to cover more ground in less time. The Eagles are a good rushing team, so if they are able to get the ball back with ample time they will be able to chew to clock easily.
Limit the Eagles Rushing Ability
Earlier in the season, the Eagles were hesitant to lean on the running game, but that was not the case the longer the season carried on. In the last four competitive games of the season, the Eagles averaged a total of 134.2 rushing yards a game and out-rushed their opponent in every game in that undefeated four-game stretch.
Against the Buccaneers in week 6, the Eagles rushed for only 100 yards.
Jalen Hurts is the rusher that Tampa should be the most concerned about. Hurts has the ability to turn nothing into something with just his rushing ability. Against Tampa, Hurts recorded 44 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Hurts was able to scramble to move the sticks twice and one of those was a touchdown on fourth down.
Miles Sanders should also be a concern for the Buccaneers if he is able to play this weekend. Sanders has been limited but has been practicing, so there is a possibility that he will play.
In week six, Sanders was the Eagles leading rusher and averaged 6.2 yards a carry on only 9 rushing attempts. If Sanders is able to play, I believe that Philadelphia will lean on him to take more time off the clock and keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands.
By limiting the Eagles’ rushing ability, the Buccaneers will force more 3rd and long situations that will force the Eagles to throw the football.
Force Jalen Hurts to Throw
Forcing Jalen Hurts to throw the football will be the most important thing for the Buccaneers to do to win. Hurts is a below-average QB when it comes to passing ability, and he finished the season with the 19th best QBR (48.8).
Hurts posted his 2nd worst passer rating (55.7) of the season against the Buccaneers in week 6. Hurts also passed for 115 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
The Buccaneers were able to limit hurts to his second-lowest passing yards for the season because of the pressure that Tampa’s front seven was able to create in passing situations. This was most obvious on third and long attempts where the Eagles were forced to pass the ball. On third down passing attempts, Hurts completed a meager one out seven attempts which resulted in a 14% third-down completion rating.
If the Bucs can limit the running game on the first two downs and make Hurts throw the ball, they will have a high chance of winning. The front seven will force him into making mistakes and give the Bucs defense a high likelihood of forcing a three and out or even turnovers.
If the Buccaneers are able to complete these three things, they will be able to come out with a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
This article was written by Matthew Joseph. Follow him on Twitter @TWN_Matt