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Bucs Suffocate Overmatched Eagles

The Eagles weren't ready for an upturn in competition and were outclassed by Tom Brady and the Buccaneers

TAMPA - An unlikely playoff run didn't result in an unlikely upset as Tampa Bay made sure that order was upheld by suffocating the Eagles 31-15 at Raymond James Stadium.

Despite being banged-up coming in and losing All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs to an ankle injury, the Bucs came out of hot and quickly put the Eagles in an uncomfortable position by scoring touchdowns on two of their first three possessions.

Once the Eagles were down by two possessions the run-first mentality that rescued the organization from a 2-5 start had to be abandoned and the strength of Jalen Hurts' game is not dropping back and throwing from the pocket.

There wasn't much to like about Sunday in Central Florida but there were plenty of positives to the 2021-22 season for Philadelphia.

In the end, however, a team Jeffrey Lurie said was in transition proved to be exactly that and a long way from being a significant contender. Quite simply the Eagles were better than the bad teams they played and outclassed by the better ones.

Here are the bulls and bears from the Eagles' wild-card loss.

THE BULLS

Ryan Kerrigan - Yes, Ryan Kerrigan. With Josh Sweat ruled out late after what was described by the Eagles as a "life-threatening situation" earlier in the week Kerrigan had by far had his most effective game of the season with 1.5 sacks and another tackle for loss. He was certainly helped by the absence of Wirfs for the majority of the game but Kerrigan was good.

Jordan Mailata - While the Eagles' offense was dismal as a whole you didn't notice anything coming from Mailata's side who had a brilliant first year as an NFL starting left tackle.

Milton Williams - Williams showed some juice playing up front at times and looks like he has a very good future with this defense moving forward.

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The pass rush - Any time you sack Tom Brady four times, after he was sacked just 22 times all season, it should be noted and praised no matter what the scoreboard reads.

THE BEARS

The Coin Toss - You can make a strong argument that the Eagles lost the game on the coin toss. Like most teams, Philadelphia is a slave to deferring when they win the toss hoping to bridge the second and third quarters with scores on each side.

Typically that's the right call but when you want to play from the lead and emphasize the running game against a far more explosive offense, taking the ball and establishing something would have given the Eagles some momentum, shortened the game for Tom Brady, and kept the Philadelphia offense in its comfort zone longer.

Instead, the Eagles won the toss and deferred the game.

Jalen Hurts as a dropback passer - Once the Eagles were forced to abandon the running game and drop Hurts back in a consistent fashion things got particularly ugly. In many ways, the Week 6 game against the Bucs was the demarcation line in which the coaching staff realized it had to take some things off of Hurts' plate in the passing game. That remains the case.

Jalen Reagor as a punt returner - He lost reps as a receiver and his job as the kickoff returner. You can now add punt returner to that list. Not that the Eagles were going to come back down 17-0 in the third quarter but when Reagor muffed a punt that quickly turned into a short drive capped by a Rob Gronkowski 2-yard touchdown pass, the Eagles' season was officially over. Reagor also muffed another punt in the fourth quarter as well.

Jason Kelce - Maybe it was the specter of Vita Vea wearing him down but days after his fourth Pro Bowl nod Kelce was uncharacteristically called for two holding penalties.

Garbage time numbers - This truly was a throwback to early in the season from too many zone-read plays and the early ineffective WR screens right down to the late signs of life offensively when the Bucs took the foot off the gas. Don't get caught up in the final stat sheet. This was a disaster.

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.