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September 25, 2023

Final observations: Eagles 25, Buccaneers 11

The Eagles are now 3-0 after taking care of the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, featuring a strong night from D'Andre Swift, the Birds' offensive line and their defensive front.

Overall, the second half was fairly vanilla on the Eagles' part. They took a 19-point lead into the fourth quarter, kept the ball on the ground and the clock running on offense while giving Baker Mayfield nightmares defensively. My first-half observations about D'Andre Swift, Olamide Zaccheaus and more are available here

Here's what I saw in the last two quarters...

The Highs

• D'Andre Swift... WHOOP:

Swift was frequently banged up in Detroit, missing 10 games across his first three NFL seasons, but it's malpractice not to keep feeding him as the RB1 right now. This isn't the NBA where you can worry about load management or anything like that. You need to stack wins in September and October before you dream of those January and February victories. Swift paired with this offensive line is something special right now. 

All-time Eagles leading rusher LeSean McCoy approves:

• The "Tush Push" remains in the Eagles' playbook, upsetting national writers and Charmin-soft football fans everywhere with an early third-quarter touchdown from Jalen Hurts:

Have some pride, people. 

• Nolan Smith laid a crushing blow on Mayfield in the third quarter. That's the career QB hit for Smith, who played just 13 defensive snaps total in the Birds' first two games. That says way more about the depth along this Eagles front than Smith himself. With injuries an inevitability in the NFL, Smith will probably be called upon at some point to step up this season. He's ready for that opportunity. 

The Birds finished with five total QB hits. Mayfield looked revitalized in the Bucs' 2-0 start with new Tampa Bay play-caller Dave Canales, but Jalen Carter, Josh Sweat and Fletcher Cox breathing down your neck is a bit different than facing the Bears and Vikings. 

• With Tampa Bay hanging onto the slightest iota of life, the Eagles dialed up a third-and-13 comeback route to A.J. Brown with Hurts hitting him perfectly. Brown showcased his great run-after-the-catch ability, picking up the first down and allowing the Birds to nuke the clock late in the fourth quarter. It was far from an ideal night for Hurts, which I discuss below, but this play, an ensuing third-down conversion thrown DeVonta Smith's way and a fourth-down pickup to Brown iced this baby. 

"Let's Go Eagles!" chants broke out through Raymond James Stadium after, audibly through the ESPN broadcast. Soak up the win.

The Lows

• Two interceptions for Hurts in this one. Hurts has three so far this season, already half his 2022 total. Buccaneers defensive back Dee Delaney made an outstanding jump on the ball, narrowly staying in bounds as he hauled that in. The Eagles got points on the very next play, so it's kind of a hilarious turn of events, but two interceptions are just too many for a player of Hurts' caliber. ESPN's Adam Schefter mentioned at halftime that Hurts was dealing with some flu-like symptoms heading into the game, but his decision-making and accuracy throughout this young season aren't on the MVP level he's displayed in the past. 

When the run game is this elite and the defense is this disruptive, however, the Eagles can get by if an ailment like this pops up with QB1. 

• His stat line wasn't as eye popping as it was in his first two games, but Mike Evans has been the most underrated wideout in the NFL in his career. He's topped 1,000 yards in each of his first eight seasons. I'm sure he'll make it nine this year, too. He probably has a pretty good Hall of Fame case. On the Bucs' first touchdown drive of the evening, Evans gave them a pulse, hauling in a TD and making the best catch of the extended weekend on this one-handed snag

The Whoas 

• What's the most energizing play that can happen for a football team? Here are my rankings:

1. Pick 6

2. Punt/kick return TD

3 Safety

The Eagles picked up two points when linebacker Nicholas Morrow blew up Rachaad White in the Buccaneers' own end zone in the third quarter. That's so demoralizing. On the other side of things, a safety is the most deflating thing that can happen to your team. You give up points and you lose the ball. It's like your older cousin crushing you in make-it-take-it pickup basketball. 

This defense is fierce. Better quarterbacks will test them through the air, but this front seven is punishing in the run game and these pass-rushers are going to bring the pain on opposing QBs. 

• There are just three 3-0 teams remaining in the NFL: the 49ers, Dolphins and Eagles. If you're looking for early "Philly vs. the World" material to juice yourself up at this point in the season, the main talking point across the NFL this week will be Kyle Shanhan's offensive scheme and that of his former understudy, Mike McDaniel. The Birds will have ample opportunity to showcase that they are better than two squads with matchups looming against both later in the year. 

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