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November 22, 2015

Five reasons the Eagles lost to the Bucs

Where to begin? For the first time this season, five reasons won't be nearly enough to properly assess why the Philadelphia Eagles lost. 

For the second week in a row, the Birds jumped out to an early lead, thanks to a 39-yard touchdown pass from Mark Sanchez to Josh Huff. But that would be the last time they led -- and maybe the last time they were actually "in" the game. 

If the offense was bad in the Eagles' 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then there are no words to describe how poorly the defense played Sunday. In the first half alone, they allowed 355 yards, 28 points, and more rushing yards then they had all season (216).

And it didn't get any better in the second half. 

In no specific order, here are the five biggest reasons -- because to list all of them would take far too long -- why the Eagles lost to the Bucs.

Running away with it

Doug Martin had himself a day. By halftime, the Bucs running back was on pace to shatter the single-game rushing record. But as the game began to get out of hand, Martin was held to a mere 58 yards in the second half. He finished the day with 235 yards, two shy of the most all-time against the Eagles, which is currently held by a pair of the greatest backs ever to play the game -- Emmitt Smith and Jim Brown.

[Martin was at 240 yards before a pair of negative plays on the Bucs' final possession.]

The bulk of Martin's 177 first-half yards came on two plays -- a 58-yard run in the first quarter, followed by an 84-yarder in the second. He also had a 27-yard run in the fourth quarter. If you take those three runs off his stat sheet, the Eagles held Martin to 66 yards on 24 carries. Unfortunately, you can't take those runs out of the game. They happened, and all three led to points for the Bucs (two touchdowns and an FG). 

Martin was unable to find the end zone, but the damage he did to the Eagles on Sunday is without question.

In total, the Bucs ran for 283 yards in the game, the most allowed by an Eagles defense since they surrendered 286 to the Cowboys on Nov. 18, 1973, and the most they've allowed at home since Nov. 11 of 1962 when they let the Packers go for 294 yards.

In all, the Eagles have only had five games in their history in which their opponent rushed for more than the Bucs did on Sunday.

Jameis has best start of young career

Martin didn't necessarily need to find the end zone, because rookie QB Jameis Winston took care of that. He threw five touchdowns to five different receivers and finished the game with 246 yards (on 19-of-29 passing) and a career-high 131.6 passer rating. 

The Eagles were only able to sack him once all game, and for the most part, he just sat back and picked their defense apart. And it certainly helped that the Eagles were getting torched on the ground, opening up passing lanes for the young quarterback.

Winston also got some help this week with the return of WR Vincent Jackson, who caught one of the five TDs. And in the fourth quarter, Winston nearly threw a sixth TD, but it slipped right through the hands of a wide-open Adam Humphries.

Sanchez ... not so much

After starting the game 5-for-5 with a touchdown, things went downhill quickly for Eagles QB Mark Sanchez. He finished the game 26-of-41 for 261 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown).

Although he was certainly part of why the Eagles lost, it's hard to fault him entirely. He's a backup, and the defense didn't do him any favors on Sunday. Furthermore, two of his INTs -- including the aforementioned pick-six -- came in the fourth quarter, when the offense was pressing in order to try to catch the Bucs on the scoreboard. 

Should he have been better? Yes. Could the Eagles have won with him playing as poorly as he did? Maybe -- after all, this defense had been keeping the team in games when the offense was not at its best.

3rd and ... does it really matter?

All afternoon, the Bucs made a habit of converting on third down. They finished the first half 6-of-9 on third down. One of the few stops they actually made, which came late in the first half, was actually meaningless, as Tampa went for it on fourth and one, got the first, and went down and scored a touchdown.

That trend continued into the second half. At one point late in the game, the Bucs were 10-of-13 on third down. When all was said and done, the Bucs were 10-of-16 (63 percent) on third. But it was so much worse than that...

What about those turnovers?

Unlike last week's loss to the Dolphins, the Eagles actually forced a turnover Sunday. However, it wasn't the defense that caused that.

That's right, the Eagles offense -- after a fumble of their own on DeMarco Murray's first carry of the game -- got the only turnover of the game. Tight end Zach Ertz caused the fumble and Brent Celek recovered it. The Eagles would then restart their drive, and go down to take an early lead.

For those keeping track at home, the Eagles offense has now forced more turnovers over the last two games than the Eagles defense.

That about sums up what's happened to this team since they beat the Cowboys two weeks ago.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin