TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to concede it or not, the team’s first loss of the season showed there’s a sizeable gap between them and the NFL’s elite teams.
The offense sputtered and a normally reliable defense struggled, too, in falling to the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles 25-11 on Monday night.
And while coach Todd Bowles said he didn’t feel the lopsided loss to the defending NFC champions necessarily was a measuring stick of where his team stands, he acknowledged it showed there’s clearly lots of room for improvement.
“We played hard and we made some mistakes. The mistakes we didn’t make the first two games, we made this game. A lot of it has to do with (the Eagles). Give them credit,” Bowles said. “They came in here and they beat us pretty good, and we own that.”
The Eagles dominated offensively, running 78 plays to Tampa Bay’s 44 and outgaining the Bucs 472 yards to 174.
“When I left the game, I thought it was a lot worse than it was. I just thought they killed us,” Bowles said Tuesday.
“Watching the film this morning, we misfit some things and had some self-inflicted wounds. I thought they schemed up one of our defenses pretty good and got two runs out of it, which was good on their part,” the coach added.
“I thought we kind of misfit or ran out of our gaps on certain things, which is encouraging because it can be corrected. But at the same time, you don’t want it to happen.”
Mayfield threw his first interception since joining the Bucs as Tom Brady’s replacement and didn’t get the offense in the end zone until his 1-yard TD pass to Mike Evans and a 2-point conversion throw to Chris Godwin trimmed Philadelphia’s lead to 14 with more than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The defense didn’t give the Bucs a chance to get closer, allowing Hurts to lead a nine-play, 75-yard drive that used the remainder of the clock.
The important thing now, Bowles said, is to not dwell on the loss.
“We won together and we lost together. We won two — we were OK, 24-hour rule. We lost one, we’ve got to have a 24-hour rule,” the coach said. “We’ve got a big divisional opponent coming up this week. If we can get to the bye week at 3-1, nobody will be crying about that.”
Despite not playing well overall, the defense forced two more turnovers Monday night. The team has seven takeaways through three games, tied for third most in the NFL. Devin White and Dee Delaney intercepted Hurts, who tossed multiple interceptions for only the fifth time in 48 starts.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Eagles limited the Bucs to 41 yards rushing, an average of just 2.4 yards per attempt.
Punter Jake Camarda averaged 57.5 yards on four punts, including a 73-yarder that was the second longest of his career. Camarda’s 54.9 yards per punt average this season ranks first in the league.
On the flip side of Camarda’s performance was Tampa Bay's punt coverage Monday night. Philadelphia’s Britain Covey returned three punts for 81 yards, including a 52-yarder that led to a first-half field goal.
CB Carlton Davis III (toe) and rookie DL Calijah Kancey (calf) have missed the past two games. Another defensive starter, CB Jamel Dean, suffered a shoulder injury Monday night. Bowles said it was too soon to speculate on the status of those players for this week.
700. WR Mike Evans had five catches for 60 yards and a TD against the Eagles. He’s the first player in franchise history with 700 receptions.
Travel to New Orleans to face the NFC South rival Saints on Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
Fred Goodall, The Associated Press