John Madden
John Madden
Eagles squander opportunities
By John Madden

The rest of the NFL might be a little worried after watching the Bucs dominate the Eagles on Monday Night Football.

Because as great as the Bucs' defense was last season they may be even better this year. The confidence a team gains after winning a championship is immeasurable and it may help make this team better this season. A team knows they are the king of the block and feels they can win whenever they must.

Due to the recent history of the NFL, it's become apparent that a really good defense will beat a really good offense. That was definitely the case when the Bucs came to town to play the Eagles. Tampa Bay didn't let the Eagles do anything offensively and when the Eagles received an opportunity, they squandered it.

Joe Jurevicius
Jurevicius was the Horse Trailer Player of the Game.
At the beginning of the game, the Eagles drove to the one-yard line and couldn't put the ball in the end zone after four opportunities. They threw an incomplete pass on first down and then on second down Duce Staley was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. After another incomplete pass on third down, they sent their field goal unit onto the field. The Eagles tried a little bit of trickery with a fake field goal but rookie L.J. Smith dropped the ball in the end zone.

In another series they had a 9-yard run by Staley on first down followed by an incompletion and then on third and one, they drew a penalty to leave themselves a 3rd and long situation they weren't able to convert.

Offenses don't get many opportunities to score against the Bucs' vaunted defense. When you get those chances, you have to convert them!

Those seven points would have entirely changed the complexion of the game. Before the game, the Philadelphia crowd was as energetic, noisy, and fired up as any I can remember. If the Eagles had scored on the opening drive, the place would have exploded.

Instead after that series, there was no way either the Eagles, Donovan McNabb, or the crowd was able to get back into the game. From that point on it was just an uphill battle for the Eagles.

You have to give a lot of credit to the Tampa Bay defense. The Bucs' defensive front four's pass rush had too much going for it. They were able to mix up the blitz while Warren Sapp and Anthony "Booger" McFarland got a great push up the middle. Because of those two, McNabb couldn't step up in the pocket and Simeon Rice and Greg Spires came from the end positions to stop him from getting outside.

After realizing McNabb was going to try and stay in the pocket, they started rushing up the middle and stopped worrying about containing him. When that started happening the Eagles should've allowed McNabb to make some plays with his legs.

Because the Eagles were unable to take advantage of their opportunities, it allowed the Bucs' offense too much of a cushion. Tampa Bay's offense is not a juggernaut, but they will make some plays and score some points if given the chance. And boy, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius made two great plays for touchdowns! The first touchdown was on a throw to the back pylon where either the receiver is going to make the catch or it's going to fall incomplete. Jurevicius lept to make the catch, held the ball above his head and looked down at his feet before going out of bounds.

The second was a ball thrown behind him that looked like a sure interception. Jurevicius had the presence of mind to tip the ball away from the defensive back, then turn around and make an incredible diving catch in the end zone for his second touchdown. Sometimes the word great is overused, but I consider both plays to be great ones!

After this game, it'd be easy for the Eagles to wonder where they stand as a team. But there are still 15 more games to be played and they can't let this loss sap their confidence because they're a good team.

I wonder who the second best team in the NFL is though. It's easy to say the Bucs are the best...they're the Super Bowl champions. But it's a tossup for the number two spot, which is what makes this season so interesting. You just don't know who is going to be on top this early in the season.
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