The championship defense is back in Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers battled through injuries during the regular season but got key defenders back for the postseason. Todd Bowles’ unit showed it’s still dominant in Sunday’s 31-15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
The defense controlled the game early as the Bucs sprinted out to an early lead. Tampa’s defense allowed just seven first downs, 179 total yards and no points through three quarters while forcing two turnovers. The D also allowed just 44 rushing yards to the NFL’s No. 1 ranked ground game in the first 45 minutes of play.
“There’s no doubt,” coach Bruce Arians said of his defense dominating, via The Athletic. “For three quarters, they were fantastic.”
Pass rushers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul and linebacker Lavonte David all returned after missing the end of the regular season. David, who was on injured reserve with a knee injury, was cleared Saturday.
“Not being able to play football for three weeks is real tough,” David said. “You see guys out there having fun, and you’re not out there with them, not being the leader that they may need at certain moments. … First home playoff game in a long time, and I couldn’t miss it.”
The Bucs racked up 10 QB hits, two sacks, six tackles for loss, seven passes defensed and two big INTs in the rout.
“It felt like we were getting our swag back,” cornerback Jamel Dean said. “Even though we had some players down, it’s next man up, and we just continued with what we had going on.”
The Bucs squashed the Eagles’ ground game, including the RPOs and read-option plays, and had quarterback Jalen Hurts’ head spinning much of the contest. The safety play was phenomenal, with Mike Edwards leading the team with nine tackles and a TD-saving diving INT and Jordan Whitehead flying all over the field.
Tampa’s defense is as healthy as it’s been in months, and it showed Sunday. Bowles’ crew was zipping around the field all game, making plays behind the line of scrimmage.
No play highlighted the Super Bowl-level defense the Bucs can play more than Barrett’s interception as he dropped into coverage and snagged a Hurts floating pass.
“That’s the play of the year by Shaq Barrett,” receiver Mike Evans said. “That’s not an ordinary play by a defensive lineman/outside linebacker. Unbelievable play by him to really kind of ice the game for us, I think.”
In the Divisional Round, the Bucs will face the winner of Monday night’s Cardinals-Rams game next Sunday afternoon in Tampa (kickoff at 3 p.m. ET).
Source: Read Full Article