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Slow offensive start hurts Eagles in loss to Buccaneers

The Philadelphia Eagles were in a good position to win on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thanks to a strong second-half at Lincoln Financial Field. However, it was a similar theme as Nick Sirianni’s offense struggled in the opening 30 minutes and eventually suffered a fourth loss of the 2021 regular season.

Jalen Hurts accounted for two rushing touchdowns and one passing score in Thursday’s 28-22 loss to Bruce Arians’ squad, but running back Miles Sanders was limited to only nine carries in the game. Sanders only rushed the ball once in the first half before totaling eight carries for 55 yards after halftime.

The Eagles found success in the second half, but couldn’t find a go-ahead score and eventually lost at home for the third time this season.

“We were bad in the first half. Put that one on me,” Sirianni said. “There’s no doubt our offense needs to be better to give ourselves a chance to win.

“Again, some of them same thing are RPO’s,” Sirianni said. “Some of them we look at screens as being able to get the running backs the ball as running back plays as well. Again, just the way the flow was going, we weren’t getting much on the first one. Then the RPO we weren’t getting much on either. Either way, it didn’t work. We were bad in the first half, and I put that on me first.”

Hurts connected with tight end Zach Ertz for a first-half touchdown to tie things at 7-7, but Tampa Bay’s offense continued to gel in the first half. Tom Brady’s 23-pass to Antonio Brown put the Buccaneers back in front 14-7 late in the first quarter before Leonard Fournette added a pair of touchdown runs over the next two quarters.

The Eagles continued to keep the ball in Hurts’ hands after halftime, with the second-year quarterback scrambling for a pair of touchdowns. However, Hurts struggled passing the ball, competing only 12 of his 26 passes for a season-low 115 yards and 58.1 QB Rating.

Sirianni didn’t do Hurts any favors with his poor playcalling, but the quarterback also needed to be more accurate for the Eagles to have a real chance of stealing the victory.

“I haven’t executed enough to win, clearly,” Hurts said. “The ball is in my hands every play and I enjoy that and I like that. I have to be better. I’m not doing enough to win. I’m not doing enough to start fast. I will be better.

“We executed on first down,” Hurts said when asked about the team’s better second-half on offense. “That’s where it kind of starts. When you put yourself behind the sticks and you’re having three-and-outs, it doesn’t suit you too well. You have to be efficient early and get to 2nd-and-4, get to 2nd-and-6, get in those situations where you have options in terms of what you want to do. Then when the plays need to be made, make them. When the throws need to be made, make the throws. I hold a lot of responsibility in everything that is going on here, everything with the offense. It starts with me, and I’ll never shy away from that. I embrace that.”

The Eagles will feel Sunday’s game was a missed opportunity at home and now have a short break before returning to action. Up next is an October 24th showdown with the Las Vegas Raiders before a trip to the winless Detroit Lions on Halloween.

If Sirianni can start putting his players in a better situation to succeed, then the Eagles could have more success as the season pushes forward. However, if the first-year head coach continues to rely just on the passing game, then fans will grow more frustrated as the losses pile up.

“It’s a matter of putting it together,” Hurts said. “Rome was not built overnight. We’re still working.”

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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