What a great weekend in Tampa, capped off by an exciting Eagles win.
Yes, capped off, as I didn’t go just for the game. Tampa is a cool city to visit to see your team play. In March we went to see the Flyers play the Lightning and really enjoyed the city, in particular Ybor City. So on Friday the girlfriend and I drove down so that on Saturday we could visit Big Cat Rescue, the biggest animal sanctuary devoted to big cats. They have a great YouTube channel featuring great videos such as big cats vs laser pointers, do big cats like catnip (parts one and two) and their popular duo of Cameron the lion and Zabu the white tiger. We visited them in March and got a personal tour, this time we went on a feeding tour which was awesome. Watching a tiger eat a chicken from five feet away like it’s beef jerky and hearing the bones break like ice being crushed is pretty impressive. A very worthwhile charity to support and visit.
On to football.
In the 3rd quarter I took that picture with the idea of captioning it “The Nick Foles Checkdown Show: Live!” Of course on that very play he hit Riley Cooper for a 47 TD. Glad to be wrong. Still, after the game I felt that while Foles did a fantastic job when he threw the ball deep, he didn’t do it enough on Sunday. And again I was wrong. Watching the coach’s tape, the Bucs had excellent coverage all game long. I could only find two plays were Foles failed to find an open receiver deep:
Jeff Maehl is open at the bottom of the screen, and Avant has a lot of space in the flat. Foles waited too long and the CB that Maehl is in front of closed on Avant, and the safety closed on Maehl. This was only an 8 yard gain to Avant but could have been more if he threw to Maehl or to Avant earlier.
The exact same options, the exact same decision. Riley Cooper is open, this time with an extra yard of width on the safety. He’s also got Celek down the middle of the field. Foles checked down on this too.
Other than those plays, Foles played extremely well against a top defense. Going forward he will need to attempt more than three or four deep balls a game, but on Sunday he didn’t take any bad shots and executed on the ones he did, hitting them in stride. Foles hit eight different receivers, which is a great job of spreading the ball around. On paper DeSean Jackson’s 6 catches for 64 yards and 2 TDs is good but not explosive, against Darrelle Revis it’s a very, very good day. Despite fears that it would be neutered without Vick, the run game didn’t skip a beat. Entering the game the Bucs were averaging 3.7 yards per carry against and were 3rd in rush DVOA. Taking out the end of game kneel, the Eagles averaged 4.5 yards per carry and more importantly were able to ice the game with an 11 play, 49 yard drive to put the Eagles up two scores and eat up 5:25 in clock, leaving the Bucs with 2:38 to go down 10 with no timeouts, a nearly impossible situation. Against an excellent run defense, it didn’t need to be pretty, it just needed to be effective, and it was. Even if Vick was healthy, the Eagles were not going to have a huge day running the ball.
The pass coverage, in person and on tape, played its best game of the year, but that’s a low bar to set. Granted the good showing was against a rookie QB making his 2nd start, but Mike Glennon and the Bucs did have an extra week to prepare and while Glennon isn’t good, his supporting cast is. The cornerbacks had a good game, which is refreshing to say. Bradley Fletcher played great, breaking up passes and making good on a ball thrown right to him. Brandon Boykin had a quiet but solid game. Cary Williams wasn’t great by any means, but also wasn’t the assignment blowing liability he has been in previous games. There was certainly room for improvement, having only picked off Glennon once, giving up 9 catches for 114 yards to Vincent Jackson and 7 for 91 to Tim Wright, but it was improvement from last week and major improvement from earlier in the year. And with Billy Davis’ devotion to the Cover 3 with CBs who can’t play Cover 3, they’re not going to have a great game. The run defense was solid as it has been all season, but the pass rush was again almost non-existent, as it has been all season.
-Man was it hot. The temperature was in the mid-80s but without any protection from UV and Raymond James Stadium lacking in shade, the Florida sun was killer.
-Bucs fans were pathetic, though with the state the team is in, how much can you blame them? At one point in the game a fan behind us observed “this is the biggest drive of the game and no one is cheering.” The 4th quarter was all Eagles fans, it really did sound like the Eagles were the home team.
-Sitting behind the Buc’s bench, I was interested to see how players reacted to Greg Schiano. For the most part I didn’t see anything that caught my eye until the 4th quarter. After kicking a field goal, as the Bucs players made their way off the field, Schiano called over Donald Penn and Davin Joseph to discuss something. But Penn basically ignored him and paid full attention to what appeared to be a piece of grass stuck on his arm. In the fourth quarter of a 21-20 game.
-Jags fans aren’t the only Tebow sycophants in Florida. A plane with a “TEBOW TO TAMPA” banner circled the stadium.
-Our hotel restaurant was Hulk Hogan’s. Parking is limited:
-Last but not least, on Saturday night I met up with Mike Kaye of Bleeding Green Nation and Dan Klausner, formally of BGN and now an intern with the Eagles for drinks, then again Sunday before the game with Mike for some tailgating. Had a really good time meeting and conversing with them, let’s do it again sometime fellas. Dan’s 3-0 on the road when traveling with the team, so clearly he needs to be at all the away games. Hopefully none of us got a staph infection.