The Eagles’ offense had a new quarterback but similar inconsistencies early in Sunday’s encounter with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Meanwhile, the defense unveiled a new weakness – it gave up 58- and 84-yard rushes to Tampa running back Doug Martin, who entered the locker room at halftime with 177 yards on 12 carries. The Bucs rolled to 355 first-half yards.
All this added up to a dispiriting 28-14 deficit on an afternoon as gray as the fans’ mood.
The Eagles’ opening drive got a do-over when Zach Ertz forced a fumble of a recovery of a DeMarco Murray fumble. Mark Sanchez, in his first 2015 start, in place of concussed Sam Bradford, crisply moved the team 86 yards in 7 plays for a 7-0 lead. Josh Huff showed a glimpse of the explosiveness that made him a 2014 third-round draft pick when he motored through the Bucs’ secondary with a short pass, 39 yards for the touchdown.
But a few series later, as the Bucs were throwing incomplete on third and 6, Brandon Graham jumped offside. Given third and 1, the Bucs ran a pitch to Doug Martin and he ran 58 yards, to the Eagles’ 8. The game turned right then.
Jameis Winston hit Mike Evans for a 4-yard touchdown.
The Eagles’ offense had no juice, the Bucs got a 25-yard completion to Evans to the Birds’ 13, and on the first play of the second quarter, Winston hit Vincent Jackson on a slant and it was 14-7.
Two brutal Eagles possessions produced only an Ertz concussion, followed by an 84-yard Martin run to set up yet another Tampa touchdown, a 4-yard, third-down pass from Winston to former Eagle Russell Shepard. It was 21-7.
The Birds avoided an all-out fan revolt by scoring quickly, Darren Sproles taking a screen pass 35 yards on third and 3, and it was 21-14.
But the spark from that TD quickly died during an 80-yard, 13-play Tampa drive that featured a 27-yard completion from Winston to somebody named Adam Humphries, working against E.J. Biggers. On the TD, the Eagles had Charles Sims bracketed but neither Mychal Kendricks nor Byron Maxwell could make a play on the ball.
Sanchez capped the first-half festivities by throwing an interception with 16 seconds remaining, the Eagles close to field-goal range.
Winston, the first overall draft pick this year, completed 13 of 18 passes for 147 yards and four first-half touchdowns to receivers running wild through the Eagles’ secondary.
Sanchez completed 13 of 20 for 2 TDs and the inevitable interception.