The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their first game of the 2023 NFL season in Week 3 on Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles. There is no shame in losing to the reigning NFC champs, but the Eagles weren't at their best, and neither did the Bucs. And while 2-0 Tampa Bay was one of the surprise stories of this young season, the loss on Monday showed some significant causes for concern. Here are the three Buccaneers most to blame for taking this L, including stars Baker Mayfield and Vita Vea.
3. CB Jamel Dean
Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean left the Buccaneers Week 3 game against the Eagles with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. Missing its top CB hurt Tampa Bay for sure, but even before Dean went out, he blew a big play that cost his team dearly.
On a 3rd-and-10 in a 3-3 game with just three minutes to go in the first half, Dean looked like he was in coverage of Eagles wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus when Jalen Hurts launched a deep ball to the team’s third wideout.
Instead of staying with the WR, Dean undercut him and tried to go for the ball. He missed, the ball sailed over his hand, and it landed in the arms of Zaccheaus, who walked in for the 34-yard touchdown catch.
It’s hard to assign responsibilities to defensive players on plays like that without knowing the exact play that the defense called. Still, Dean was the closest Bucs player to Zaccheaus, and he couldn’t get his hand on the ball.
This touchdown gave the Eagles a lead they never relinquished, and was ultimately the biggest play of the game.
2. DT Vita Vea
Much of the Buccaneers' surprising success coming into Week 3 against the Eagles was thanks to Vita Vea and the team’s defensive line. In the first two weeks of the season, the Tampa Bay defense gave up 41 rushing yards to the Minnesota Vikings and 67 to the Chicago Bears.
On Monday night, the Eagles almost single-handily doubled that two-game total, putting up 201 yards on the ground.
Now, it’s not fair to put all the blame on Vea, although the star defensive tackle didn’t make much of a mark, recording just three assisted tackles. He is the star on that line and the best run-stuffer in the NFL, so a lot of those rushing yards have to be on him.
Also in fairness, the Eagles have the best offensive line in the NFL, and when a unit works together like they do, it is almost impossible for one player — even one as good as Vea — to disrupt them.
That said, 201 yards on the ground is embarrassing for the Buccaneers defense, and the Eagles also got their patented rugby scrum, push sneak to get them what they needed basically anytime they wanted. Philadelphia does this to every NFL team, but Tampa Bay would have had a much better chance Monday if Vita Vea could have figured out a way to stop it.
1. QB Baker Mayfield
The biggest culprit in the Buccaneers Week 3 loss to the Eagles was quarterback Baker Mayfield. Quarterbacks get the most credit when the team wins, so they also have to take the biggest slice of the blame pie when the team loses.
In the Buccaneers' Week 3 tilt, Mayfield struggled, too, which is why he leads this list. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick ended the game with just 15-of-25 for 146 yards with a touchdown and an interception. That won’t get it done against last year’s NFC Super Bowl representative.
This is the overall issue with Mayfield. As the top pick in the draft, he obviously has talent. He can run and throw and, at times, process quickly and make smart decisions in the pocket. However, if he did that all the time, he’d still be on the Cleveland Browns making $40-$50 million a year like his Class of 2018 compatriots, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson.
Mayfield is inconsistent, and his team is just as likely to get Bad Baker as it is to get Good Baker on a given night.
On Monday night, the Buccaneers go Bad Baker, and that is the biggest reason the team lost. Yes, he was under a lot of pressure from a very good Eagles defense, and the run game didn’t help him out much, with just 41 yards on 17 carries. Still, when you talk about his peers like Allen and Jackson, those guys rise above bad situations like that and make plays.
Mayfield just can’t do that, and he showed that again against the Eagles.