The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are bringing the NFL’s third-best offense into Lincoln Financial Field for Thursday Night Football. They boast the league’s most powerful passing attack – 1,747 yards, 349.4 per game – while while putting up 33.4 points per game.
When Tom Brady is under center, all bets are off. The Eagles know that. Everybody knows that. Perhaps lost in the shuffle is how good the Buccaneers receivers have been this season. Antonio Brown has found the Fountain of Youth, morphing back into Ronald Ocean, after going over 900 career catches. He has 20 receptions for 325 yards and three scores.
Brown isn’t even Tampa Bay’s most dangerous weapon. That moniker goes to Mike Evans. The three-time Pro Bowler leads the team with 29 catches for 393 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Godwin is their speed threat: 29 grabs for 366 yards and two scores. Scotty Miller is a matchup nightmare in the slot. Luckily for the Philly defense, Rob Gronkowski is sidelined with a rib injury.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon recently talked about the challenge of stopping that group. It started late in the evening on October 10 when the coaching staff assembled at Nick Sirianni’s house to watch tape. One focus was those explosive receivers.
“They got a really good group. You watch the tape. They make a bunch of plays,” Gannon told reporters. “So it’s going to be a big-time challenge because they got the best ever throwing it to them, too, and they got other weapons as well besides those three guys. So, I got a very high opinion of what they do down there, and it’s going to be a big-time challenge.”
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Darius Slay Ready to Travel Again
Darius Slay is coming off his best game in a midnight green jersey. He followed D.J. Moore in Week 5 and put the clamps on Carolina’s big-play threat. Now he’ll look to do the same thing to Evans as Slay will likely line up on whichever side of the formation he’s on throughout the contest. Slay lives for the challenge and already lobbied Gannon for the assignment.
“He is a premium corner. So, most of the premium corners in the league like that challenge,” Gannon said. “It’s their ability to show everyone that they are premium corners, when you can go shut out a top guy. But he also knows that if it’s not the right thing for us that week, then he will do what we ask of him.”
Slay had been feeling some heat for an interception drought. Then he went out and nabbed two picks versus Carolina. Fletcher Cox – his college teammate at Mississippi State – thought the Pro Bowl cornerback made the play of that game. And vindicated himself in the process.
“I know I was sitting here last week and a lot of people were slandering him, just talking a lot of things about him,” Cox said. “I was just excited for him to go out and they tried him early in the game and he responded.”
Game-Planning for Tom Brady
Weapons aside, the Eagles will need to find a way to stop the GOAT. Brady comes into this one with a thumb injury, so getting pressure and knocking him around could disrupt him. Gannon’s defense needs to make him feel uncomfortable. No one is advocating to injure Brady, but getting a helmet on that injured hand could rattle the seven-time Super Bowl champion.
“He poses a lot of challenges for everybody, that’s for sure,” Sirianni said of Brady. “Obviously, he’s been so good for so long. Everybody knows who Tom Brady is and how he operates. We’ll definitely have our hands full with this offense that we’re playing.”