Run Defense the Highlight in Tough First Half

The Buccaneers got a big part of the formula right in the first half of Sunday’s game against Philadelphia: They stopped the run, which presumably should have allowed them to dial up the pressure on rookie QB Nick Foles and keep the ball in the hands of the Bucs’ offense.

The second part of that equation was evident in the early going, as well, as three sacks of Foles helped the Bucs’ defense allow a total of negative six yards on Philly’s first 10 plays.

However, the numbers weren’t adding up for the Buccaneers at halftime.  The Eagles took a 10-0 lead into halftime because Foles operated well under pressure in the second quarter and Tampa Bay’s offense found exactly no rhythm.  The Eagles took a 181-79 yardage edge into halftime after Foles turned in the game’s biggest play on a 39-yard completion to Jason Avant to set up the only touchdown of the first half.

It was a disappointing half for the home team but, again, the run defense was very strong.  Rookie RB Bryce Brown had 347 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his previous two games in relief of LeSean McCoy, but he found nowhere to run against Tampa Bay in the first half.  Brown finished the first half with five yards on 10 carries, 11 of those coming on one run in the Bucs’ red zone late in the half.  QB Nick Foles’ 10-yard TD scramble made him the team’s leading rusher and accounted for two thirds of Philly’s 15 rushing yards.  Even with that scramble, the Eagles picked up just 1.4 yards per carry.

If the Buccaneers’ offense can find a groove after halftime – and they’ll get the ball first to start the third quarter – that stifling run defense could be the difference in the second half.

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