1:00 PM ET, December 9, 2012
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
After a pair of losses, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have slid back to the edge of the playoff race.
The Buccaneers should have a good a chance to improve their position on Sunday when they host the reeling Philadelphia Eagles, who are in the middle of their worst losing streak since 1968.
Despite dropping back-to-back games, Tampa Bay (6-6) is still just a game behind Seattle's for the NFC's final wild-card spot.
"This team is going to fight," coach Greg Schiano said.
The running game has been a big part of the Bucs' success this season, but they only ran for 71 yards in Sunday's 31-23 loss at Denver. Rookie Doug Martin was held to 56 yards on 18 carries after having just 50 on 21 in a 24-23 loss to Atlanta on Nov. 25.
The Bucs are 5-0 when they run for 130 yards or more and 1-6 when they fail to reach that mark.
"That is every offense's dream, to have the best of both worlds," said tight end Dallas Clark, who caught an 11-yard TD pass against the Broncos. "You really put yourself against the wall when you can't get that part of the game going."
Freeman completed just 18 of 39 passes for his second-lowest completion percentage (46.2) of the season. Despite the pick in Denver, he ranks sixth in the NFL in touchdown-to-interception ratio (2.88) and hadn't thrown an interception in five of his previous six games.
Freeman has been particularly good in Tampa. He's averaging 9.12 yards per attempt with 10 TDs and two INTs, good for a 105.5 passer rating that's the NFL's third-best at home.
There's an excellent chance Freeman will again play well at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. The Eagles have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 76.3 percent of their passes for nearly 10 yards an attempt in their previous six games, yielding 16 touchdowns without an interception for an astounding 142.4 rating.
Philadelphia (3-9) has given up 30 points or more in five of those contests after losing its eighth straight, 38-33 at Dallas on Sunday night.
With the Eagles also second-to-last in the NFC with 20 sacks, coach Andy Reid decided to make yet another change by firing defensive line coach Jim Washburn and bringing back Tommy Brasher for his third stint with the team.
"He's all about the team," Reid said of Brasher.
The Eagles, however, have at least received a bit of a spark from some of their new faces on offense.
Quarterback Nick Foles completed 22 of 34 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys, leading Reid to name him the starter even if Michael Vick can return from a concussion that's kept him out the past three games.
Foles has thrown for 793 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and has a passer rating of 73.3.
"No. 1, I just think he's playing well enough to where I think he can win football games for us," Reid said. "And No. 2, I think where we sit at this position in the season, I think it's the right thing to do."
Fellow rookie Bryce Brown rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against Dallas while stepping in for starter LeSean McCoy, also out with a concussion. Brown ran for 178 yards and two scores a week earlier against Carolina.
His performance against the Cowboys was somewhat marred by his fumble with less than four minutes left -- his third in two weeks -- that the Cowboys' Morris Claiborne picked up and returned 50 yards for a touchdown.
Still, the Eagles, who rank second in the league in turnovers (28), took a step in the right direction with only one on Sunday night while also only committing one penalty.
"Their preparation, they're working their tail off to get better," Reid said. "That's an important thing at this point."
Philadelphia and Tampa Bay will meet for the first time since Oct. 11, 2009, a 33-14 Eagles victory as Jeremy Maclin caught six passes for 142 yards and two TDs.
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• Attack the edges with a strong ground game: The Buccaneers are a balanced team that relies on a strong ground game to set the tone. With the Eagles being a little light up front, especially on the edges, expect to see rookie running back Doug Martin running off tackle, as well as a good number of misdirection plays and reverses to take advantage of Philadelphia's fast-flow front. The Wide 9 technique may be getting phased out with the departure of defensive line coach Jim Washburn, but the transition will take time because most of the personnel were brought in to fit that scheme.
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||26.2||23.7|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||PHI|
|Rush Yds Allowed||PHI|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Philadelphia leads 5-3|
|Oct 11, 2009||PHI 33, TB 14|
|Oct 22, 2006||PHI 21, @TB 23|
|Sep 8, 2003||PHI 0, TB 17|
|Jan 19, 2003||PHI 10, TB 27|
|Oct 20, 2002||PHI 20, TB 10|
|Jan 12, 2002||PHI 31, TB 9|
|Jan 6, 2002||PHI 17, @TB 13|
Doug Martin's downhill running has been indicative of the Buccaneers' success this season. Martin has averaged nearly two more yards per rush between the tackles in their six wins than in their six losses.[+]
Doug Martin Rushing Between the Tackles - This Season
Opponents have completed 13-of-16 passes more than 20 yards downfield against the Eagles since Juan Castillo was fired. Prior to his firing, the Eagles allowed 8-of-26 passes of those distances to be completed. On average, 34.7 percent of throws more than 20 yards downfield have been completed this season.[+]
Eagles Defense on Passes More Than 20 Yards Downfield - This Season
ESPN Stats & Information