By Peter Gleason
It was a hot and steamy night at the Linc, and the Eagles played like they wanted to get their fans some relief!
They needed 97 seconds to score their first touchdown in beating sloppy Tampa Bay 17-9 in the preseason opener for both teams.
The Eagles covered 27 yards on their two drives to the end zone, with each series lasting three plays after Buccaneers fumbles.
Ryan Mathews (above right with Sam Bradford) had a 5-yard TD run to make it 7-0 after Tampa Bay fumbled the opening kickoff. Chase Daniel scooted 3 yards for the second score after Jameis Winston had the ball stripped.
No. 2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz played just more than a half as Eagles quarterback and, as could be expected, was inconsistent. Perhaps his most noteworthy play came when he went flying acrobatically on a fourth-quarter run after a classic tackle by Bucs rookie cornerback Javien Elliott. The QB quickly bounded to his feet, later admitting he needed to make sure not to land on his neck.
Caleb Sturgis made a 42-yard field goal for Philly’s other points. Winston connected with Russell Shepard for a 26-yard touchdown for Tampa Bay, whose second-round selection, Roberto Aguayo, added a 38-yard field goal.
Buccaneers second-year receiver Kenny Bell, a fifth-round draft pick last year who did not play in 2015, fumbled the opening kickoff, setting up an Eagles touchdown. On Tampa Bay’s second offensive series, Birds’ star lineman Fletcher Cox stripped the ball from Winston on the first play, then fell on it at the Bucs 9. Three plays later, Daniel ran in for a 14-0 lead.
The Eagles lost starting left guard Brandon Brooks on the first series with a right biceps injury.
Wentz came on in the second quarter to run the two-minute offense. His first throw was high off the hands of Nelson Agholor, but his next was a sharp 15-yard throw on the run to Zach Ertz. Wentz 12 of 24 for 89 yards and one interception. Wentz was plagued by receivers’ drops, and took a hard hit late in the game. He appeared shaken up, but remained in for one more play.
“It was fun,” Wentz said. “My first opportunity running the two-minute drill.”