Eagles DC Gannon focused on slowing 'trained killer' Tom Brady in postseason rematch vs. Bucs

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is garnering some attention for NFL head coaching jobs ahead of Sunday’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

For his part, Gannon said his “sole focus” is on trying to figure out a way to slow down Tom Brady.

“This guy, he’s a trained killer, and he knows how to play good offense and what he needs to do to keep his offense on track, so it’s going to be a big-time challenge,” Gannon said of Brady, via the Associated Press.

Brady and the Bucs carved up Gannon’s defense in a Week 6 Tampa Bay win, 28-22. Brady played with a banged-up throwing hand but completed 34 of 42 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.

In Week 6, the Bucs jumped out to a big lead with back-to-back 75-yard TD drives to open the contest and took a 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter before the Eagles showed life late to make the score closer. But it was Gannon’s defense that couldn’t get off the field late, allowing Brady to make chain-moving plays to milk the final 5:54 off the clock to ice the contest.

The first meeting was part of the early-season struggles for Philly on both sides of the ball. After a 2-5 start to the season, the Eagles turned it around, going 7-2, with the defense allowing just 16.6 points per game from Weeks 8-17 (4th fewest in the NFL) before resting notable starters in the Week 18 blowout loss to Dallas.

Gannon’s D ranked in the top 10 in points allowed, total yards per game allowed (287.8) and rushing yards per game allowed (81.3) from Weeks 8-17.

“The run game, passing game, rush and cover, cover and rush, being in the right spots, winning our leverage side a little bit more,” Gannon said of how his defense has improved. “I’ve always thought we tackled pretty well. If you look at the Tampa game, I don’t think we tackled as well as we have in some other games. Some of that was them; some was us. So, just we know to be in this game, our execution level has to be high.”

The Eagles will have to tackle much better Sunday. Even with Tampa not having Antonio Brown or Chris Godwin this time around, Rob Gronkowski will play in the rematch.

The key to the game will likely rest on whether the Bucs’ replacement wideouts for Brown and Godwin can show the same rapport with Brady in the quick passing game. Against the Eagles rush, Brady will get the ball out fast. His average time to throw of 2.50 seconds was his lowest in the Next Gen Stats era and was 2nd fastest in 2021 (trailing only Ben Roethlisberger’s 2.38). Brady led the NFL with 23 TDs on quick passes this season. In Week 6, TB12 netted 179 yards on quick passes (96.0 comp percent is NGS era single-game record on quick passes, minimum 20 such attempts).

The quick game is also the area in which Gannon’s defense has struggled the most, allowing a 110.4 passer rating on such throws (31st in the NFL, ahead of only the Jets). The Eagles rank 28th in completion percentage, 27th in passing yards allowed and T-27th in passing TDs against the quick-pass game, per NGS.

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