By FRED GOODALL AP Sports Writer
TAMPA, Fla. — Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles are unbeaten, but not perfect or even as good as they feel they can be.
“Everybody wants us to be a final product now, but it’s a growth. You want to grow every day,” Coach Nick Sirianni said after the defending NFC champions dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 25-11, on Monday night.
“We’re not going to be playing our best football until we get going into the season,” Sirianni added. “We’ve still got things to work on, we’ve still got growth to do.”
Hurts threw for a touchdown, ran for another and led the Eagles on a game-ending drive that consumed more than nine minutes.
Philadelphia won its first eight games a year ago and is off to a 3-0 start in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992-93.
“At the end of the day, it’s about catching, it’s about throwing, it’s about taking care of the football, it’s about taking away the football, it’s about tackling, it’s about blocking, it’s about getting off blocks. Those are the key fundamentals to playing football, and our guys really did a good job of putting that extra work in,” Sirianni said. “That’s going to continue to take us through the season.”
Hurts improved to 20-1 over his last 21 regular-season games. He tossed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Olamide Zaccheaus that helped Philly build a 13-3 halftime lead, and his 1-yard scoring run on a quarterback sneak gave the Eagles a 17-point advantage early in the second half.
The Eagles led 25-3 by the time the Bucs finally got into the end zone on Baker Mayfield’s 1-yard touchdown throw to Mike Evans. A 2-point conversion trimmed Philadelphia’s lead to 14 with 9:22 remaining but Hurts and the Eagles never let Tampa Bay get the ball back.
“At that point, we’re hoping to get the ball back, score quick and make it interesting,” Mayfield said.
“We didn’t play a good ballgame. They were a lot to do with that,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said. “We can’t mope about it.”
Hurts completed four of five passes and ran for a first down on the final drive.
“Outside of some turnovers on my behalf, I think we did a really good job of executing,” Hurts said. “We’ve got to do a better job of controlling the things we can. But we’ve got three wins down and we’re going to continue to build off of that as a team and hold each other accountable. That’s the name of the game.”
The Bucs (2-1) lost for the first time with Mayfield at quarterback, turning the ball over twice after playing turnover-free against Minnesota and Chicago. The Bucs’ usually reliable defense struggled, too, yielding 201 yards rushing.
A week after running for a career-high 175 yards, D’Andre Swift ran for 130 yards on 16 attempts for Philadelphia. Hurts finished 23 of 37 passing for 277 yards and two interceptions, while A.J. Brown finished with nine receptions for 131 yards for the Eagles – one of just three NFL teams that remain unbeaten, along with Miami and San Francisco.
Mayfield completed 15 of 25 passes for 146 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Evans had five receptions, giving him 700 in his career.
“It’s all on us. I hope we can play them again in the future,” Evans said. “We had a lot of opportunities. I just wish I could have started faster and helped our team.”
Twelve of the past 14 teams to start 3-0 have gone on to reach the playoffs.
Ronde Barber’s 92-yard interception return for a touchdown that sealed Tampa Bay’s victory over the Eagles in the 2002 NFC championship game in Philadelphia is perhaps the most memorable play in Tampa Bay franchise history. The former Bucs star was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August and received his Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence at halftime Monday night.
Eagles: Wide receiver Quez Watkins (hamstring) and running back Boston Scott (concussion) were inactive. Safety Justin Evans (neck) left the game in the first quarter.
Buccaneers: Cornerback Carlton Davis III (toe) and defensive lineman Calijah Kancey remained sidelined after sitting out the previous week against Chicago.
The Eagles will be back at home to face NFC East rival Washington on Sunday.
The Buccaneers play at NFC South rival New Orleans on Sunday.