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Trail of tears

In the past three seasons, the Eagles have beaten the Bucs four times, twice in the playoffs:

By BRUCE LOWITT, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 19, 2003

Eagles 21, Bucs 3

NFC First-Round Playoff Game

(Dec. 31, 2000, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia)

THE BIG PICTURE: Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb threw for two touchdowns and ran for one, almost singlehandedly propelling Philadelphia into an NFC divisional playoff game against the Giants (which it lost). Poor tackling and the inability to convert on third down resulted in Tampa Bay's largest losing margin all season. Quarterback Shaun King complained afterward that the Bucs lacked aggressiveness. Typical of offensive coordinator Les Steckel's game plan was a second-quarter drive that opened the scoring. King completed four passes en route to a third-and-7 at the Eagles 14. Steckel called a draw play, Warrick Dunn gained 3 yards and the Bucs settled for Martin Gramatica's 29-yard field goal. The first Eagles touchdown was a gift, coming after King was blindsided by defensive end Hugh Douglas and fumbled. The Eagles took over at the Tampa Bay 15, and on third and goal McNabb ran it in from the 5 on a draw. On their next possession the Eagles took 91 seconds to march 69 yards on eight plays, McNabb throwing a 5-yard score to Na Brown 17 seconds before halftime. "They got 14 points going against the wind the last four minutes of the half and, basically, that was the game," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. McNabb's 2-yard touchdown to Jeff Thomason closed the scoring 47 seconds into the fourth quarter.

KEY PLAY: King's fumble as he was being sacked. "The game was going back and forth pretty even, and they got the turnover," Dungy said. "I thought they really got an emotional lift, and we really didn't match them."

KEY STATISTIC: 50 yards, the Bucs' total rushing attack: 42 by Mike Alstott, 7 by King and 1 (on eight carries) by Dunn.

WORTH REMEMBERING: Philadelphia has great cheesesteak sandwiches.

WORTH FORGETTING: Everything else.

HE SAID IT: Dunn: "The guys played their butts off for 16 games to get to this point, and not to come and play the way we're capable of playing, that's what hurts."

* * *

Eagles 17, Bucs 13

Regular Season

(Jan. 6, 2002, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)

THE BIG PICTURE: Statistically, the final regular-season game really meant nothing; the teams were going to play again a week later in Philadelphia. With the entire Eagles offensive line sitting out, quarterback Donovan McNabb handed off twice, then gave way to Koy Detmer. For the Bucs, Keyshawn Johnson and Warrick Dunn weren't in uniform and Shaun King replaced Brad Johnson at quarterback after Tampa Bay's opening drive. The Eagles used two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley to Dameane Douglas for a come-from-behind 17-13 victory. Douglas' second touchdown, a 24-yard reception, came with 1:46 to play, two plays after Karl Williams fumbled a kickoff. Just 26 seconds earlier, the Bucs had what looked like a comfortable 10-point lead before Douglas scored on a 2-yard catch. The Bucs led 13-3 at halftime on 42- and 23-yard field goals by Doug Brien, subbing for Martin Gramatica. The three-pointers were sandwiched around Aaron Stecker's 4-yard touchdown run set up by a John Lynch interception late in the first quarter. "It was disappointing to be at home and have the game the way we wanted it at 13-3 and just have to finish off the last five minutes of the game," coach Tony Dungy said. "But we weren't able to do that."

KEY PLAY: One that didn't happen right after Williams was stripped on his kickoff return. On first down, cornerback Donnie Abraham nearly intercepted Feeley's pass. Abraham was beaten by Douglas on the next play for the winning touchdown.

KEY STATISTIC: Feeley, a rookie from Oregon, entered in the fourth quarter and completed 10 of 14 passes for 143 yards and the two touchdowns.

WORTH REMEMBERING: Brad Johnson's 37-yard pass to rookie Milton Wynn, his first NFL catch, on the Bucs' opening drive.

WORTH FORGETTING: Receiver Jacquez Green dropped a pass that would have been a first down just outside the Eagles 20 to end the drive, leaving the Bucs to settle for Brien's first field goal.

HE SAID IT: Brad Johnson: "We came out very sharp and set the tempo the way we want to approach it next week. I think we did that." It turned out he was wrong.

* * *

Eagles 31, Bucs 9

NFC First-Round Playoff Game

(Jan. 12, 2002, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia)

THE BIG PICTURE: With coach Tony Dungy's job apparently on the line, his troops all but ran up a white flag. The Bucs ran 24 times for 63 yards. They had five chances inside the Eagles 20 but wound up with three field goals and two interceptions. Tampa Bay could not contain Donovan McNabb. He passed for 194 yards, including touchdowns to Chad Lewis and Duce Staley, and ran four times for 57 of Philadelphia's 148 rushing yards. It was the Bucs' sixth loss in six road playoff games and the third in a row in which they failed to score a touchdown. Clyde Christensen had replaced fired offensive coordinator Les Steckel. That had no impact. Free safety Dexter Jackson intercepted McNabb on the Eagles' first possession, but seven plays gained 21 yards and the Bucs settled for Martin Gramatica's 36-yard field goal. On Philadelphia's next possession, McNabb faced third and 5 at his 39-yard line. He ran 39 yards (and the Eagles got 15 more when Jackson hit him out of bounds), setting up David Akers' tying field goal. Three more Christensen calls: third and 1 near midfield, pitchout to Warrick Dunn, minus-5 yards; third down at the Eagles 11, Keyshawn Johnson on the sideline, Brad Johnson screen pass to Dunn, minus-4 yards; Bucs on the Eagles 12 (after Keyshawn's leaping catch and run for 47 yards) with 11 seconds to go in the first half and Tampa Bay down 17-6, Brad Johnson dump pass to Mike Alstott, 3 yards and, eventually, the Bucs' last points on their third field goal.

KEY PLAY: Alstott's 6-yard touchdown run -- on Jan. 4, 1998 in Green Bay, the last Bucs touchdown in a road playoff game.

KEY STATISTIC: Brad Johnson's 36.8 quarterback rating with four interceptions, one returned 59 yards by safety Damon Moore for Philadelphia's final touchdown.

WORTH REMEMBERING: A visit to Constitution Hall, Brandywine Battlefield Park and the Liberty Bell.

WORTH FORGETTING: Christensen and Steckel (and their predecessor, Mike Shula).

HE SAID IT: Tight end Dave Moore: "I was here through the last coaching change (Sam Wyche, fired after the 1995 season) and you knew it was coming. It was time for a change. From players, to coaches, to assistant coaches, you knew it was coming. I really don't feel that now. I will be shocked." Two days later, Dungy was fired along with his offensive assistants. Six weeks later, Moore was released.

* * *

Eagles 20, Bucs 10

Regular Season

(Oct. 20, 2002, Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia)

THE BIG PICTURE: New season, new coach, new offensive coordinator, same result: a loss at the Vet. This time the Bucs scored a touchdown, or more accurately their defense scored a touchdown. Linebacker Derrick Brooks scooped a fumble by Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and took it 11 yards for the score. Tampa Bay made just one major mistake on defense, and McNabb made it pay with a 42-yard touchdown pass to Todd Pinkston. It gave the Eagles a 10-7 lead they did not relinquish. McNabb also ran 1 yard for a touchdown with 8:18 to play. That followed cornerback Al Harris' interception of Brad Johnson's pass to Keyshawn Johnson at the Tampa Bay 42. The first of David Akers' two field goals came after Bucs fullback Mike Alstott fumbled on the second play of the game. Brad Johnson bruised his left ribs during the first series and left after doubling over in pain throwing a pass to Keyshawn Johnson in the fourth quarter. Brad Johnson was sacked five times, knocked down 10 times, hit nine times after throwing a pass and intercepted once. Rob Johnson relieved him and drove the Bucs to a first down at the Eagles 6, but a penalty and three incompletions stalled them and Martin Gramatica hooked a 29-yard field-goal attempt with 3:59 to play.

KEY PLAY: Keyshawn Johnson had single coverage on a deep pass to the end zone in the third quarter, but he couldn't hold onto a pass thrown over the wrong shoulder.

KEY STATISTIC: The Bucs special teams allowed Brian Mitchell to run for 144 return yards. As a result, the Eagles had three drives begin in Tampa Bay territory and scored each time.

WORTH REMEMBERING: The Bucs can beat the Eagles in Philly. They did it to open the 1995 season and again in the second game of 1999 when they made it to the NFC Championship Game against the St. Louis Rams. And the Bucs can beat Philly in the postseason. They did it in their first playoff game ever, 24-17 at Tampa Stadium in 1979 en route to the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. But can the Bucs beat the Eagles in a postseason game in Philadelphia?


HE SAID IT: Bucs safety John Lynch: "Something about this place gives you this frantic feeling. You're behind by three, and you feel like you're behind by 20."

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