By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 1, 2001
PHILADELPHIA -- Coach Tony Dungy preached all season that the Bucs' conservative approach to offense was not a prescription for problems ... as long as the Bucs didn't turn the ball over.
That proved true in the late stages of the first half against the Eagles.
Ahead 3-0 and with a chance to seize momentum, quarterback Shaun King fumbled after being sacked by Hugh Douglas. The Eagles recovered the ball at Tampa Bay's 15-yard line and scored four plays later on a 5-yard run by Donovan McNabb. They never relinquished the lead.
"It was huge," offensive tackle Jerry Wunsch said. "It seemed to give them the lift they needed, and we didn't match that intensity."
Douglas, who tormented the Bucs all game, wouldn't take all the credit for the game-turning play.
"I think that the momentum shifted to our favor at that point, but I couldn't have done that if the secondary wasn't back there doing their job," Douglas said. SILENT SAPP: One of the most dominant defensive forces in the league, defensive tackle Warren Sapp wasn't himself. The usually energetic one finished with four tackles and no sacks. Eagles coach Andy Reid said the play of center Bubba Miller and guard John Welbourn had something to do with it.
"They did a very nice job on him," Reid said. "I've got a lot of confidence in those inside guys, and I thought they came out and played aggressive, as did the whole offensive line."
Sapp, one of the most talkative in the Bucs locker room and outspoken during wins and losses, did not speak after the game. BACK IN THE STARTING LINEUP: Since losing his starting position to Marcus Jones at the end of training camp, defensive end Steve White hasn't complained. Jones finished the season with 131/2 sacks.
White stressed he would be ready when the Bucs called, and he seemed ready early in the game. Replacing Jones, who was out with a strained left foot, White registered his first sack since Nov. 5 in Atlanta, dropping McNabb for a 10-yard loss on the Eagles' third play.
White, however, had few other highlights and was not pleased with his play.
"I have to take a look at myself and do some soul-searching," White said. "I missed some tackles and had some opportunities that I didn't take advantage of. I can't say I had a good game because we lost."
GENERALLY SPEAKING: General manager Rich McKay emphatically said the loss would not lead to a flurry of off-season moves.
"Am I disappointed? Yes," McKay said. "But to start 3-4, to get to a chance to be in the playoffs? No. I'm not that disappointed. ... There won't be a lot of changes."
The Bucs have a number of free agents to negotiate, notably starters Wunsch, Frank Middleton, Ronde Barber and Damien Robinson.
SOME HOMECOMING: Al Singleton played four years of college ball at Temple and said last week that he looked forward to playing at Veterans Stadium. He seemed quite at home. Singleton finished with three tackles and combined with Nate Webster for his first sack of the season.
"It felt good to be back out there," Singleton said. "It's the same old Veterans Stadium, if you ask me. Nothing new."
Singleton's season was plagued by injury, and Sunday was no different. He sprained an ankle in the third quarter and played sparingly the rest of the game.