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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Swept Out of Playoffs

Philadelphia follows the weekend’s NFL trend of home-team domination, blasting the visiting Bucs 21-3


FB Mike Alstott was effective in the first half, but little else worked for the Buccaneer offense until the game's final minutes

The Buccaneers' road through the playoffs ended in Tampa Bay, only much, much sooner than the team had hoped.

A 21-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday eliminated the Bucs and sent them home on New Year's Eve for an early beginning to the offseason.

For one-and-a-half quarters, it was exactly the game everyone expected, a defensive struggle in which the Bucs struck first on Martin Gramatica's 29-yard field goal five minutes into the second period.

Then Donovan McNabb took over.

The Eagles' quickly maturing second-year quarterback looked very deserving of the NFL's MVP runner-up honors, which he won earlier in the week. He ran for one touchdown and threw for another just before the first half ended, staking Philly to a 14-3 lead that proved insurmountable. The Bucs are now 0-5 all-time in road playoff games.

McNabb's heroics – which included 161 yards and two touchdowns through the air plus another 32 yards and another score on the ground, took Tampa Bay out of a game for the first time this season. The 10-7 Buccaneers had held either a tie or a lead in the first quarter of each of their 16 regular-season contests.

After DE Hugh Douglas' blindside sack of Bucs QB Shaun King produced a fumble that the Eagles recovered at the Tampa Bay 15 midway through the second quarter, McNabb took four plays to punch the ball into the end zone. After first scrambling down to the five-yard line, McNabb called his own number on third-and-goal from the five, sneaking up the middle for a touchdown.

The Bucs were then held to a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, giving the ball back to the Eagles with 1:43 remaining. A perfectly-executed two-minute drill by McNabb resulted in an impressive 69-yard, 91-second drive. The elusive Eagles hurler repeatedly rolled to his right on the drive, waiting for an open man to develop.

That strategy worked well on third-and-four from the Bucs' 39 when he hit RB Brian Mitchell for a nine-yard gain, and even better two snaps later when he found WR Charles Johnson over the middle for a 25-yard gain to the Bucs' five. This time, McNabb needed just one play from that spot to get it in, facing down a Tampa Bay blitz and lofting a touch pass to WR Na Brown.

Even more devastating to the Bucs' playoff hopes were a pair of methodical third-quarter drives, even if only one of them resulted in a score.

Philadelphia's first possession of the second half chewed almost nine minutes off the clock, though K David Akers missed a 36-yard field goal at the end. That small bit of Buccaneer momentum was quickly squashed by Douglas, who killed Tampa Bay's next drive with his second sack of King.

The result, after a short Tampa Bay punt, was another Eagles possession at their own 43-yard line. McNabb drove the home team straight down the turf once again, this time finishing it with a two-yard touchdown pass to TE Jeff Thomason. The march leeched the rest of the time off the third-quarter clock, as well as 47 seconds of the final period.

Tampa Bay had one more glimmer of life early in the fourth quarter when CB Donnie Abraham intercepted a short McNabb pass at the Eagles' 47, but the resulting drive fizzled out at the 42 when King's fourth-down pass to WR Keyshawn Johnson was broken up by Troy Vincent.

In addition to McNabb's obvious contributions, the Eagles' defense did a phenomenal job of containing RB Warrick Dunn, who had been the offensive catalyst in the Bucs' second-half surge this season. Dunn finished with just one yard on eight carries, plus five receptions for 28 yards. King, meanwhile, was rarely able to look downfield under continual Eagle blitzes and finished with 17 completions on 31 attempts for 171 yards.

WR Keyshawn Johnson did lead all players with 106 yards on six receptions, but most of that came on the Bucs' final desperation drive.

All in all, that effort helped Philly outgain the Bucs on the day, 277 to 199. The Eagles' pass rush was also stronger on the day, getting to King for four sacks while McNabb was dropped on just two occasions. The turnovers were even at one apiece, but only the Eagles converted their takeaway into points.

The Buccaneers actually scored first in the game, even if it would be their only dent on the scoreboard. An impressive second-quarter drive ate up 58 yards on eight plays but fizzled out too soon when a draw by Dunn on third-and-seven picked up just three. FB Mike Alstott had powered the drive with runs of eight and 18 yards, but it ended in just a field goal, Martin Gramatica's 29-yard shot. posted detailed reports of the action following each quarter, with a description of each play. Those reports follow to offer a closer look at the Buccaneers' final game of the season.

First Quarter

As expected, the game immediately fell into a defensive struggle, with neither team penetrating the other's territory. The Bucs punted after each of their three possessions, and the Eagles took their last march to their own 45 as the quarter came to an end.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

After winning the coin toss, the Bucs elected to receive at the west end of the field. K David Akers' opening kickoff was fielded deep in the end zone by WR Karl Williams and downed for a touchback.

The Bucs thus began play at their own 20, and opened up with a handoff to Dunn. Dunn cut to the left side on a run that developed slowly and ended up with a gain of just one. On second down, QB Shaun king threw a quick slant to WR Keyshawn Johnson, and Johnson took a hard hit and fell over the 30 for a first down at the 31.

King's next pass went to TE Patrick Hape, but through Hape's hands on the left sideline for an incompletion. FB Mike Alstott pounded up the middle on second down but was stopped after a gain of just two. That brought up third-and-eight and King took a shotgun snap, rolled right, then threw back to the left on an attempted screen to Dunn, but the pass was well overthrown.

Mark Royals came on to punt and hit a boomer of a punt that drove Brian Mitchell all the way back to the Philadelphia 11. Mitchell returned the 56-yard punt to the 24 for a 13-yard runback.

Philadelphia's First Drive

On first down, QB Donovan McNabb faked a handoff to RB Chris Warren and threw a quick pass on the right side to FB Cecil Martin. LB Derrick Brooks was instantly on Martin, holding the Eagles to a one-yard gain. However, McNabb dropped back on second down and threw a 16-yard completion to WR Torrance Small for a first down at the Philadelphia 41.

The Eagles tried to get tricky on the next snap, as McNabb handed off to Warren, after which Warren stopped and pitched it back to McNabb. However, the Bucs were ready for the play and DE Steve White dropped McNabb for a 10-yard sack.

The Eagles got back most of what they needed on second down when McNabb's pass to TE Chad Lewis went for 17 yards. On third-and-three, McNabb threw a quick pass over the middle to FB Stanley Pritchett, but LB Jamie Duncan dragged Pritchett down inches short of the sticks.

The Eagles chose to punt and Sean Landeta lifted a beautiful, angled punt that went out of bounds at the Bucs' six.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

Alstott took care of taking the Bucs out of the shadow of their own goalposts, busting up the middle for eight yards on first down. The Bucs stayed with that formula on second down and Alstott found a huge hole in the middle, which he exploited for another eight yards.

With a first down at their own 22, the Bucs went to Alstott one more time, but his run to the left side was stopped for a loss of two by LB Carlos Emmons. The next Alstott carry returned to the middle of the field and was successful once again, picking up six yards to set up a third-and-six. On third down, King audibled at the line of scrimmage as the play clock ran down and tried to throw a sideline pass to Dunn, but CB Troy Vincent helped knock it away.

Philadelphia's Second Drive

Philadelphia called its first run of the game on first down and Warren got four yards on a carry up the middle. On second down, McNabb faked a pitch to Warren then whirled and fired a quick strike to TE Chad Lewis. However, LB Shelton Quarles hit Lewis immediately and held him to one yard. On third-and-five, a blitz by S John Lynch forced an errant throw by McNabb that CB Brian Kelly nearly intercepted.

Landeta hit another nice punt 47 yards downfield, but Williams' 11-yard return got the ball back to the 23.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive

Dunn took a handoff on first down and darted behind left guard for a pickup of four. On second down, King gave it to Alstott on a quick hitter, but the Eagles' defense closed in time to hold the gain to two. Before the Bucs could attempt the ensuing third-and-four, a neutral-zone infraction on Philadelphia gave Tampa Bay a first down.

On first down, a nice play-action and rollout by King gave the QB time to throw, but the downfield coverage was strong and King had to scramble forward for one yard. Good pressure by the Eagles on second down caused King to run again, and this time he picked up three running straight up the gut. Tampa Bay then called a timeout before attempting its third-and-six play.

After the break, King found no one immediately open and tried to dump it off to Dunn, but the low pass was incomplete and would not have converted the third down anyway.

Royals came on for his third punt a hard, low kick that traveled 43 yards to Mitchell, who tacked on a nine-yard return to the Eagles' 28.

Philadelphia's Third Drive

On first down, McNabb threw a quick pass right down the line of scrimmage to Small, who pushed between two Buc defenders to pick up six yards. Mitchell got the handoff on second down, but DT Anthony McFarland dove through the Eagles' line and tripped Mitchell up from his feet to hold him to two yards. The Bucs got decent pressure on McNabb on third down, but the elusive quarterback scrambled forward for a gain of three yards and a first down at the 39.

On the next first down, Warren burst right up the middle for a gain of six, bringing the first quarter to an end.

Second Quarter

The second quarter continued in the vein of the first until late in the period, with both defenses controlling the action early on. However, the Eagles took the momentum late thanks to the game's only turnover of the first half. A Shaun King fumble on a sack led to a Philly touchdown, which gave the Eagles a 7-3 lead, and a successful two-minute drill extended that halftime edge to 14-3.

Philadelphia's First Drive

The Eagles opened with a second-and-four at their own 45 but started off poorly when QB Donovan McNabb bobbled the snap, recovering for no gain. McNabb threw a swing pass to FB Stanley Pritchett on third-and-five, but DE Steve White sniffed it out and dropped Pritchett for a loss of three.

Sean Landeta came on to punt and hit a 28-yard floater that Karl Williams fair caught at the Bucs' 31.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

The Bucs got off to a good start when QB Shaun King faked a handoff to RB Warrick Dunn and dropped back, only to find a heavy blitz in his face. At the last second, King found Dunn alone on the right side and threw a pass to him that Dunn turned into a 12-yard gain.

The Bucs next snap produced another first down as King found WR Keyshawn Johnson for a 14-yard gain on the right side. King then threw a screen pass on the other side to FB Mike Alstott, and Alstott rumbled up the field for eight yards to the Philly 43.

On second-and-two, King handed off to Alstott, who burst between a hole created by tight ends Dave Moore and Patrick Hape on the right edge of the line and bounded upfield for 18 yards to the 17. A play action on first down gave King time to pass, but Moore was well covered on the left side and King threw it out of bounds. On second down, King hit Moore on the same side, but for a gain of just three.

On third-and-three, the Bucs tried to catch Philly off-guard with a delayed handoff to Dunn, but the Eagle defense collapsed on Dunn after a gain of three. Martin Gramatica then came on to nail a 29-yard field goal for the first points of the game. Tampa Bay 3, Philadelphia 0.

Philadelphia's Second Drive

Gramatica's first kickoff of the day settled into Dameane Douglas' arms at the Philadelphia three, and Douglas returned it 24 yards to the 27 before being upended by TE Todd Yoder.

McNabb completed a short pass to WR Charles Johnson on first down and, after Johnson fought for seven yards, a face mask penalty tacked on five more yards and gave Philly a first down at the 39.

A quick pass in the same direction to RB Brian Mitchell was good for only two yards when LB Alshermond Singleton stood him up and S John Lynch knocked him down. Buccaneer pressure on second down forced McNabb to scramble forward and LB Nate Webster teamed with Singleton to stop him for no gain. On third-and-eight, S Damien Robinson's blitz forced a quick pass that Mitchell caught for just two yards thanks to LB Derrick Brooks' tackle.

Landeta came on to punt again and hit a 35-yarder that Williams fumbled but recovered himself at the Bucs' 23.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

The Bucs gave it to Dunn on first down and the back got three yards going straight up the middle. Green tried to zip a quick slant to WR Jacquez Green on second down but it was a little too hot to handle. On third-and-seven, King dropped way back in the pocket before dropping a screen pass off to Dunn. Dunn followed a great block by T George Hegamin to pick up eight yards and the Bucs first third-down conversion of the game.

On first down from the 34, King handed off to Dunn, but a middle blitz by the Eagles was timed perfectly and S Damon Moore dropped Dunn for a loss of five. King then took a shotgun snap and handed to Dunn on a draw, but he was stopped immediately again by LB Carlos Emmons for another loss of four yards.

On third-and-19, QB Shaun King was sacked by Hugh Douglas just as he was drawing his arm back to throw, resulting in a fumble that Philadelphia recovered at the Bucs' 15.

Philadelphia's Third Drive

On first down, McNabb scrambled to the right after seeing no open receivers, finding enough open field to pick up 10 yards and a first down at the five. McNabb rolled right again on the next snap looked for a man in the end zone but eventually threw it away. Blitzing CB Ronde Barber came all the way across the field to hit McNabb just as he threw on second down, forcing an incomplete pass and a third down at the five.

McNabb called his own number on third down and got the ball into the end zone. After dropping back quickly, McNabb shot up the middle, paused for a second to find a lane, then sliced into the end zone for a five-yard TD run. Philadelphia 7, Tampa Bay 3.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive

A short kickoff by David Akers was fielded at the 23 by Williams, who then danced around several tacklers to start the Bucs off at their own 37.

King followed McNabb's lead on third down, dropping back then rushing straight up the middle for a gain of four. A handoff to Dunn on second down did little, netting one yard up the middle to set up third-and-five. That brought the first-half clock down to the two-minute warning.

After the delay, King tried to go down the left sideline deep to Green, but the coverage by Al Harris was tight and the pass was batted away. Royals then blasted a 43-yard punt that Mitchell was able to get back to the Eagles' 31.

Philadelphia's Fourth Drive

The Eagles kept the momentum swinging in their direction on first down, as McNabb's swing pass to Mitchell picked up 14 yards on the left side before CB Brian Kelly dragged him down at the 45. The Eagles then called a timeout with 1:22 left in the half.

Another pass to Mitchell, this one over the middle, was good for another 10 yards to the Bucs' 45, leading to a second Philly timeout with 1:13 left. When play resumed, McNabb eluded two sacks and scrambled left but his throw to Torrance Small was low and incomplete. McNabb then handed off to Mitchell, who got six yards up the middle to the Bucs' 39. McNabb went back to Mitchell to convert the third down, rolling to the right and waiting for the pursuit to come forward before dumping it to Mitchell for nine yards to the Bucs' 30.

A blitz by LB Shelton Quarles on first down forced McNabb to throw the ball away quickly, but McNabb made up for it by improvising a 25-yard pass over the middle to Johnson. Johnson held onto the ball at the Bucs' five despite a hard hit by Robinson, and the Eagles called a timeout with 17 seconds left in the half.

McNabb handled another Buc blitz well on first down, dropping back and throwing a perfect touch pass to Na Brown in the right edge of the end zone. Philadelphia 14, Tampa Bay 3.

Tampa Bay's Fourth Drive

The Bucs took a knee at their own 27 after the kickoff to end the half.

Third Quarter

Though neither team scored in the third quarter, it was a disastrous period for the Buccaneers. Trailing 14-3 coming out the locker room, the Bucs allowed Philly to eat up nine minutes with its first drive, though it did not result in a score. Before the period came to an end, another impressive Eagles march had reached the Bucs' six.

Philadelphia's First Drive

RB Brian Mitchell took Martin Gramatica's second-half opening kickoff from a yard deep in the end zone out to the Eagles' 23.

On first down, RB Chris Warren found open field around right tackle and picked up seven yards before LB Derrick Brooks tackled him. A quick pass to Johnson on the line of scrimmage was good for a first down as Johnson extended the ball past the marker as CB Ronde Barber rode him out of bounds.

QB Donovan McNabb rolled right on the next first down but the Bucs' coverage stayed home and McNabb had to throw the ball away. However, McNabb found Johnson again on second down and the result was a nine-yard gain on the left side. Philly then converted the ensuing third-and-one when FB Cecil Martin made a one-handed grab of a swing pass to gain seven yards.

From the Eagles' 49, McNabb sent Warren up the middle, but LB Jamie Duncan stopped him after a gain of just two. McNabb had to settle for a dumpoff to Warren on second down, but the play was good enough for a gain of four to the Bucs' 45. On third-and-four, McNabb threw a short pass to Johnson and CB Donnie Abraham dragged him down just inches short of the sticks.

The Eagles elected to go for it on fourth-and-one, and converted with little trouble on a two-yard McNabb sneak up the middle.

With a new set of downs, McNabb dropped back and eluded another possible sack to complete an eight-yard pass over the middle to WR Torrance Small. A quick-hitting pass to WR Todd Pinkston on the left side picked up five yards and gave the Eagles another first down at the Bucs' 27.

Warren then took another handoff up the middle and slipped through several tacklers at the line of scrimmage to squirt ahead for seven yards. Warren found a glut of Buccaneers in the same spot on second down but was able to push forward for two yards, setting up a short third-and-one. The Eagles then called a time out.

A heavy blitz by the Buccaneers following the delay forced McNabb into a low pass and a quick incompletion. K David Akers then missed a 36-yard field goal, pushing it wide right.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

Perhaps regaining a little momentum, the Bucs started off well from their own 27, with QB Shaun King tossing a screen pass to FB Mike Alstott that was good for six yards on the right side. King then looked left on second down and found TE Patrick Hape for a gain of five and a first down at the Bucs' 38.

Unfortunately, a run to the right by Warrick Dunn on the next first down resulted in a loss of two when DE Hugh Douglas ran him down from the backside. King had good time to look around on a second-down drop-back, but couldn't find an open man and had to scramble out of bounds for a loss of one.

On third-and-13, King took a shotgun snap and was sacked by Douglas for a loss of five. Mark Royals came on to punt and hit one off the side of his foot, sending it out of bounds at the Eagles' 43.

Philadelphia's Second Drive

With time now their ally, the Eagles started out on the ground, sending Warren up the middle for a gain of three. McNabb threw over the middle for TE Chad Lewis on second down, gaining six yards before S John Lynch stopped him.

Third down was McNabb time again. When the Bucs covered his outlet pass perfectly, McNabb scrambled right and used a pump fake to open a hole through which he ran for 11 yards to the Bucs' 37.

McNabb followed with his first downfield pass of the game, and it worked when CB Donnie Abraham was called for pass interference at the Bucs' 18. Warren then swept to the right on first down and picked up eight yards to the Bucs' 10.

Mitchell tried the middle on second down but a run blitz by the Bucs held it to one yard. However, Warren moved the chains by slashing up the middle for three yards to the Bucs' six.

After Warren went off left tackle for no gain on first down, the third period came to an end.

Fourth Quarter

Any hopes of a Buccaneer comeback ended early when the Eagles scored a touchdown less than a minute into the fourth quarter then stopped Tampa Bay quickly on its next possession. The Bucs did drive deep into Eagles territory once near the end, but were turned away. Philadelphia left with a 21-3 victory.

Philadelphia's First Drive

The Eagles opened with a second-and-goal from the six and picked up three yards when the Bucs were flagged for offsides. On the next snap, RB Chris Warren tried to pound it in up the middle but was brought down by LB Jamie Duncan at the two.

On third-and-goal, QB Donovan McNabb faked a handoff, waited for TE Jeff Thomason to drift into the middle of the field and fired a two-yard touchdown pass to him. Philadelphia 21, Tampa Bay 3.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

Starting from his own 18, QB Shaun King tried to get the Bucs moving with a seam pass to WR Keyshawn Johnson, but it was slightly off-target and incomplete. King's screen pass to RB Warrick Dunn on second down was complete, but gained no yards thanks to Bobby Taylor's sure tackle. King threw to Dunn again on third down, picking up just five yards and resulting in a punt.

Mark Royals hit a high hanger that RB Brian Mitchell fair caught at the Eagles' 41.

Philadelphia's Second Drive

After dropping back on first down, McNabb quickly decided to scramble, heading up the middle for a gain of two. On second-and-eight, McNabb faked a handoff and rolled right, throwing a quick pass that went through Thomason's hands.

The next play resulted in Tampa Bay's first turnover of the game. McNabb tried to throw a quick pass over the middle to WR Na Brown, but CB Donnie Abraham cut in front of Brown to make a diving interception at the Eagles' 47.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

The Eagles came with an all-out blitz on first down and King made them pay with a nine-yard pass to TE Dave Moore. An apparent first-down pass to WR Keyshawn Johnson on second-and-one was called back when WR Jacquez Green was called for a pick. That resulted in a second-and-11 and King threw a quick slant to WR Reidel Anthony to pick up six yards.

King tried to hit Anthony again on the right sideline on third-and-five, but it was just inches out of his reach. The Bucs then called a timeout before the critical fourth-down play, but failed to convert when a quick slant to Johnson was knocked away by CB Troy Vincent.

Philadelphia's Third Drive

Taking over on downs at their own 42, the Eagles gave the ball to Warren, who blasted off right guard for six yards. Backside pursuit limited Warren to just two yards on the next carry, but Warren's sweep around the right side was good for 11 yards to the Bucs' 39.

Warren got the call again on first down and carried a pile forward up the middle for a gain of six. Warren's dive off left tackle on second down was good for just two yards, and a sweep around the right side was blown up by LB Jamie Duncan for a loss of four. The Eagles elected to punt and Sean Landeta was able to drop it in at the Bucs' five.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive

King took a shotgun snap on first down and threw a quick out pass to Johnson on the right side, but it was good for just three yards. His second down pass bounced through Moore's hands, but the Bucs got to midfield on third down. When King scrambled to his right under pressure, Johnson headed up the right sideline with two Eagles covering him. King's throw on the run was behind the trio, and only Johnson adjusted, catching the pass before falling out of bounds at the 50-yard stripe.

A quick pass to Anthony on first down appeared to be a miscommunication, as it was behind him and nearly intercepted by Vincent. After a false start penalty, an incomplete pass to Dunn and a clipping penalty sent the Bucs back to their own 30.

On second-and-30, King stepped up, rolled right and threw across the middle to Johnson for a gain of 18 yards. That set up third-and-12, and King converted with another strike over the middle to Johnson. The play picked up 20 yards and a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty took the ball down to the 17.

King was sacked on the next snap for a loss of seven, but the Bucs quickly got back into formation and picked up three yards on a pass over the middle to Dunn. On third-and-14, King looked for Johnson again but Bobby Taylor jumped in front of the receiver to bat the ball away. That brought up fourth down, and an all-out Eagles blitz forced a desperation pass over the middle that fell incomplete behind Johnson.

Philadelphia's Fourth Drive

With less than four minutes remaining, the Eagles sent Warren up the middle again and he picked up five yards to the 26. A determined effort by Warren on second down picked up four more yards and set up a very short third down, which he then converted with an eight-yard burst up the middle.

After the two-minute warning, Warren cut to the right side but was stopped by Dexter Jackson after a gain of just one. He got one more yard pushing up the middle on second down, then the Eagles finished the game with a third-down kneel down.

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