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Big-Play Bucs Stifle Eagles to Advance to Divisional Round

Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes and the Todd Bowles schemed up a run-stopping defense as the Buccaneers topped the Eagles, 32-9, to advance to the next round of the playoffs


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on to Detroit.

Baker Mayfield threw touchdown passes of 56 yards to Trey Palmer, 44 yards to David Moore and 23 yards to Chris Godwin to spark a dominant 32-9 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium in the Wild Card round of the 2023 playoffs. Tampa Bay's defense held the Eagles to 276 yards of offense and did not allow a third-down conversion in nine attempts.

"Not getting them in third-and-short, number one [was important]," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "We had a package we created to get some pressure on them, tried to confuse them up front, and the guys were playing hard. They have some big guys up front. Last time we played them, we gave up 200 yards rushing. We vowed not to let that happen again."

With the win, the Buccaneers moved on to a Divisional Round matchup on the road with the Lions on Sunday, January 21. It marks the third time in the last four years that Tampa Bay has made it to at least the Divisional Round. The Buccaneers now have four victories against the Eagles in six postseason meetings, their most against any opponent. Tampa Bay also defeated Philadelphia in the Wild Card Round after the 2021 season.

The Buccaneers started fast on offense, scoring on each of their first four drives, but settled for field goals on three of them to keep the game close. Kicker Chase McLaughlin continued his magical season with a three-for-three effort, hitting from 54, 48 and 28 yards. His 54-yarder in the second quarter was the longest field goal in franchise postseason history.

"We had a great game plan coming into it," said Mayfield. "The defense played lights out, Chase McLaughlin yet again, special teams-wise, nailing it. We had everything we wanted offensively; we could have definitely executed better. But everybody was on the same page. We were playing for each other tonight."

Mayfield threw for 337 yards to go with those three touchdowns and did not turn the ball over, finishing with a 119.8 passer rating. That was the second best passer rating in a postseason game by a Buccaneers quarterback, trailing only the 125.8 mark Tom Brady put up in the Super Bowl LV victory over Kansas City. The Bucs' offense was hampered by a series of dropped passes early on but Mayfield continued to put his pass-catchers in a position to succeed.

"He was sharp," said Bowles. "The whole game he was sharp. Like you said, they dropped some balls but he kept coming back, he kept going to them. He was putting the ball in places where only they could catch it. He didn't turn it over. He kept making play after play after play and did a hell of a job."

Mayfield also absorbed four sacks, several of which short-circuited scoring opportunities, but he managed to stay sharp until the end despite playing through ankle and ribs injuries.

"It's very satisfying," he said. "We're happy about it. We've got bigger goals. They got us earlier in the year and so did Detroit. We've got Detroit and we'll be ready for them."

The Buccaneers avenged a Week Three loss to Philadelphia during the regular season, a lopsided 25-11 affair in which the Eagles had a huge advantage in the running game, with 201 yards to the Bucs' 41. Bowles attacked that issue by frequently employing an unusual six-man front with only one safety, and the results were dramatic. This time around, the Bucs ran for 119 yards and 4.1 yards per carry while the Eagles were held to 41 yards and 2.8 per tote.

"We had a good game plan going into this week," said DL Vita Vea. "Obviously, they kicked our butt up front last time we played them in the regular season. Coach Bowles put in a good game plan this week for us, and we went out there and did our jobs and it turned out well for us."

The game was still close well until the second half until the Buccaneers' defense came up with the play of the night. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts retreated into his end zone on a third-and-six from the 14-yard line and was eventually spun down by OLB Anthony Nelson. Though Hurts managed to get the ball out of his hand at the last second, the play was deemed intentional grounding, which by rule resulted in a safety. That improved the Bucs' lead to 18-9, and Palmer scored two plays later to make it a 16-point lead with a quarter to play. A six-minute drive in the fourth quarter that ended in Mayfield's back-foot touchdown throw to Godwin on a zero blitz put the game out of reach.

"They were ready to play," said Bowles. "We were underdogs. We'll be underdogs next week, too. We understand that. We embrace it. Guys came up play after play. We'll enjoy the night and start getting ready for Detroit."

The Bucs had 242 yards of offense at halftime and were able to score on each of their first four possessions, but settled for field goals on three of those drives and were only up by a touchdown heading into the second half. Mayfield threw for 174 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters but a series of drops and missed connections on downfield shots kept the Eagles within striking distance.

The Bucs got the ball to start the game after a touchback but Mayfield's first pass of the night, to Evans on a stutter-step move up the left sideline, was incomplete. However, Mayfield threw again on second down and hit Otton on a slant over the middle for a gain of 15. Mayfield faked a handoff on the ensuing first down and found Evans wide open in the middle of the field for a gain of 21 to the Eagles' 31. White's first run of the game then got eight, and he moved the chains on second down with a hesitation step and a gain of four. Seven more yards over left guard for White put the ball at the 20, but a broken play on second down made it third-and-three. White took a short pass and appeared to be stopped shy of the line to gain but bounced off a tackle and surged forward for a first down at the 17. Mayfield escaped the pocket and scrambled for six yards. Otton couldn't hold on to a second-down pass in the end zone on a slant, and an out to WR Trey Palmer was incomplete. The Bucs sent out Chase McLaughlin to start the scoring with a 28-yard field goal.

The Eagles also started at their own 25 after a touchback and got a quick first down on runs of nine and three yards by Swift. Two short completions made it third-and-two and Winfield was on the spot to knock away a third-down pass intended for TE Dallas Goedert. The Eagles' first punt was fair caught Deven Thompkins at the Bucs' 21.

The Bucs backed up before getting started, with Palmer drawing a false start flag. Mayfield got that back and a lot more immediately, finding WR David Moore down the left hashmarks for 22 yards. A facemask penalty on the Eagles tacked on 15 more to the Philadelphia 47. Mayfield went deep down the right sideline to Evans on the next play and was on target but the receiver couldn't hang on. Two plays later, on third-and-seven, Mayfield found Moore again and he weaved through traffic for a 44-yard score.

Jake Camarda blasted a second touchback to put the Eagles at their 25 and a Swift run plus a completion to WR Quez Watkins made it third-and-three. Goedert couldn't hold on to a quick pass on an out to the left and the Eagles had to punt again. Thompkins got 13 yards on the return to put the ball at the Bucs' 24.

Chase Edmonds got the call in the backfield for the next drive and delivered a first down with a four-yard run and an eight-yard reception. Palmer took a pitch on an end-around on the next snap and had to widen out to get around LB Nolan Smith but was able to make the corner for a gain of nine. Edmonds punched it over for a first down, but White lost three on the next play. That proved irrelevant when Mayfield targeted Otton on a crosser and the tight end rumbled all the way down to the Eagles' 33. A one-yard run by White brought the first quarter to an end. Josh Sweat sacked Mayfield on the first play of the second quarter to make it third-and-13, and LB Zach Cunningham broke up a third-down pass to Moore. McLaughlin came on to smash a 54-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead.

Two plays into the ensuing drive, Hurts connected with Smith over the middle for a gain of 31, with CB Zyon McCollum saving a long touchdown with a tackle from behind. Hurts and Smith hooked up again for 12 more to the Bucs' 32, but the Eagles faced a third-and-eight moments later. Hurts tried to get the ball to Smith again in the left flat but CB Jamel Dean broke it up. Jake Elliott got the Eagles on the board with a 47-yard field goal.

A misdirection screen to Thompkins got four yards to start the Bucs' next drive and another deep shot was just off Evans' fingers. Mayfield scrambled on third down to keep the drive alive with a nine-yard gain. Thompkins took another screen two plays later and spun out of two possible tackles to get a first down at the Bucs' 49. Otton couldn't hold on to a potential big play on a slant on the next play but a tunnel screen to Godwin made it third-and-one. After a White run gained nothing, the Bucs went for it on fourth down and a misdirection pitch to White worked to perfection for seven yards and a first down. The drive stalled there, however, with LB Zach Cunningham lunging to bat away a third-and-five pass intended for Evans. McLaughlin came on again to drill a 48-yard three-pointer.

The Eagles were guilty of an ineligible-man-downfield to start the next drive, after which Hurts threw a four-yard out to Julio Jones. Hurts moved the sticks with a 14-yard sideline strike to Jones, who was shaken up on the play. Two plays later, Smith got open deep down the middle and Hurts hit him for a 55-yard gain down to the five. Hurts finished the drive with a touchdown pass to Goedert. The Bucs were flagged for offsides on the ensuing extra point, after which the Eagles elected to go for two from the one-yard line. Philadelphia brought out its "Brotherly Shove" play but the Bucs were able to stop it to keep the score at 16-9 with three minutes left in the first half.

White took a first-down handoff around left end for 10 yards to start the next drive. Two plays later, Otton made a great catch on a hard pass out to the left for 20 yards to the Eagles' 44, bringing on the two-minute warning. After the break, Mayfield overthrew Godwin on a seam route, and White couldn't hold onto a hard pass on a quick slant on second down. After an Eagles timeout, Mayfield was sacked on third down, leading to the Bucs' first punt of the game. Return man Britain Covey muffed the kick but fell on it at the Eagles' nine-yard line with 1:33 left before halftime.

The Eagles went into hurry-up mode and a quick pass to RB Kenneth Gainwell got nine yards. A Gainwell run moved the chains as the clock ticked under a minute. Hurts was chased into an emergency throwaway on the next snap, taking the clock down to 40 seconds. Hurts had a lot of time to throw on the next play and found Smith at the 32 for a first down, after which the Eagles used their last timeout of the half. An incompletion and a short completion to Goedert later, and it was third-and-eight with 22 seconds on the clock. Hurts hit Watkins on a short pass on third down but Lavonte David stopped the play two yards short and the first half came to an end.

The Eagles started the second half at their 25 after a touchback and David dropped Swift for a loss of one on first down. After an incompletion, Hurts dropped back to pass on third down but was dropped for a nine-yard sack by Kancey. Braden Mann's punt rolled to a stop at the Bucs' 41.

A quick sideline pass to Otton got 11 yards but moments later the Bucs faced a third-and-seven. The drive ended on the Bucs' half of the field thanks to a sack split by Smith and Fletcher Cox. Jake Camarda's punt was fair caught at the Eagles' 13.

Offsetting penalties erased a first-down scramble by Hurts and Den sniffed out a quick pass to Smith to the left for a loss of eight. A Hurts scramble was good for five and the Eagles kept their drive alive on third down when OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka was flagged for pass interference. It was third down again after two Swift runs gained four yards and an outlet pass to Gainwell was nowhere close to moving the chains.

Tampa Bay's next drive started at its own 36. A play-action rollout pass to Otton started the march with a seven-yard gain, and White found a seam over right guard for 12 more to the Eagles' 45. Another play-action pass was good for eight more to Godwin, and White's next carry got one. On third-and-one, Mayfield faked a handoff and looked towards TE Payne Durham but saw a defender in the way and held onto the ball, taking a sack back at the 45. Camarda's punt was fair caught at the Eagles' 10.

Gainwell cut back on a first-down run and was tripped up by David for a loss of six. After a Goedert out was good for 10 yards, the Bucs' defense came up with a huge play. Nelson trapped Hurts in the end zone and the quarterback's desperation heave as he was being dragged down was flagged for intentional grounding. Since Hurts was in the end zone, that was by rule a safety, increasing the Bucs' lead to 18-9 and making the Eagles kick away from their 20-yard line. Thompkins' 27-yard return got the ball to Tampa Bay's 38 with two minutes left in the third quarter.

White bounced off a tackler in the backfield and got six yards on the first play of the ensuing drive. On the next play, Mayfield hit Palmer on an out-breaking route to the right sideline and the rookie wideout broke away from his closest defender then accelerated between two other Eagles and broke free for a 56-yard touchdown.

Swift got the Eagles moving on the next drive with a 17-yard tackle-breaking run, but was stopped for no gain on the next handoff. Hurts got the ball to Smith on a deep slant to get the ball to the Bucs' 37 and bring the fourth quarter to a close. After an incompletion to start the fourth quarter, Hurts found Smith on a crossing route for a first down at the 22. A Kancey tackle in the backfield cost Swift two yards and another ineligible-man-downfield penalty pushed the Eagles back to the 29. A false start resulted in another five yards lost, and a second-and-22 flare pass to Swift got just one yard. Hurts hit swift again over the middle on third down but it was 10 yards short and the Eagles sent out Elliott to try a 40-yard field goal. However, the Bucs were flagged for being offsides and Philadelphia sent its offense back out on fourth-and-five. Hurts tried to find Smith in the end zone but Carlton Davis was there to break it up.

Taking over at his own 17, Mayfield immediately found TE Payne Durham over the middle for a gain of 18. An outlet pass to Godwin got five more but Edmonds was stopped after a gain of just two on second down. Mayfield scrambled for time on third down and threw to Otton for just enough to move the sticks. A holding call on TE Ko Kieft moved the Bucs back 10 yards but Mayfield's back-shoulder throw to Evans got 19 to make it second-and-one. White moved the chains with an eight-yard run over left guard, and two plays later Evans caught a quick slant to make it third-and-one at the Eagles' 28. White powered over left tackle for a new set of downs and Philly used its final timeout with seven minutes to go. Two more White runs made it third-and-seven, and the Bucs decided to put it in the air on third down. Mayfield threw while falling backward against a big rush and got it to Godwin down the middle for a 23-yard touchdown.

Hurts hit Swift for 11 yards to start the next drive but Greg Gaines dropped him for a seven-yard sack on the next snap. Two plays later, the Eagles were flagged for offensive pass interference, making it third-and-18 at the 28. A short pass to Olamide Zaccheaus put the Eagles into a fourth-and-12, and an out to Smith was not enough to keep the drive alive.

The Bucs ran the ball four times to drain the clock, turning it over on downs, and Eagles handed it to Gainwell twice to finish their season.

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