Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Now or Never

Tampa Bay has never won a road playoff game, but they’ll need three in a row, beginning today in Philly, to reach the Super Bowl


DE Steve White and the Bucs' defensive line has a tough task ahead today in containing QB Donovan McNabb

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers woke up in Philadelphia on Sunday to find that no extra snow had fallen overnight. However, the anticipation had continued to pile up, inch by inch.

The Bucs arrived in Philly late Friday night and have been waiting, somewhat anxiously one would suspect, for 4:15 on Sunday to roll around. Now it's almost here.

Tampa Bay's third playoff chase in the last four years is about to begin but, for the first time since 1982, it will begin on the road. The Buccaneers won their first playoff game in 1997 and 1999, but each time it was at home; meanwhile, the team's road playoff record remains 0-4, all time.

Not that the current crop of Buccaneers is daunted by that winless record, any more than the supposed 'cold-weather jinx' was considered a factor last weekend in Green Bay, or any more than the New Orleans Saints were held up on Saturday by their previously winless postseason record.

This is the beginning of the road back to Tampa for the Buccaneers, a path that, if it is followed to the end, will have to hit three away spots before Super Bowl XXXV. That's a path that, as the Bucs are fully aware, has been successfully traveled by only one team, the 1985 New England Patriots.

Of course, Head Coach Tony Dungy doesn't want his team looking that far down the road. In the one-loss-and-you're-out set-up of the NFL playoffs, a team can afford to look ahead even less than in the regular season. Right now, the Bucs' only focus is the threat that is Donovan McNabb, NFL MVP runner-up.

McNabb is the Eagles' most potent offensive threat, by far, but the Bucs have proved capable of limiting run-pass dual threats like McNabb over the past few seasons. DT Warren Sapp will lead the Bucs' ferocious pass rush against McNabb, though he will miss 13-sack line partner Marcus Jones, out with a foot injury. Into Jones' place will step former Philly draftee Steve White, a 1999 playoff hero.

Will Sapp, White and company be able to slow down McNabb? Will the Bucs remain playoff road warriors for at least one more week? We'll find out today, beginning at 4:15 p.m. You can follow all of the action in our special Gameday section, which will include pre-game reports from the Bucs' locker room at Veterans Stadium, in-game photos, detailed play-by-plays of each quarter, lineups, injury information and more.

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