Bucs Lose Round 1

January 6 - Tampa Bay lost a meaningless, yet chippy affair to Philadelphia after blowing a 13-3 lead in the fourth quarter. Eagles third-string QB A.J. Feeley hit WR Dameane Douglas for two late touchdowns against Bucs CB Donnie Abraham to get the win. The Bucs will travel to Philly next week to play the Eagles in the wild card round of the playoffs in a game that really means something.

TAMPA - Two tickets to a Sunday night football game to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Philadelphia Eagles along with 65,541 other fans - $100.

Parking at one of the private lots close to Raymond James Stadium - $20.

Two hot dogs and a couple of drinks - $15.

Being an Eagles fan and watching Philadelphia erase a 10-point Bucs lead in 26 seconds late in the fourth quarter to beat the Buccaneers - priceless.

Being a Bucs fans and losing to the Eagles 17-13 in the last game of the season - meaningless.

Yes, the Buccaneers did go down to defeat in the last game of the season for the second consecutive year. Tampa Bay finished with a 9-7 record while the Eagles improved to 11-5.

Yes, the Eagles won for the second consecutive time against the Bucs.

Yes, the Birds have built some momentum going into the Wild Card Weekend game when the same two teams will meet on Saturday at Veterans Stadium. No, this loss doesn't compare to the harmful defeat suffered at Green Bay in the season finale last year at Lambeau Field when kicker Martin Gramatica sliced a last second field goal wide right and Tampa Bay lost in overtime 17-14.

Last season the Bucs went into Green Bay and laid it on the line with everything they had only to see victory slip away from their grasp. It was such a devastating loss that the Bucs couldn't emotionally recover and were hammered by the Eagles 21-3 in the first round of the playoffs. This year, the results of the last game were the same, but the events that led to the Bucs losing this game were totally different.

First, and foremost, was the number of star players on both sides who didn't see action. The list of inactives on both teams told you that both head coaches, Andy Reid for the Eagles and Tampa Bay's Tony Dungy, were more interested in getting their banged-up troops ready for the rematch which actually has some meaning next week at Veterans Stadium. You could almost make a all-star team from the guys who didn't play, but that's another story for another time.

The Bucs took the opening kickoff and marched 62 yards in nine plays to go up 3-0 with 10:15 left in the opening period. Reserve placekicker Doug Brien kicked a 42-yard field goal to complete a drive that lasted 4:50. The big play was a 36-yard pass and run from quarterback Brad Johnson to rookie wide receiver Milton Wynn who was playing in his first National Football League contest.

After the first offensive series, most of the normal Bucs offensive starters, with the exceptions of guard Cosey Coleman and tackle Kenyatta Walker, hung up their cleats for the evening and the Eagles followed suit shortly thereafter. From the 8:18 mark of the first quarter, it became the quarterback Shaun King show and with 3:41 left in the opening stanza when Eagles reserve quarterback Koy Detmer made his first appearance to relieve Donovan McNabb. Basically the game took on the atmosphere of an exhibition game, but the bullets were flying for really.

For the Bucs, Wynn and running backs Aaron Stecker and Rabih Abdullah took advantage of their playing time. Wynn led the Bucs with 69 yards on four receptions. Stecker had 35 yards on 12 carries and the Bucs' only touchdown. Abdullah finished the game with 34 yards in eight carries to go along with two snags for 26 yards.

Tampa Bay extended their lead on the first play of the second quarter when Stecker crashed over from four yards out. The 27-yard drive that took five plays was set up by an interception by John Lynch when he stepped in front of a Detmer aerial that was intended for Eagles wideout Freddie Mitchell at the Philadelphia 29-yard line. Lynch returned the pilfer two yards to the Eagles 27-yard line and it only took the Bucs offense led by Stecker 2:58 to punch it into the end zone. Brien's successful conversion gave the Bucs a 10-0 lead with 14:55 left before halftime.

The Eagles finally dented the scoreboard with a David Akers 47-yard field goal at the 5:42 mark of the second period. The nine-play drive that traveled 34 yards was set up by a leaping interception of a King pass intended for Wynn by Rashard Cook on a first-and-10 at the Philly 48-yard line. The Eagles free safety returned the pick to the Bucs 47-yard line. Five minutes later, Philadelphia was on the board, but still trailing 10-3. The play that kept the drive alive was when Detmer found receiver Dameane Douglas on a third-and-9 pass play from the Eagles' own 37-yard line.

The Bucs answered that field goal with one of their own with 19 seconds left before halftime. The 11-play excursion into Eagles territory lasted 5:23 and Brien's second field goal of the night stretched the lead to 10 points at 13-3. The big playmaker of the 64-yard drive was a 9-yard catch by Wynn from King on third-and-3 at the Bucs 39-yard line.

On defense, Buccaneers free safety John Howell and defensive tackle James Cannida both turned in stellar performances along with linebackers Jeff Gooch and Nate Webster. Gooch led the Bucs with 11 tackles with Howell finishing with eight.

After a scoreless third quarter, wholesale substitutions were the order of the day with the Eagles inserting A.J. Feeley in at QB. All Feeley did was lead the Eagles back with two late touchdown passes. Both were to Douglas with the first covering two yards and the second for 24 yards, after a Karl Williams fumble on the ensuing kickoff that was recovered by Tim Hauck at the Bucs 24-yard line. Douglas beat Bucs corner Donnie Abraham for the two scores.

The Bucs tried to move down the field in the final 1:38 but they just ran out of time. A desperation pass thrown by King on the last play of the game fell harmlessly to the turf as the Eagles took Round 1 on a split decision. Next week the rematch is for all the marbles.


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