Eagles fans boo the old, the new in 21-6 loss to Buccaneers

September 04, 1995|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles fans already had showered Ricky Watters with boos when one decided to show him this treatment was not reserved for newcomers to the City of Brotherly Love.

A disgruntled fan threw a beer on Randall Cunningham as the longtime Eagles quarterback made his way to the locker room.

"This is a tough town," said Cunningham. "Fans can turn on you in a second. I've tried to explain that to Ricky. They say New York is a tough place to play. New York fans aren't any tougher than fans here."

From a city that once booed Santa Claus, a crowd of 66,266 booed often and loudly as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Eagles, 21-6, yesterday in the season opener.

New Eagles coach Ray Rhodes saw his honeymoon starting to end nearly 15 minutes into the game when the Eagles had another drive stopped and settled for a second field goal.

And it didn't end until the Buccaneers' Trent Dilfer had thrown two long passes, one for a 64-yard touchdown, and Tampa Bay held the Eagles to 273 yards of total offense. Philadelphia also had eight penalties for 44 yards and allowed five sacks.

"This was one of the most embarrassing games I've ever been involved in," said Rhodes, who was the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator last season. "Positive? There was nothing positive about this game when you get your butts handed to us like that. We needed some players to step up and make plays, and they didn't. And if you have to take a lick, you're going to have to take one."

Rhodes was alluding to Watters, the Eagles' all-purpose and emotional running back who signed with the team during the off-season.

Watters ran for only 37 yards on 17 carries and had five receptions for 34 yards. But twice he short-armed receptions, the last with 3:37 left in the game on a pass over the middle. Watters stopped running inches before he was about to collide with safety Thomas Everett, which drew the wrath of the crowd.

"I'm not used to this," said Watters of the booing, "but I did hear about it. It was late in the game and Randall threw the ball with a rush in his face. I'm not going to jump out there and get knocked out. For who? For what?

"Don't worry. I'll be making plays all season," said Watters. "We just have to get some things straightened out. We're a much better team than we showed today."

The Eagles have to be, because they couldn't have played much worse yesterday. Their makeshift offensive line was ineffective, and the Eagles had no long passing attack.

Cunningham completed 25 of 36 passes for 191 yards, but never seemed comfortable in the pocket, especially from his left and blind side, which was manned by rookie tackle Barrett Brooks.

"We had no choice but to throw short," said Rhodes. "We were concerned about the pressure coming from that area. We tried to get him as much help as possible."

Cunningham needed some guidance, too. He is far from mastering the West Coast offense. He ran left when he should have sprinted right. He dropped back when he should have been running a bootleg. Several players said they were confused by the formations called, and the Eagles had trouble inside the Buccaneers' 20.

"I'm not going to make excuses," said Cunningham. "I just wasn't doing my job as well as I could have. Everything seemed to be going well in practice last week, but I've got to get better at making reads and throwing quicker. I'll take all the blame for this one."

Tampa Bay picked on right cornerback Derrick Frazier with success. Frazier allowed wide receiver Horace Copeland the inside position on a post pattern for a 64-yard touchdown and a 7-3 Tampa Bay lead with 7:09 left in the first period. And Frazier allowed Copeland inside position again on a slant-in pattern that led to a 44-yard gain and a 19-yard touchdown run from Errict Rhett that put the game out of reach, 21-6, with 4:01 left in the game.

"One time he clearly beat me. The other time I slipped," said Frazier. "It's a learning experience, and the best thing is there will be another day."

But Rhodes promises shake-ups. After all, this was Trent Dilfer who threw for 215 yards, not Dan Marino. The Eagles also allowed 92 yards on three kickoff returns and lost one of two fumbles.

Both were by Watters, one leading to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Dilfer to tight end Jackie Harris with 10:09 remaining in the game.

"I'll say it because everyone else has too much pride, but we've got a lot of new faces, and this is a great game for us to sit back, dissect and make us a better team," said Eagles guard Guy McIntyre, another ex-49er. "If I know Ray, we'll be working our butts off this week to get things corrected."

Rhodes said: "Some people lost their poise. I've told them once and I'll tell them again I'm not married to anybody on this football team. If the situation dictates changes in personnel, I will make them. I will not let this team into the same funk they were in at the end of last year."

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