Eagles shove Bucs, likely Dungy, out door

31-9 repeat in Philly seen costing coach job

Pro Football

January 13, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Proving the first time was no fluke, the Philadelphia Eagles pounded out a methodical 31-9 NFC wild-card victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday.

Tenacious defense inside their own 20 and the dazzling feet of quarterback Donovan McNabb delivered a nearly identical result to last year's 21-3 playoff win over these same Bucs.

Yesterday's rout will send the 12-5 Eagles to Chicago next Saturday for an NFC semifinal matchup against the Bears, and embattled Bucs coach Tony Dungy home to an uncertain future.

Faced with reports that he is about to be replaced by Bill Parcells, Dungy was remarkably composed in a postmortem that drew a bigger media crowd than winning Philadelphia coach Andy Reid.

Asked if he felt this was his last game with the Bucs, Dungy said, "I don't think so, but I don't make those decisions."

When questions about his job security persisted, he smiled and steered the news conference in another direction.

"We don't need a funeral here," he said. "To get into speculation is not the reason to be here."

Dungy's six-year tenure as coach produced a 56-46 record and elevated the Bucs from the dregs of the NFL, but back-to-back wild-card losses have left him vulnerable.

For the second straight year, the Bucs (9-8) came up considerably short in Philadelphia. Two trips here netted just four field goals and followed a distressing pattern.

Both times, the Bucs gave up a touchdown just before the half that proved too much for their conservative offense to overcome.

After Tampa Bay's Martin Gramatica and Philadelphia's David Akers exchanged first-quarter field goals, McNabb gave the Eagles a 10-3 lead with a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chad Lewis.

The Bucs got within 10-6 on another Gramatica field goal before the decisive swing came out of the kicking game. It started when Eagles punter Sean Landeta (of Towson University) dropped a 39-yard punt at the Bucs' 5.

Then, after Tampa Bay failed to move the ball, Mark Royals shanked a punt from his end zone that allowed the Eagles to take over on the Bucs' 31.

It took the Eagles six plays to reach the end zone. Their touchdown came on a third-and-13 screen pass and determined run by Duce Staley. The 23-yard touchdown made it 17-6. A year ago, a late Eagles touchdown gave them a 14-3 lead at the intermission.

The Bucs answered with a 46-yard pass from quarterback Brad Johnson to wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson in the final minute of the half. But with just 12 seconds left, Johnson threw short in the flat to fullback Mike Alstott and the Bucs had to settle for another field goal.

Dungy defended the pass to Alstott, but admitted he would have preferred to go to Keyshawn Johnson in the end zone.

"We were trying to get it into the end zone, but obviously their defense knows that, too," Dungy said. "They played it well, so there was really no place to go. He [Brad Johnson] threw it underneath hoping we could run it in, but that's a tough situation when you only have one play to try to get it in."

The Buccaneers had opportunities to be in the game in the first half, and threw away whatever chances they had in the second. Three times they were inside the Eagles' 20-yard line and failed to get a touchdown.

Their deepest penetrations in the second half were to the Eagles' 33 and 28, and both ended with interceptions.

Johnson threw four interceptions altogether in the second half, one in the end zone and another at the 3. He finished with 202 passing yards on a deceptive 22-for-36 performance.

McNabb, who completed 16 of 25 for 194 yards, threw two first-half touchdowns that essentially were set up by a 39-yard scramble he made on the second series of the game. "What we were able to do after that was get the ball to the outside," he said.

McNabb rolled right to the sideline away from pressure on his touchdown pass to Lewis in the second quarter.

"On my touchdown, he kept things alive with his feet," Lewis said, "and he allowed me to find a soft spot in the zone."

The Eagles opened a 24-9 lead in the third quarter when Correll Buckhalter broke two would-be tackles and made a diving, twisting lunge for the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown.

The Eagles scored a final touchdown when strong safety Damon Moore returned his second interception of the half 59 yards.

The Bucs were left to contemplate a turnover of another kind.

"I'm disappointed in the way we played," Keyshawn Johnson said. "A lot of guys talked a good game, but they didn't go out there and play.

"We have seen this a couple of times in the playoffs. I just don't understand it. With the way some people played out there, there was no excuse. There were a lot of people here who just didn't contribute to this team today."

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