Bucs struggle late, fall at home to Eagles

December 9, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' wild-card playoff hopes took a big hit on the game's final play.

Nick Foles threw a pair of touchdown passes in the final four minutes, including a 1-yarder to Jeremy Maclin with no time remaining to give the Philadelphia Eagles a 23-21 victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday.

"Right now we're playing for a lot," Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said. "We just didn't do it well enough. So, that's why we lost. At the end of the day, we just didn't play well enough, we didn't coach well enough to win. We need to play better to win and it didn't happen. That's what it boils down to."

The Bucs (6-7), who honored the franchise's Super Bowl championship team at halftime, lost for the third straight week since their four-game winning streak helped them climb into playoff contention.

"I don't think we were tense," Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman said. "Whatever it was, we were just a hair off."

With time running out on the Eagles, Foles had all the answers for ending the team's longest losing streak in 42 years, an eight-game skid that may have placed coach Andy Reid's job in jeopardy.

The rookie completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards in his fourth start in place of the injured Michael Vick. He threw an 11-yard TD pass to Clay Harbor with 3:55 remaining, then led the Eagles on a 64-yard game-winning drive after the Philadelphia defense forced a punt by Tampa Bay.

"It's not easy to keep your poise when you're getting hit all day," Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said of Foles. "He did. He could have got nervous and he didn't. Sat in the pocket and made plays."

Foles set up the winning touchdown with a 22-yard completion to Jason Avant on fourth-and-5 to the Bucs 1. The Eagles scrambled up to the line and Foles spiked the ball, stopping the clock with 2 seconds left and giving Foles a chance for one more play.

The 6-foot-6, third-round draft pick rolled to his right and found Maclin open in the end zone, and the receiver made the catch going to his knees.

Officials reviewed the play and upheld the call.

Rookie Doug Martin rushed for 128 yards and Freeman shrugged off a slow start to throw for two second-half touchdowns to help Tampa Bay overcome a 10-0 halftime deficit to take a 21-10 lead on Martin's 4-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter.

"We started off slow," Freeman said. "We needed to get something going early on, and we weren't able to do that."

That's when Foles, who also scored on a 10-yard run in the first half, took over.

The Eagles drove 72 yards in eight plays to cut into their deficit on Harbor's TD to make it 21-16. Foles threw incomplete on a 2-point conversion that would have allowed his team to pull within three points, meaning Philadelphia needed a TD when the offense got the ball back with less than three minutes to go.

Foles kept the final drive alive with a 3-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Tampa Bay 31. It looked as though the Bucs might hang on before the rookie moved around to buy some time and threw 22 yards to Avant cutting across the middle to keep the Eagles' hopes live. Avant had seven receptions for 133 yards.

"This a special game ... it's a big win for us," Foles said. "We haven't won in like two months. The emotions are going crazy right now.

Martin put together the fourth 100-yard game of his career on 28 carries. Freeman threw TD passes of 1 yard to Mike Williams and 13 yards to Vincent Jackson, who finished with six receptions for 131 yards.

The Eagles (4-10) won for the first time since beating the New York Giants 19-17 on Sept. 30.

They led 10-0 at the half, but helped the Bucs get back in the game with their only turnover early in the third quarter.

Punt returner Damaris Johnson fumbled a fair catch, and Tampa Bay's Dekoda Watson recovered at the Eagles 5 to set up Freeman's first touchdown pass.

Most of the members of Tampa Bay's 2002 championship team, including Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Simeon Rice and Keyshawn Johnson, returned to town for a dinner Saturday night and were recognized during a halftime ceremony capped by the introduction of coach Jon Gruden, who trotted out of the tunnel carrying the Super Bowl trophy.

The only player remaining from that roster who's still playing in the NFL is 16th-year pro, Ronde Barber, made his 212th consecutive start Sunday. It was his interception and 92-yard run that clinched Tampa Bay's 27-10 victory over the Eagles in the NFC championship game.

"It was nice to see all those guys, but it had nothing to do with the product on the field (today)," Barber said. "So it doesn't hurt more or less. It's 2012, and that was 10 years ago. They celebrated, rightfully, but is has nothing to do with this 2012 team."

NOTES: Barber had nine tackles. ... Martin, with 1,234 yards, moved past Carnell Williams (1,178) for the most yards rushing in a season by a Tampa Bay rookie. ... Tampa Bay DT Roy Miller was inactive after not practicing most of the week because of a head injury. The fourth-year pro was replaced in the starting lineup by Gary Gibson. ... Tampa Bay limited the Eagles to 29 yards rushing. Foles had 27 of them. ... The Buccaneers had a season-high six sacks.