Walking the plank
McNabb passes Eagles past Buccaneers 31-9 in first roundPosted: Saturday January 12, 2002 7:46 PM
Updated: Sunday January 13, 2002 12:51 AM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Donovan McNabb has the Philadelphia Eagles headed for Chicago and the second round of the playoffs. After another postseason failure, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can only watch and wait, perhaps for Bill Parcells.
McNabb threw for two touchdowns and 194 yards and ran for 57 more as the Eagles beat the Bucs 31-9 in the first round of the playoffs Saturday and perhaps ended Tony Dungy's coaching career in Tampa Bay.
It left the Bucs talking about the Eagles and some of the Eagles talking about Dungy.
"If he gets fired, it's crazy," said Philadelphia tight end Chad Lewis, who caught one of McNabb's TD throws. "He's a great coach and one of the great people in the NFL."
Dungy himself wouldn't speculate on his future.
Asked if he would be dismissed after six seasons, the only winning head coach in Tampa Bay history responded: "I don't think so. But I don't make the decisions."
That was the mood of his players, who were quick to praise McNabb and the Eagles, but reluctant to speculate on the future.
"Next question," Warren Sapp said each time he was asked about Dungy.
Praising McNabb and the Eagles was easy.
In the first half, which ended with Philadelphia leading 17-9, he accounted for 161 of his team's 190 yards, and his 39-yard run after the Bucs took a 3-0 lead seemed to ignite the Eagles. He had 251 yards passing and rushing, all but 83 of the Eagles' total of 334 for the game.
And it wasn't only the running -- he kept moving to avoid the rush and was about to take off running to an open field when he found Todd Pinkston for 40 yards to set up the Eagles' field goal.
"I was able to see some lanes and pick up some yardage," said McNabb, who spent much of this season trying to stay in the pocket.
Still, the Eagles' win was overshadowed by speculation that this would be Dungy's last game. He could be replaced by Parcells, who led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories, took New England to the Super Bowl and the New York Jets to the AFC title game.
The loss was typical of Tampa Bay's offensive failures -- the Bucs have had three starting quarterbacks and three offensive coordinators in the last three seasons and just don't score enough touchdowns. This was the third consecutive playoff game they didn't score a TD, and Brad Johnson compounded the problems by throwing four interceptions.
"I talked to this team last night and told them if we can make the decisions about Tony hard or we can make it easy," said Keyshawn Johnson, who played for Parcells with the Jets and was traded by him.
"I'm not worried about Tony. If he's coming back, he'd better get some guys who can play. If they bring in the guy they're talking about bringing in, he won't stand for it."
This was typical of the Bucs, who have gone three playoff games without a touchdown. They lost 21-3 here last season.
In the first half, the Bucs matched Philadelphia drive for drive, but went to the locker room trailing 17-9 because they managed just three field goals while the Eagles scored two TDs to go with David Akers' field goal.
The Bucs' cold-weather jinx wasn't a factor -- the team entered the game 0-20 in games begun in temperatures under 40 degrees. It was a balmy 46 as the late-afternoon game began Saturday, but it made no difference.
The Eagles (12-5) will face the Bears (13-3) in Chicago next Saturday. The Bucs (9-8) go home -- wondering whether their future is under Dungy, Parcells or perhaps Steve Spurrier if the notoriously fickle Parcells decides not to take the job. Reports out of Tampa Bay say he already has agreed to a 5-year contract.
The Bucs took a 3-0 lead on their first possession after Dexter Jackson intercepted a pass from McNabb at the Philadelphia 39. McNabb's 39-yard scramble on the next series set up a 26-yard field goal by Akers that tied it.
McNabb had both of his TD passes in the second quarter -- 15 yards to Lewis and 23 yards on a swing pass to Duce Staley.
The Tampa Bay offense couldn't match that.
After Philadelphia's first score, the Bucs drove from their own 36 to the Eagles 10. But a third-down swing pass from Johnson to Warrick Dunn -- a typical Tampa play -- lost 4 yards, and Tampa Bay had to settle for Martin Gramatica's 32-yard field goal.
The TD pass to Staley came with 35 seconds left in the half and made it 17-6.
The Bucs threatened again -- Brad Johnson finding Keyshawn Johnson for 46 yards to the Philadelphia 12 with 11 seconds left. But once again, the Bucs tried a swing pass that got little, and once again Gramatica settled for a field goal.
Philadelphia clinched it when Correll Buckhalter went 25 yards up the middle to make it 24-9 midway through the third quarter. McNabb even had a role in that -- his fake on a reverse helped open a huge hole in the middle of the Tampa defense.
The final TD came on Damon Moore's 59-yard interception return with 2:08 left. Moore had two interceptions, part of a defense that totally shut down Tampa Bay after halftime.
But the difference was McNabb.
"Donovan did a nice job with his poise and patience in the pocket, the run game did a nice job and Chad Lewis stepped up as he has the last few weeks," head coach Andy Reid said.
But even Reid was talking about Dungy.
"Whatever happens," he said, "Tony is a class act and I wish him the best."
Notes: Tampa Bay's 0-6 road record in the playoffs is the worst in the NFL. ... The Bucs have been outscored 152-42 in those games .... Buckhalter's 25-yard TD run in the third quarter was Philadelphia's first rushing touchdown in eight games. ... McNabb was sacked twice by Simeon Rice, with whom he played at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.