Past stars return as Eagles dominate Bucsby Joseph Birmingham
The Eagles started today off with a bang. Donovan McNabb came back to start and immediately ran the ball for a first down, and followed that up with a 51 yard touchdown bomb to Jeremy Maclin. For a moment it appeared as if a rout would be underway.
Then the officials started to play a supporting role for the Buccaneers offense. The Bucs could not gain forward yards on 3/4 of their first half plays, and Cadillac Williams actually had -3 yards rushing at one point and ended the first half with 0 yards on 7 rushes. The Eagles did commit several fouls, but the Bucs did as well and seemed immune. Josh Johnson threw several passes after the play clock expired, but was not flagged for delay of game and the Bucs repeatedly held the Eagles defenders as they came exploding through the non-existant Tampa Bay offensive line and no flags were thrown there either.
The Eagles stopped the Bucs twice on fourth downs. Tampa actually had one drive with 6 negative plays where they somehow gained 40 yards in field position. Fortunately the officials only affected the field position in the first half, not the scoreboard. Tampa Bay was pushed back for a loss on the first fourth down and the second time the Eagles forced a fumble that was run back for a touchdown but after review, the play was called back even though I saw no CONCLUSIVE proof Johnson had secured the ball. It was probably the right call, but that is not the way the rules are actually written or designed. After making a bad call, there has to be conclusive proof of the error for the call to be overturned. This was a game played on our home turf and we could not buy a call or escape any we probably deserved. Based on talent and statistics alone, the game should have been a 35-0 first half blowout.
On the Eagles second drive of note, McNabb connected on a 38 yard pass to Celek who ended his run with a high hurdle over the Tampa defender. He then connected to Weaver who had a masterful run up the sideline and hurtled into the end zone for touchdown number 2. The Eagles settled for a 14-0 lead with 5 minutes to go in the first half. Weaver got held on the ensuing kickoff, and a flag was finally thrown against the Bucs, but the referee crew decided to disregard this flag as it was not something that could be called against the Eagles.
On the next Tampa Bay possession Johnson again allowed the clock to expire, but with no flags forth coming, they drove down inside the Eagles 20 as they reached the two minute warning. The Bucs Kellen Winslow scored on another close but not definitive play that was reviewed and NOT overturned, again favoring the Buccaneers. Again, it was probably the right call, but it was very suspicious how no call that COULD go the Eagles way did. So it was 14-7 just like that with 1:55 to go in the first half.
Fortunately, McNabb rose to the occasion again, taking the first play of the next drive and running for 17 yards, and following that up with another long pass to Maclin for the touchdown, this time for 40 yards. and suddenly it was back to a 14 point lead at 21-7. Akers then set the Philadelphia record for PAT’s with his 365th.
Josh Johnson had a number of his passes dropped but he was also under siege the entire game and hurried the majority of his throws. Linebacker Donald Penn took advantage of one batted ball and rumbled for a first down to the Eagles eight, Assante Samuel stopped the final Bucs offensive threat of the first half with an interception in the end zone.
After a little give and take to start the scond half, Assante Samuel picked off his second Johnson offering and secured great field position for the Eagles. Westbrook got involved at this point and made a beautiful catch of a wobbly McNabb pass and followed it up with a slashing touchdown run through the middle reminding us of Westbrook of old to make it 28-7 and put the game all but out of reach. The thing about Westbrook; he may play an entire half and have no effect, but the more often he touches the ball, the more likely he will explode and then he is nearly unstoppable. The third quarter of todays game showed there are some miles left on those tires yet !
Johnson marshalled his troops and engineered a drive in the face of constant blitzes down inside the Eagles 20 where he promptly threw another interception, his third, this time to Sheldon Brown.
On the following drive, Maclin made his fourth catch to get his first 100 yard game. The Eagles settled for a field goal on this drive to extend thier lead to 31-7. Tampa Bay drove back down the field on their next possession and Johnson threw a 2nd touchdown to Winslow when the score was just about meaningless. The score stood at 31-14 with 7 minutes to play.
The Buccaneers surprised the Eagles with an onside kick and got another possession, but the Eagles defense immediately started to push them back with a sack, a short gain and a tipped pass to bring up a fourth and 18, Tampa Bay was 2-3 on fourth downs so they punted the long one away and effectively gave up the game. McNabb finished with a 157.2 passer rating. Vick came in to mop up for Donovan and had a nice run or two and showed a little arm as well. He underthrew Maclin late or the Eagles would have had a late touchdown to increase their lead.
The only real issue I saw the Eagles as having was the 100+ penalty yards they gave up, but I also put some of the responsibility for that on the officiating. This just means the Birds will have to play as near perfect as possible the rest of the season since they know the tendency to throw flags against them on every opportunity exists. The special teams were solid and the defense supercharged. The Eagles ran their record to 3-1 and kept pace with the rest of the NFC East as the Giants, and Cowboys won their games as well. A late safety concluded the scoring for the 33-14 win. Next up the Oakland Raiders, another weak opponent the Eagles need to be sure not to dismiss too lightly.