Eagles defenders realize they didn't put Bucs away
First the Philadelphia Eagles' jaws landed with a thud. Then their pride and confidence in their offensive scheme came crashing down to the soft - but unforgiving - sod at Tampa Stadium. "Embarrassing," Eagles defensive tackle Jerome Brown said after a stunning, last-minute 14-13 loss to the previously winless Buccaneers on Sunday. "Embarrassing."
That was exactly one word more than defensive end Reggie White could or would utter. Draped in a towel, White slumped in his seat and stared blankly into his locker.
And who could blame the Eagles' defensive stalwarts for that reaction? For the first 55 minutes, they had yielded just 134 yards, forced six turnovers, scored their team's lone touchdown and had allowed no points. "All that doesn't mean a damn thing if you don't get the win," Brown said.
"Any time you lose to an 0-5 team in that fashion, it's difficult (to accept)," linebacker Seth Joyner said. "You let an 0-5 team hang around like we did, you're going to get burnt. That's what happened to us."
Joyner criticized the game plan as being too conservative, which put too much pressure on the defense. The Eagles, who have lost both Randall Cunningham and Jim McMahon to injuries, pressed third-string quarterback Brad Goebel, a rookie free agent from Baylor, into the starting role for the first time and simplified the offense. But the straight-ahead running of Heath Sherman (89 yards on 35 carries) and the short passes of Goebel were simply ineffective.
It was particularly glaring at the end. With the Eagles leading 13-0, Sherman ran three times for 4 yards, which forced a punt from deep in their own territory. Jeff Feagles fumbled the snap, and the Bucs had new life at the Eagles' 8. After the Bucs scored, the Eagles tried to again run the ball and the clock. Sherman gained a total of 4 yards on first and second down. On third down, Goebel threw incomplete to Roy Green. Chris Chandler then drove the Bucs 54 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
"The name of the game is touchdowns and field goals," said an incensed Joyner, who had three tackles, forced a fumble and recovered one for the Philadelphia touchdown late in the third quarter. You can't play conservatively. When the offense goes three-and-out, three-and-out, sooner or later, something's going to happen. It's the law of averages. I've been playing football since I was 9 years old, and I've never been associated with a loss this bad."
Safety Wes Hopkins, who had six tackles (two of which caused fumbles), two sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery, said everyone knew the onus would be on the defense. "We knew coming in with a rookie quarterback, we were going to be conservative and we (the defense) were going to have to make things happen," Hopkins said. "But we feel we can go out and dominate people, and no matter how many times you're put in that situation you have to stop them."
For his part, Goebel said he was happy with the game plan and that no one should be criticizing it or one another. "I wasn't trying to force anything," he said. "I just didn't want to give them a big play. But they got the momentum. But we can't have dissension and finger-pointing."
Although tight end Keith Jackson said Goebel did an excellent job executing the offense and audibilizing at the line, he said the supporting cast had to do more. "Our defense is super; we have to put the hat on them," he said. "Who are we going to put it on? Randall's out. McMahon's out."
Brian Landman, The St.Petersburg Times 1991