RICE GREETS OLD FRIEND WITH A SACK
Simeon Rice wasted little time introducing himself to former high school teammate Donovan McNabb. Instead of a handshake, Rice greeted the Eagles quarterback with a blind-side hit midway through the opening quarter of Philadelphia's 20-10 triumph. Rice stripped McNabb and LB Derrick Brooks took the fumble 11 yards for his fourth touchdown of the season, giving Tampa Bay a 7-3 advantage. ``There's nothing but love between me and Donovan,'' Rice said of his teammate at Chicago's Mt. Carmel High. ``We had a few minor breakdowns and give kudos to Donovan for making some big plays. The better team won today.''
Rice abused Pro Bowl LT Tra Thomas for much of the game, leading Bucs defensive linemen with six tackles. He also batted down McNabb's third-down pass at the Tampa Bay 12, forcing Philadelphia to settle for an early field goal. ``We're going to see the Eagles again,'' Rice said. ``This is a character-building loss for us. We know what we need to work on and when you go home and sleep on a game like this, that's when you become men.''
The Bucs defense had the Eagles completely stymied until McNabb found Todd Pinkston for a momentum- shifting TD pass late in the second quarter. Philadelphia had generated only 72 yards in 30 snaps before Pinkston burst down the right sideline past FS Dexter Jackson and took McNabb's 42-yard pass in stride. The Eagles never trailed again. ``They called the right play at the right time,'' Jackson said. ``And McNabb buys them a lot of time back there.''
Tampa Bay's defense had reeled off a 13-quarter run without allowing a touchdown before Pinkston's catch, which marked the longest play from scrimmage against the Bucs all season until Duce Staley added a 57-yard run on the final series. ``McNabb really didn't hurt us much today,'' Bucs SS John Lynch said, ``but he threw a beautiful ball for that touchdown and they were in max protect. It was a heck of a run we were on, but [defensive coordinator] Monte Kiffin settled us down. We knew somebody was going to score on us eventually.''
Eagles coach Andy Reid said the game films suggested that long pass would work against the Bucs' Cover 2 scheme, which depends on Lynch and Jackson to provide deep help. ``I don't necessarily want to get into it, but yes, we did see something,'' Reid said. ``We felt we could take advantage of it.''
Brad Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter with a left rib contusion and WR Keenan McCardell was hampered by a left upper back contusion suffered early in the game. ``It's pretty sore,'' McCardell said. ``We'll see how it feels tomorrow.''
The Eagles were determined to establish the run against the Bucs, who entered the game with the league's top-rated defense. ``Statistically, their defense was No. 1 in the NFL,'' Reid said, ``but I firmly believe that ours is No. 1.''
Philadelphia finished with 159 yards on the ground and 269 yards overall. Staley gained 69 of his 152 yards on the final drive of the game, with the Eagles nursing a 10-point lead. ``We were basically able to wear down a good defense,'' said Staley, who had 24 carries. ``Coach Reid stuck to the game plan. He said we were going to run the ball and he told the line to gear it up. They accepted the challenge and got it done.''
The Bucs and Eagles combined for 10 first downs and 11 punts in the opening half.
Martin Gramatica had converted 27 of 28 FG attempts inside the 30 in his career before pulling a 29-yarder wide left in the fourth quarter.
Bucs inactives were QB Shaun King, RBs Darian Barnes and Travis Stephens, WRs Charles Lee and Reggie Barlow, G Tutan Reyes, DE Corey Smith and CB Tim Wansley.
Ryan Benjamin (USF, River Ridge) made his Tampa Bay debut as a long snapper, wearing No. 66.
The last NFL defensive player to score four TDs in a season prior to Brooks was CB Eric Allen, who returned four interceptions for scores in 1993 while playing for Philadelphia.