Battered Bucs defense can't hold late lead
Blank faces, long stares and stunned silence characterized the defensive side of the Buccaneers locker room after Sunday's last-second loss to Philadelphia.
With the chance to make one stop, a beleaguered Tampa Bay defense – which had played well for most of the game – couldn't make it happen as Eagles' rookie quarterback Nick Foles hit Jeremy Maclin on a 1-yard pass on the final play to hand Tampa Bay a 23-21 defeat.
The winning score capped off a remarkable 13-play, 64-yard drive in the final 2:44 of the game as the Eagles rallied to score 13 points in the final four minutes for the come-from-behind victory.
"They made more plays that we did,'' veteran safety Ronde Barber said. "I'll give them credit, the QB went out and executed his two-minute (drill) and drove it better than we did on defense.''
On the final drive, Tampa Bay had opportunities to halt the Eagles' flight down the field. The first opportunity for the defense to hold came after Michael Bennett recorded his second sack of the game to set up third-and-14 at the Philadelphia 32-yard line. But Foles hit Maclin across the middle for a 23 yard gain into Tampa Bay territory on the first play after the two-minute warning.
The Eagles faced fourth-and-1 at the Bucs 31-yard line, but Foles scrambled away from pressure to pick up the first down. With less than 20 seconds left, Bucs cornerback Danny Gorrer had the game in his hands, but dropped a would-be interception.
"When I saw the ball I kind of got excited,'' Gorrer said. "But the great corners in this game make those plays. If I want to be a leader and take my game to another level, I have to make that play through the seam.''
The missed opportunity, however, still left the Eagles facing fourth-and-5 at the Bucs 23, but Foles converted by hitting Jason Avant across the middle for a 22-yard gain. Tampa Bay safety Mark Barron made the tackle at the 1-yard line, forcing the Eagles to scurry to the line and spike the ball to stop the clock with two seconds left.
It was Foles, the rookie quarterback who took over a month ago for injured starter Michael Vick, who made the call for a sprint-out pass to a sliding Maclin near the sideline in the end zone. The play was reviewed by officials and upheld as Maclin gained possession with his knees down before sliding out of bounds. "He called it, he wanted it and he executed it,'' Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid said of Foles calling the winning play.
Bennett knew that play was in the Eagles' arsenal and felt the Bucs should have stopped it. "It's one of those things, they called that play, we knew that play and as veterans on this team, we should have stood up and made those plays,'' Bennett said.