Buccaneers eliminate defending NFC champion Eagles

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers insured there would be a new representative from the NFC in the Super Bowl by beating the Philadelphia Eagles 32-9 in the wild-card round on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.

Baker Mayfield joined Tom Brady (three times) as the only quarterbacks in Buccaneers’ history with 300-plus passing yards in a playoff game.

Here’s a look at the top storylines for both teams in Monday’s matchup:


Playing in his third career playoff game and first with the Bucs, quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for three touchdowns of 56, 44 and 23 yards while coach Todd Bowles’ defense punctuated a dominant performance with a third quarter safety by outside linebacker Anthony Nelson.

The matchup was a rematch from Week 3, where the Eagles handed the Bucs their first loss of the season, but this time, with home-field advantage after winning the NFC South in the regular season and locking up the No. 4 seed, the Bucs were impressive on both sides of the ball.

Mayfield battled both rib and ankle injuries but completed 22 of 36 passes for 337 yards and no interceptions, while the defense held the Eagles to 275 yards. The defense sacked Jalen Hurts three times and had six quarterback hits and held the Eagles to 41 rushing yards after they were gashed the Bucs for 201 yards previously.

Promising trend: Getting off the field. The Eagles went 0-for-9 on third downs and 0-for-2 on fourth, and despite surrendering a 55-yard pass to DeVonta Smith that set up a 5-yard touchdown pass by Hurts, inside linebacker K.J. Britt prevented a quarterback sneak on the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt from the 1-yard line after an offsides penalty on Zyon McCollum on the extra point attempt. Hurts was 34-of-37 on the “tush push” when needing 1 yard or less entering the game.

Buy on a breakout performance: On third-and-7 with 5:59 to go in the first quarter, Mayfield connected with a wide open David Moore on a crossing route for a 44-yard touchdown. It was Moore’s second catch of the first half, as he ended the game with two catches for 66 yards. Despite catching a 52-yard touchdown to close out the Bucs’ Week 15 win over the Green Bay Packers, Moore only had 94 yards in the regular season.

Troubling trend: The offense looked far more in rhythm than the last two weeks to end the regular season, but they were plagued by drops with six in the first half alone — three from tight end Cade Otton and one by wide receiver Mike Evans and running backs Chase Edmonds and Rachaad White. — Jenna Laine

Next game: at Lions, 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC


The Eagles collapse is complete, and now comes the hard part: figuring out how to move forward as an organization. Issues that plagued the Eagles down the stretch bit them again in Monday’s wild-card playoff loss to the Bucs, like poor tackling, defensive deficiencies over the middle of the field and inconsistent offensive output.

They were outclassed by the 9-8 Bucs and finish the season with six losses in seven games following a 10-1 start.

Getting back to the Super Bowl is hard — no NFC team since the 1974 Minnesota Vikings lost it one year and got back to the championship game the following season — but the way this team fell off so dramatically requires further inspection from CEO Jeffrey Lurie and the Eagles brass.

He must decide if the finger-pointing that set in almost as soon as the losing did was a natural byproduct of a talented locker room frustrated with underperforming amid high expectations or something deeper. Lurie will have to decide if coach Nick Sirianni is the right man to shepherd the group back to the top of the standings and get quarterback Jalen Hurts back on an MVP trajectory.

A key offseason for the Eagles begins now.

Pivotal play: Facing a 3rd-and-6 near his own goal line late in the third quarter, Hurts drifted into the end zone and was taken down by linebacker Anthony Nelson. Hurts threw the ball away at the last second but was flagged for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety. That pushed the Bucs’ lead to 18-9, and Tampa scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to help seal the win.

Biggest hole in the game plan: The messaging from the coaching staff entering the game was they wanted to play with physicality and lean on the strength of their team, the offensive and defensive lines. Left tackle Jordan Mailata called running the ball “critical” and the key to winning the game. Yet after two runs to open the game, Philadelphia ran it just three more times the rest of the first half for a total of five carries for 17 yards. It was their second-fewest rushing attempts in any half this season. The Eagles ran for 201 yards in their Week 3 matchup against the Buccaneers.

Promising trend: DeVonta Smith is the first player in Eagles history to record 100 receiving yards in back-to-back playoff games (Smith had 100 receiving yards in Super Bowl LVII). Smith is also the third player in Eagles franchise history with multiple 100-yard receiving games in the postseason, joining Keith Jackson and Fred Barnett. His 55-yard grab late in the second quarter set up the Eagles’ lone touchdown of the first half. — Tim McManus

Next game: Season is over.

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