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Instant Replay: Eagles 23, Buccaneers 21

geoff mosher csnphilly

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 07:50 PM

Mosher

Instant Replay: Eagles 23, Buccaneers 21

December 9, 2012, 4:27 pm

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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Eagles snapped their eight-game losing streak in an unlikely place, beating Tampa Bay 23-21 on Sunday thanks to the hot hand of rookie quarterback Nick Foles.

With no time left on the clock, Foles threw a one-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin in the right side of the end zone after marching the Eagles 64 yards with just two minutes, 45 seconds left when the drive started.

Before he connected with Maclin, Foles hit wide receiver Jason Avant for 22 yards down the middle on 4th-and-5 to the Bucs’ 1-yard line. He spiked the ball with two ticks left on the clock.

An eight-game losing streak finally ended in the same stadium where the Eagles suffered a last-second loss on an NFL-record 62-yard field goal by then-Bucs kicker Matt Bryant in 2006. The score that day: Buccaneers 23, Eagles 21.

The Eagles tasted victory for the first time since their win on Sept. 30. They had blown a 10-point lead and halftime shutout to fall behind 21-10 before coming through with 13 points in the final 3:55.

Why it happened
Foles was almost magical in the most clutch moments of his first NFL win. He made one big throw after another to keep the Eagles within striking distance, starting with a picturesque toss to Clay Harbor for an 11-yard touchdown with 3:55 to go, completing a 75-yard scoring drive.

He then led a 13-play, 64-yard drive that ended with his touchdown pass to Maclin. Jason Avant was his best target, catching seven passes for 133 yards. Avant made highlight-reel receptions all game. Maclin added nine catches for 104 yards.

The reason the Eagles could even hang around was because their defense looked much more unified and in sync after the firing of defensive line czar Jim Washburn last Monday, signaling the end of their wide-nine experiment. Colt Anderson starting in place of an injured Kurt Coleman at safety also seemed to make their transition smoother. There weren’t the same number of mind-boggling breakdowns in the secondary that had become a staple of the defense.

Foles’ dramatics helped overshadow Damaris Johnson's muffed punt and some tackling problems after halftime that cost the Eagles' their 10-point lead.

What it means
Knowing that Tampa is a heavy-blitzing, heavy-stunting team, this game figured to be the game where we’d see if Foles is merely an average quarterback with modest potential or one who can feasibly be a franchise quarterback.

Foles took some early hits and needed about a quarter to adjust but improved steadily as the game went on. He completed 32 of 51 passes and threw for 381 yards and two touchdowns, showing the makings of a future starter by putting 13 points on the board in less than four minutes in just his fourth NFL start.

The win also seemed to validate Reid’s decision to fire Washburn and go back to Tommy Brasher, along with the releasing of Jason Babin two weeks ago. The defense played much more together all game.

Offensive hero
Along with Foles, give it to Avant and Maclin, who helped move the chains by making enormous plays in the absence of a running game. They combined for 16 receptions, 237 yards and a touchdown.

Offensive zero
Coming off two consecutive games of at least 160 rushing yards, Bryce Brown disappointed in his third start. He managed just six rushing yards on 12 carries, although he really never had any lanes to run through or time to create.

Defensive hero
The Bucs’ defensive line can share it. The linemen combined for six sacks, with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive Michael Bennett each getting two. Former Eagle Daniel Te’o-Nesheim notched one. They created havoc up front all game.

Defensive zero
Nnamdi Asomugha left briefly with what looked like a gruesome injury after he fell hard on his back and head, but he came back and played, so he has to be judged accordingly. He made a very weak attempt to disrupt the 1-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Mike Williams and got beat badly by Vincent Jackson on a 28-yard connection on 3rd-and-9 that helped set up Doug Martin’s touchdown run.

Injuries
Brent Celek became the eighth starter on offense to be sidelined when he was concussed on the first play of the game (see story). Clay Harbor took Celek’s place. Stanley Havili aggravated his ankle injury in the first quarter but came back.

Asomugha left the game after landing hard on his upper-back area in the first half but returned in the second half. Foles sustained a left (non-throwing) elbow contusion near the end of the third quarter but stayed in the game.

Did you know?
With his 10-yard score in the second quarter, Foles became the first Eagles rookie quarterback with a rushing touchdown since John Reaves in 1972. His was the longest by an Eagles rookie quarterback since Jack Concannon’s 15-yarder against the Steelers on Oct. 25, 1964.

Who's next?
The Eagles (4-9) have a short turnaround for their Thursday night showdown against the Bengals (7-5). Cincinnati had won four straight headed into its Sunday game against the Cowboys but fell, 20-19.

E-mail Geoff Mosher at gmosher@comcastsportsnet.com.