At least one DE steps up
DE Jimmy Wilkerson had a career day, sacking Eagles QB Donovan McNabb three times. He now leads the Bucs with five sacks this season. With McNabb returning from a two-game absence, the onus was on the pass rushers to contain and pressure him. "We knew he was coming back off those bummed ribs, so we really wanted to get to him and hit him a little bit," Wilkerson said. "We wanted him to feel it so he could get the ball off quick. But he's a trooper. He stays in there." And McNabb takes off when necessary. He rushed twice for 30 yards, including one for a 17-yard pickup. At other times, it seemed he had forever to go through his progressions — and then some. Wilkerson did his part, but the remaining defensive linemen were often nonfactors. "We just have to stay consistent in what we're doing and not get too frustrated when (sacks) don't come," Wilkerson said. "They say a lot of times they come in bunches."
TE Kellen Winslow continued to distance himself from other Bucs receivers, catching nine passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns for his biggest day as a Buc and the second-best performance by a Bucs tight end (Jackie Harris had 10 for 122 on Nov. 26, 1995). It was Winslow's first 100-yard outing in Tampa Bay and the fifth of his career. And he scored two touchdowns for just the second time. With QB Josh Johnson under fire from many blitzes, Winslow was consistently an option for quick throws and some longer ones, too. Winslow might have scored a third touchdown if not for a pass interference call down the middle of the field. Eagles LB Chris Gocong, who was beat on the play, tripped Winslow from behind, possibly saving a touchdown. "I was just trying to do my job and help the team win," Winslow said. "It's not showing, but we're trying to come together. We just need to keep grinding and get our first win."
Jackson happy to return
S Tanard Jackson returned after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He was immediately inserted into the starting lineup and finished with three tackles. "I missed it," he said of playing. "I got a little emotional before the game — coming out of the locker room with the guys I've been through the blood, sweat and tears with." Asked if he thought he made an impact, Jackson said, "That's the disappointing thing. When you come back, you definitely want to feel like you had some impact and were able to help the team win. But it is a team game."
Blitzes, blitzes, more blitzes
The Bucs figured the Eagles would show a great deal of their trademark blitz package. But even after watching extensive film of Philadelphia, the Bucs never imagined they would see as many as they did. "That's their style," RT Jeremy Trueblood said. "When you watch them on tape, it kind of looks like that's what they do, but there was a point in time during the day when it seemed like every time we went up to the line, we were going to get blitzed. I kept finding myself asking, 'What's the worst that can happen?' They were coming from everywhere." And it's not just that they blitzed but how they blitzed. The Bucs did a decent job of picking up some blitzes, but sometimes they just had no way of knowing where the Eagles were coming from. "Their blitz package is a lot different than a lot of teams'," QB Josh Johnson said. "They have a defensive line that's very athletic, so it allows them to do a lot more things that other teams can't do. Their ends can drop into coverage, so they can bring different blitzes that allow them to bring linebackers and (defensive backs) because their ends cover a lot of ground. For me, being a young quarterback, it was good for me to see it. Because now we know what we have to do on offense in order to (counter) that when other teams try to do what the Eagles did." Johnson was sacked three times, but it could have been many more.
Clayton coughs it up
WR Michael Clayton, sitting at his locker slumped over, knew the question was coming. He dropped three passes, two that would have gone for first downs in critical situations. A fourth pass, a deep ball down the sideline on the game's first possession, was one he admittedly could have made more effort to come up with. "There's no excuse for dropping a ball," he said. "We definitely can't be putting a young quarterback in a situation like that. We have to come up with it. When you're able to make some plays early, as a receiver, it gets easier for you. But we dropped some early. The one down the sideline, I have to find a way to come up with that ball. That's a drop." When asked his reaction to critical fans who point to the team's decision to re-sign him to a five-year, $26 million contract, Clayton accepted there would be some. But he doesn't agree with them.
"I ain't worried about that," he said. "People who say stuff, they're not out there on the field. Nobody who writes (stuff) or says (stuff) can say anything about a player because they're not on the field. It's real serious out there. That's why I don't pay any attention to that stuff because the mentality is that you make up for it and you come back and catch the next one. I mean, regardless of what they say, the check is in the bank. That's not changing. It's about this team right now. Nothing can break that or make me feel bad or worry because somebody's talking about me in the paper. We just have to keep our heads."
Going for it
The Bucs attempted three fourth downs, converting just one. Two came in critical situations, and one was a somewhat curious call. Down 7-0 in the first quarter, the Bucs had just benefited from a personal foul call on a short Philadelphia punt, taking possession at the Eagles 34. Faced with fourth and 2 from the Eagles 26, coach Raheem Morris opted not to attempt a 43-yard field goal with new K Shane Andrus. Why not take the points that early in the game? "You're on the road, you're playing against a hostile environment, you have fourth (down) and you want to be aggressive in those situations," Morris said. Problem was, WR Michael Clayton dropped a quick slant that would have gone for a first down and then some. On Tampa Bay's second fourth-down attempt, QB Josh Johnson fumbled the snap and turned the ball over on downs. And on the third, Johnson threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to TE Kellen Winslow midway through the fourth quarter.
• CB Elbert Mack's recovery of an onside kick was the first time the Bucs have executed one successfully since Dec. 16, 2007, against the Falcons.
• T Donald Penn's catch of a deflected pass by QB Josh Johnson in the second quarter was his first career reception. He ran 15 yards for a first down.
• K Shane Andrus' two PATs were the first points of his NFL career.
• When RB Cadillac Williams was tackled in the end zone late in the game, it was the first safety surrendered by the Bucs since Dec. 2, 2007, at New Orleans, on a Luke McCown sack.
Running game runs cold
The Eagles were able to glean this much from watching the Bucs on tape: The one thing they want to do well is run the ball. Ever since opening day, teams have gone to great lengths to prevent the Bucs from running the ball, and the Eagles' attitude was no different. The Bucs finished with 85 yards rushing, but 40 of that came from QB Josh Johnson on scrambles and 28 on a Derrick Ward run in the second quarter. The other 16 attempts gained 17 total yards. "It just comes down to teams trying to make us pass the ball," RB Cadillac Williams said. "Once they put that extra defender in there and start running stunts, we can't get a decent look. That's when you have to start making people pay. I think Josh Johnson did a hell of a job. He was under assault and handled it well, but we have to make a couple of plays that we should have made. If we do that, it's a totally different ball game." Until the Bucs can sustain some consistency in the passing game, the running game will continue to suffer.