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Tampa Bay Buccaneers still waiting for their thank-you note from the Philadelphia Eagles

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — By now, Miss Manners would have owned somebody's butt.

It has been weeks since the Eagles received a remarkably unselfish gift, and still there has been no acknowledgement or thank you note. Do they not sell stationery in south Jersey? Is it possible they are still ticked at Ronde Barber and Joe Jurevicius?

Come on, Philly, we know the truth.

The Eagles owe all this to the Buccaneers.

Their spot in the playoffs? Thank you, Tampa Bay. The redemption of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb? Much obliged, Buccaneers. Their fifth trip to the NFC Championship Game in eight seasons? Yup, that was a Glazer gift, too.

This remarkable postseason run — from a team that was 5-5-1 heading into Thanksgiving — would not have been possible if the Bucs had not contributed with the NFL's worst collapse in 15 years. Yes, it's true the Cowboys and Bears helped out, too, but they did not invest an entire month's worth of screwups.

No, this one has Tampa Bay's slippery fingerprints all over it. So enjoy it, Bucs fans. This year the Eagles belong to you, too. And honestly, this is not a bad team to adopt.

For all their flaws during the season, the Eagles now have the look of a team on a mission.

"Y'all counted us out in Week 12," receiver Jason Avant shouted on his way into the locker room after Sunday's 23-11 win against the New York Giants.

Not sure if Avant had a particular group of people in mind, because it seems most everyone in Philadelphia was ready to count the Eagles out after a 36-7 loss to the Ravens dropped them into last place in the NFC East on Nov. 23. Even owner Jeffrey Lurie was assessing the damage after that one.

"It's only human to have some doubt — certainly in Baltimore, after that game," Lurie said. "But I knew Andy has always tried to assemble very high-character players. And times like that is when you learn about your team, when you have imperfections during the season. They have a lot of courage, and they've been able to win in stressful, must-win situations."

After that loss, the Eagles finished the regular season with four wins in five games. And after knocking off the Giants on Sunday, they have won back-to-back road games in the playoffs.

With a victory against the Cardinals on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles would be just the second No. 6 seed to reach the Super Bowl since the NFL expanded the playoffs in 1990.

"We barely made it here," said cornerback Asante Samuel. "But we knew once we got in the playoffs, we could be a dangerous team."

The truth is, the Eagles have been one of the more talented teams in the NFL all season. They just confused us with all that losing.

Philadelphia had a knack for blowing close games earlier in the season, starting off 0-4-1 in games decided by six points or less. Some blamed Reid's play-calling and the way he abandoned the running game. Some figured McNabb's best days had long since passed him by.

Whatever the reason, the Eagles managed to hold it together during a torrent of criticism, and Lurie now says the team is better for its travails.

"Do you remember Tampa Bay, the year they won the Super Bowl. They played a horrible game around Christmas time (against Pittsburgh), and everybody was wondering, 'This is the team that's supposed to win the Super Bowl?' " Lurie said. "It turned out, that was just a hiccup for Tampa Bay. They came to Philadelphia and beat us, and won the Super Bowl.

"That's why Andy is such a great coach. He's able to see the bigger picture. He knows you're going to have your weeks where you don't play your best."

The Eagles certainly weren't a dominant team against the Giants on Sunday. They had no running game in the first half and were fortunate that a horrible Eli Manning interception kept the score close. Eventually, Philadelphia's passing attack came alive, and the defense shut New York down in red-zone situations.

By the end, it wasn't even that close. The Giants meekly gave up their quest for consecutive Super Bowl titles, and the Eagles were off to face an Arizona team they beat 48-20 at home in November.

All this for a team that needed JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders to come back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Bucs in the regular-season finale.

"I have the same agent as JaMarcus, and I texted him and said I would send him some kind of care package if they knocked off the Bucs," said Eagles linebacker Trent Cole. "I still need to do that."

Oh, sure, send something to Russell. All he did was win a game. The Bucs had a historic choke.

So how about a little love for Tampa Bay?

John Romano can be reached at

Tampa Bay Buccaneers still waiting for their thank-you note from the Philadelphia Eagles 01/11/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 7:19am]
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