. On the final play of the first half, the Bucs had a chance not only to reward themselves for a quick march down the field — 68 yards in 1:20 to the Eagles 8 — but cut into a 21-7 deficit.
With six seconds remaining and a timeout to spare, Josh Johnson dropped back to pass, looking for a quick route that would preserve enough time for a field goal, if necessary. They never got the chance.
Johnson, under heavy pressure, tried to hit WR Sammie Stroughter with a bullet pass. But the ball deflected off of his hands and into the waiting arms of CB Asante Samuel.
"It was another situation where they brought everybody (on a blitz)," Johnson said. "I knew with the routes we had, it would have to be quick. I knew Sammie wouldn't be out of his route. I knew even if I worked the other side (of the field), it would probably be the same situation.
"I threw it in a spot where I knew Sammie was going to be. And I put a little bit too much pepper on it, and it ricocheted right into Asante Samuel's hands. It was a gift to him. It was another frustrating play."
The fumbled snap
. With the Bucs very much still in the game, trailing 7-0 with 7:36 left in the second quarter, Tampa Bay decided to go for it on fourth and inches from the Eagles 23. What transpired was a worst-case scenario — well, almost.
QB Josh Johnson fumbled the snap, and a scramble ensued. LB Akeem Jordan wrestled the ball away from Johnson and raced 72 yards to the end zone. The Bucs challenged the outcome of the play, and referee Terry McAulay ruled Johnson regained possession, had a knee on the ground and was touched by DE Juqua Parker before the ball came loose. Unfortunately for the Bucs , that still meant they didn't pick up the first down. So the Eagles took possession anyway.
"I can't even remember what happened," Johnson said. "I felt like I did the same thing I had been doing. … It happened so fast. It was unacceptable on my part. Even if (the snap) was short, I've got to do my best to get the ball. That's what it all boils down to. That's what the frustration is about. It's not about when a team physically beats you. It's about when you do a lot of things that hurt yourself. That's the most frustrating part about it."
The play perhaps, swung momentum. Had the Bucs converted the first down, they would have been in a position to score. Instead, the Eagles scored a touchdown six plays later to go up 14-0, and they never looked back.
Another toasting — twice
. With Kevin Curtis out with an inflamed left knee, WR Jeremy Maclin started. And he made the most of the opportunity. The rookie out of Missouri caught two long touchdowns, including a 51-yarder on the Eagles' second play from scrimmage. Matched against Elbert Mack in one-on-one press coverage, it appeared Mack failed to reroute Maclin, and he ran past the cornerback. A perfectly thrown ball from Donovan McNabb made it a relatively easy play.
Asked about the margin for error in that coverage, Mack said, "It's very slim. Very, very slim. … I just got beat."
Maclin struck again in the second quarter when he got behind S Will Allen down the middle of the field for a 40-yarder. The Bucs were playing Cover 4 on the play, meaning each defensive back covers one-fourth of the field. Allen had one of the two middle zones but, when trailing Maclin, never turned to make a play on a ball that appeared within his reach. Maclin caught it in stride and scored. The Bucs had three safeties in on the play, including Tanard Jackson as the nickel back slot.