Bucs stop McNabb to earn first Super Bowl berth

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers forgot about the

cold and their past. They simply rolled up their sleeves and let

their league-leading defense go to work.

Butler's Analysis

LeRoy Butler

Tampa Bay's game plan was to go into Philadelphia, be physical and not let the weather be a factor. They did just that. They caught the Eagles off guard by going into their no huddle offenses. Philly didn't have a chance to get into their blitzes. Tampa got the better of the matchups. They were more physical and gave the Eagles that "deer in the headlights" look.

This game was just too big for Philly. The last game at the Vet, they were doing a lot of talking before the game, but ultimately, they were outplayed. Defensively, they could not stop the run, and offensively they were out of sync. Once the run wasn't working, that was it. They put it all on Donovan McNabb, who was throwing all over the place.

Give credit to Jon Gruden, who out-coached Andy Reid. The Bucs were prepared -- especially defensively. Gruden put them in a position to make plays and they were unbelievable. The Bucs' defense won the game.

LeRoy Butler played 11 seasons in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers.

Now they're off to sunny San Diego for their first Super Bowl --

a long, sad history behind them.

After being stunned by a Philadelphia touchdown in the first

minute of the NFC Championship game Sunday, the Bucs shut down

Donovan McNabb and company to beat the Eagles 27-10.

"Nobody really expected us to win this game,'' said Tampa Bay

coach Jon Gruden, in his first year with the team. "That fueled

our enthusiasm to play.''

Gruden and the Bucs will play next Sunday against his old team,

the Oakland Raiders, who beat the Tennessee Titans 41-24 in the AFC

Championship game.

"One more to go,'' said Warren Sapp, the talkative Tampa Bay

defensive tackle. "We ain't going for no vacation.''

After the Eagles' early flurry, sparked by Brian Mitchell's

70-yard return of the opening kickoff, it was all Tampa Bay. The

Bucs led 17-10 at halftime and stifled Philadelphia after


Mike Alstott was one of several Bucs wearing short sleeves,

almost in defiance of the 26-degree cold at kickoff. The wind chill

was 16.

Alstott scored on a 1-yard run at the end of a 96-yard drive in

the first quarter that was highlighted by Joe Jurevicius' 71-yard


Brad Johnson threw a 9-yard TD pass to Keyshawn Johnson in the

second quarter, and Ronde Barber's 92-yard interception return with

3:12 left in the game clinched it after the Eagles had driven 73

yards to the Bucs 10. Martin Gramatica kicked two field goals.

"They were the better team,'' Eagles coach Andy Reid said.

"They got after us. We didn't answer the bell on a few things.

"It's very disappointing. You come this far, 20-some odd weeks

of football. You put yourself in position to strike for the Super

Bowl and you lose.''

Buc-king a trend

The Bucs won their second straight game with the temperature under 40 degrees:

  • Jan. 19, 2003: Tampa Bay 27, Philadelphia 10 (26 degrees).

  • Dec. 29, 2002: Tampa Bay 15, Chicago 0 (38 degrees).

  • Dec. 31, 2000: Philadelphia 21, Tampa Bay 3 (34 degrees).

  • Dec. 24, 2000: Green Bay 17, Tampa Bay 14, OT (15 degrees).

  • Nov. 19, 2000: Chicago 13, Tampa Bay 10 (37 degrees).

  • Jan. 4, 1998: Green Bay 21, Tampa Bay 7 (28 degrees).

  • Nov. 23, 1997: Chicago 13, Tampa Bay 7 (29 degrees).

  • Dec. 17, 1995: Chicago 31, Tampa Bay 10 (34 degrees).

  • Nov. 26, 1995: Green Bay 35, Tampa Bay 13 (34 degrees).

  • Nov. 28, 1993: Green Bay 13, Tampa Bay 10 (29 degrees).

  • Nov. 29, 1992: Green Bay 19, Tampa Bay 14 (32 degrees).

  • Dec. 14, 1991: Chicago 27, Tampa Bay 0 (28 degrees).

  • Dec. 23, 1990: Chicago 27, Tampa Bay 14 (11 degrees).

  • Dec. 24, 1989: Pittsburgh 31, Tampa Bay 22 (39 degrees in


  • Dec. 11, 1988: New England 10, Tampa Bay 7, OT (18 degrees).

  • Nov. 6, 1988: Chicago 28, Tampa Bay 10 (33 degrees).

  • Dec. 7, 1986: Chicago 48, Tampa Bay 14 (37 degrees).

  • Dec. 1, 1985: Green Bay 21, Tampa Bay 0 (30 degrees).

  • Dec. 2, 1984: Green Bay 27, Tampa Bay 14 (33 degrees).

  • Nov. 13, 1983: Cleveland 20, Tampa Bay 0 (32 degrees).

  • Dec. 12, 1982: N.Y. Jets 32, Tampa Bay 17 (23 degrees).

  • Nov. 26, 1978: Chicago 14, Tampa Bay 3 (38 degrees).

  • Dec. 5, 1976: Pittsburgh 42, Tampa Bay 0 (28 degrees).

    -- The Associated Press

  • The Bucs had lost three consecutive games at Veterans Stadium,

    unable to score even one offensive touchdown. They had only one

    victory ever in temperatures under 40. They were 0-6 in postseason

    road games.

    And they had to face some of the league's toughest fans on

    slippery turf in the Vet's final NFL game.

    They overcame it all, dismissing a dismal 20 years as the

    league's worst franchise that only changed direction when they

    discarded the orange jerseys they had worn from their inception in

    1976 to 1997. Since then, Tampa Bay has missed the playoffs just


    "Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and myself have been here the

    longest,'' safety and fellow Pro Bowler John Lynch said. "We wore

    the orange. We suffered through some tough years. We worked so hard

    for this opportunity but we told each other we're not done yet.''

    Brad Johnson finished 20-of-33 for 259 yards against a

    Philadelphia secondary with three Pro Bowl selections, allowing the

    Bucs to control the ball and the clock, especially in the first


    The defense, meanwhile, totally controlled McNabb, who finished

    26-of-49 for 243 yards in just his second game back after missing

    six games with a broken right ankle. Simeon Rice and Barber had

    sacks that ended potential rallies.

    "We didn't want to give up the big play,'' Sapp said. (They

    didn't -- Mitchell's return was against the special teams.)

    "If we could do that, we'd have a real good chance of


    The Bucs started playing in 1976, lost their first 26 games,

    then made a brief run at the playoffs. Then, from 1983-96, they did

    not have a winning season and lost 10 or more games in 13 of those

    14 seasons.

    Until Dec. 29, when they beat the woeful Chicago Bears in

    temperatures in the 30s in Champaign, Ill., the Bucs were 0-21 when

    it was colder than 40.

    And the past two years, they had been bounced from the playoffs

    in Philadelphia, where they also lost in October.

    The chill didn't bother them Sunday, nor did the surroundings.

    Tampa Bay silenced the Vet crowd with that long first-quarter

    drive. By game's end, the notoriously rowdy, fickle Philly fans

    were booing every incomplete pass by McNabb. Toward the end, few

    were left, heading for warmer surroundings early in the fourth


    "To do it here is almost sweeter than doing it at home,'' Lynch

    said. "It's special because no one believes in us except for the

    guys in this locker room.''

    Mitchell's return of the opening kickoff and Duce Staley's

    20-yard touchdown run two plays later gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead 52

    seconds into the game. But that was the high point for


    "We came out early and set the tempo, then we did absolutely

    nothing,'' Eagles receiver Antonio Freeman said.

    Indeed, Tampa Bay got three points back on its first possession

    on Gramatica's 48-yard field goal.

    Then, after Lee Johnson's punt pushed them back to their own

    4-yard line, the Bucs went on their 96-yard drive to take a 10-7

    lead. It was their first offensive touchdown in four games in

    Philadelphia in the past three seasons.

    The key play came on third-and-2 from the 24, when Brad Johnson

    found Jurevicius on a crossing route 15 yards downfield.

    Jurevicius, who rejoined the team Saturday after going home for

    the premature birth of his son, broke away from Barry Gardner and

    ran to the Eagles 5-yard line.

    Two plays later, Alstott went in from a yard out.

    "I'm sitting on top of the world right now,'' Jurevicius said.

    "It's been a roller coaster of emotions all week, but my family

    needed me to do this. The way things are going, I think my son

    might be up walking now.''

    David Akers' 30-yard field goal midway through the second

    quarter tied the game at 10.

    But the Bucs took the ensuing kickoff and went 80 yards in 12

    plays, scoring from 9 yards out when Johnson (Brad) found Johnson

    (Keyshawn) just over the goal line on a third-down play.

    The Eagles reached the Tampa Bay 24 in the final minute of the

    half, but McNabb was sacked by his old high school teammate, Rice,

    who knocked the ball loose and recovered the fumble.

    The same thing happened on the Eagles' first possession of the

    third quarter, Barber knocking the ball loose on a corner blitz and

    Ellis Wyms recovering at the Philadelphia 47.

    Gramatica added a 27-yard field goal with 1:02 left in the third

    quarter to make it 20-10 as the Eagles continued to have trouble

    moving the ball.

    Then Barber made his big play and it was all over.

    "We won a cold game again. We won a road playoff game and we

    scored a touchdown here in the Vet,'' Gruden said.

    Who could ask for more?