TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Nothing in Matt Bryant's career suggested he
was capable of making the kick of his life.
He was surprised he even got a chance.
|Scouts Inc.'s take ...|
The Buccaneers continue to rely on running back Cadillac Williams to run the ball and control the clock. However, the Buccaneers' short, controlled passing attack made enough plays to extend drives and keep the high-powered Eagles offense off the field. Even with the Eagles' total domination of the game statically, they couldn't overcome three interceptions by quarterback Donovan McNabb, two of which were returned for TDs by Ronde Barber (above). McNabb put the game on his shoulders late and made plays by attacking the short and intermediate areas of the Buccaneers' Cover 2 defense. But in the end it wasn't enough for the Eagles.
Bryant nailed a 62-yard field goal -- the third-longest in NFL
history -- to give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers an improbable 23-21
The kick ruined a gallant comeback engineered by McNabb after
the Bucs built a 17-0 lead, mostly on the strength of two
interceptions that Ronde Barber returned for touchdowns. It was the
longest of Bryant's career by 12 yards, and came on just his third
attempt of 50 or more yards in five seasons with the Bucs, Giants,
Colts and Dolphins.
"To tell you the truth, I wasn't expecting even to be given a
shot at 62," said Bryant, who was 0-for-3 from beyond 40 yards
until coach Jon Gruden decided his chances of making the longest
kick of his career was better than throwing a TD pass from midfield
on the final play.
"Just to be able to go out there and help the team win -- just
to try to do your job, but do it that way, it doesn't get much
better than that."
Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam share the league record for the
longest field goal -- 63 yards. The only other kickers who have been
successful from beyond 59 yards are Steve Cox and Morten Andersen,
who both booted 60-yarders.
Bryant said holder Josh Bidwell had just the right thing to say.
"You know what was funny was," Bryant said, "as I was lining
up to kick it, Bidwell turns around and says, 'Man, just have fun.'
And that's what I did."
|NFL's Longest Field Goals|
• 63 -- Tom Dempsey, New Orleans vs. Detroit, Nov. 8, 1970
• 63 -- Jason Elam, Denver vs. Jacksonville, Oct. 25, 1998
• 62 -- Matt Bryant, Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia, Oct. 22, 2006
• 60 -- Morten Andersen, New Orleans vs. Chicago, Oct. 27, 1991
• 60 -- Steve Cox, Cleveland vs. Cincinnati, Oct. 21, 1984
• 59 -- Pete Stoyanovich, Miami at N.Y. Jets, Nov. 12, 1989
• 59 -- Tony Franklin, Philadelphia vs. Dallas, Nov. 12, 1979
• 59 -- Steve Christie, Buffalo vs. Miami, Sept. 26, 1993
• 59 -- Morten Andersen, Atlanta vs. San Francisco, Dec. 24, 1995
-- The Associated Press
Barber, whose 92-yard runback clinched Tampa Bay's victory over
Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game four seasons ago, scored
on a 37-yard return early in the second quarter and put the Bucs up
17-0 with a 66-yard TD with just over five minutes remaining in the
McNabb rallied the Eagles, throwing one of his three late TD
passes after Philadelphia was forced to take a timeout when the
quarterback became ill and started throwing up between plays.
With the Bucs defense missing four tackles, Brian Westbrook
scored on a 52-yard reception to put Philadelphia ahead 21-20 with
33 seconds remaining.
But Tampa Bay wasn't finished.
Rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski drove the Bucs in position
for Bryant, who has struggled from beyond 40 yards this season. The
ball cleared the crossbar with plenty of room to spare, setting off
a wild celebration.
"I'm thinking, it's over, man," Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said. "Give him credit for making a big kick when the team
The Eagles (4-3) lost for the second straight week on a field
goal as time expired. New Orleans' John Carney kicked a 31-yarder
to beat them 27-24 the previous game, also spoiling a Philadelphia
comeback on the road.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay (2-4) won in dramatic fashion for the
second straight week in a game ending with a 62-yard field goal
attempt. Cincinnati's Shayne Graham missed from that distance in
the closing seconds of the Bucs' 14-13 victory over the Bengals.
Kicker David Akers was among the Eagles who thought Bryant --
despite not having a reputation for making long field goals -- had a
decent shot to win it. He said his Bucs counterpart hit two
60-yarders off one of the uprights during warmups.
"And the wind picked up as the game progressed," Akers said.
McNabb completed 22 of 35 passes for 302 yards and three
interceptions -- one more than he threw in Philadelphia's first six
The Eagles scored on their last three possessions, with McNabb
throwing TD passes of 12 yards to Thomas Tapeh and 7 yards to
a go-ahead score.
Westbrook finished with 101 yards rushing and seven receptions
for 113 yards. The Eagles outgained the Bucs 506-196, but had four
turnovers to Tampa Bay's none.
"It's kind of tough when you have three [interceptions] and two
of them go back for touchdowns," said McNabb, who was given fluids
for dehydration after the game. "You put yourself in a hole early.
But we continued to fight."
The five-time Pro Bowl quarterback entered the game with 13
touchdown passes and just two interceptions. And while the Eagles
moved the ball well in the opening half, mistakes kept the league's
top offense from getting the ball into the end zone.
Philadelphia turned the ball over on three of its first four
possessions, with the fourth ending with a dropped pass on third
down. McNabb mishandled the snap on third-and-1 in another
situation, and he cost his team an opportunity to at least kick a
field goal with poor clock management just before the half.
The final minute -- from Westbrook scoring on a play that
shouldn't have gone for a TD to Gradkowski making a couple of big
plays to get into field-goal range -- left Gruden emotionally
"I've never seen anything quite like that in my life," the
Bucs coach said. "The swings of, 'You've got to be kidding me [on
Westbrook's touchdown]' to "You've got to be kidding me [on the
field goal].' What can I say? It was a dramatic win for us, and
we're proud of our players."Game notes
Gradkowski finished 13-of-26 for 104 yards and was sacked
twice. ... One of the sacks turned out to be a key to Tampa Bay
kicking the field goal that put the Bucs up 20-14. Eagles DE Jerome
McDougle was penalized 15 yards for grabbing Gradkowski's facemask on
the tackle, then drew another 15-yarder when he kicked the
official's flag. ... Tampa Bay's Carnell "Cadillac" Williams
rushed for 82 yards on 23 attempts. The Bucs are 8-0 when he
carries more than 20 times.
- Gerald Austin