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Eagles Dump Dungy

NFC wild-card game: Embattled Tampa Bay coach might be fired after lackluster 31-9 loss to Philadelphia.

January 13, 2002|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PHILADELPHIA — Tony Dungy performed gamely Saturday at Veterans Stadium, which is more than can be said of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dungy, who might lose his job, didn't wilt under constant pressure. He appeared calm, cool and collected. He did not flinch when asked repeatedly about his future.

If this was the best the Buccaneers could offer in an attempt to save Dungy's job as their coach, then he is as good as gone, however.

The Buccaneers accomplished nothing of note in their NFC wild-card game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Nothing, that is, except to make the moderately skilled Eagles look invincible during a 31-9 rout that propelled Philadelphia into next week's matchup against the Chicago Bears.

Tampa Bay is set to sack Dungy and replace him with Bill Parcells, according to one report. And all because the Buccaneers can't seem to do anything right against the Eagles in the playoffs.

"The Eagles were a better team than we were," said Warren Sapp, Tampa Bay defensive lineman. "We just did not make a lot of plays and that was the bottom line."

Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson seemed befuddled, sending four passes into the waiting arms of the Eagles' secondary. Damon Moore swiped two, returning one 59 yards for a touchdown with 2:08 remaining in the game.

Johnson's inability to make plays probably sealed Dungy's fate.

Above all else, Johnson was unable to get the ball into the hands of big-play receiver Keyshawn Johnson. The Johnson-to-Johnson connection clicked only three times, but each time it produced a big play. Keyshawn Johnson averaged 25 yards per catch.

"I have no idea what is going to happen," Keyshawn Johnson said when asked about Dungy. "He better get some guys who will play for him, though. There were some guys out there today who just didn't play."

Of Parcells, he added, "I know that he will get guys to play for him. There will also be some guys gone from here. But I don't want to talk about that now. If [Parcells] is here, we'll fight and we'll win."

The Buccaneers also couldn't run against the Eagles, gaining a meager 63 yards. They also couldn't stop the run, giving up 148 yards rushing.

Whenever the Eagles needed a big play, quarterback Donovan McNabb provided one. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and touchdown passes of 16 yards to tight end Chad Lewis and 23 yards to Duce Staley in the first half.

McNabb also ran for 57 yards, including one 39-yard dash that set up David Akers' 26-yard field goal that tied the score, 3-3, late in the first quarter.

Tampa Bay had no one capable of producing a big play, which meant Dungy was forced to spend the bulk of his postgame session attempting to respond to questions he could not answer.

At least Dungy looked good behind the podium. He quickly discounted the notion that his expected firing distracted the Buccaneers, who accounted for their second lopsided playoff loss to the Eagles in as many seasons. Last season, the Eagles drubbed Tampa Bay, 21-3, in the NFC wild-card game.

"It wasn't a factor," Dungy said. "We had good practices. We were ready to go."

Asked point blank if he believed he had coached his final game at Tampa Bay, Dungy said, "I don't think so, but I don't make those decisions."

A third question followed about his future and Dungy managed a faint smile before saying, "We don't need a funeral around here. We can talk about Philadelphia and the game. Speculation is not the reason we're here."

In fact, the rumors swirling around Dungy were the only compelling thing about this clunker.

The Eagles seized control in the second quarter, keeping the Buccaneers out of the end zone and limiting them to three field goals from Martin Gramatica. Tampa Bay got nothing in the second half except another sorry chapter in their playoff history as the Eagles turned the game into a rout after leading, 17-9, by halftime.

At game's end, Dungy had his defenders.

"I think we all need to pat him on the back," Eagle Coach Andy Reid said. "With the winning seasons and getting into the playoffs, I just can't say enough about him."

Lewis, Philadelphia's tight end, prefaced his postgame remarks by saying, "I think Tony Dungy is a heck of a coach and one of the best guys in the NFL. If he gets fired, I think it's a sad day."

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