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Jan 12, 2024 12:20 am

Bucs, Eagles take different paths to playoff matchup

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won five of their last six games and the Philadelphia Eagles lost five of their last six.

They took opposite paths to the playoffs but share one outlook: All that matters now is what happens Monday night when they wrap up the NFL’s wild-card round in Tampa, Fla.

“We need all players, coaches, all staff, all hands on deck, leaving everything they’ve got in this locker room because everybody’s 0-0 going into this week,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.

After a 10-1 start, Philadelphia ended the regular season Sunday with a listless 27-10 loss to the New York Giants that included injuries to quarterback Jalen Hurts (finger) and wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee).

After a 3-5 start, Tampa Bay clinched the NFC South on Sunday with three field goals by Chase McLaughlin in a 9-0 defeat of the league-worst Carolina Panthers.

Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles doesn’t care whether his Buccaneers (9-8) score nine points or 99 against the Eagles.

“As long as we have one more point than they have, that’s what we are looking for right now,” Bowles said. “We want to have consistency all the way around, but the object is to win the game by any means necessary.”

In Week 3, Philadelphia beat host Tampa Bay 25-11. Hurts accounted for two touchdowns, D’Andre Swift rushed for 130 yards and Brown caught nine passes for 131 yards to lead the Eagles.

The Bucs trailed 25-3 before scoring on Baker Mayfield’s 1-yard pass to Mike Evans with 9:22 left. Philly finished with massive edges in yards (472-174), first downs (27-12) and time of possession (38:55 to 21:05).

“It doesn’t compare because we played (the Eagles) so early in the year,” Bowles said. “We were still growing, (and) I’m sure they were still growing. You know, playoff time is different, it’s one and done, everybody is nicked up and everybody is hurt. It’s just a matter of who makes the most mistakes.”

Mistakes, missed tackles and missed opportunities fueled Philadelphia’s late-season collapse. The Eagles (11-6) turned the ball over 12 times, allowed 136.7 rushing yards per game and converted only 49 percent (38 of 77) of their chances on third down over the last six games.

Only the Arizona Cardinals (26.8) and Washington Commanders (30.5) surrendered more points per game than the Eagles (25.2) this season.

“When you get hit in life, when you get hit in football, you’ve got two options: You can stay down, or you can get up,” Sirianni said. “I know this group is fighters. I know this group will get up. I know that we’ve all had to deal with (expletive), and we know how to get up.”

Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield has taken his share of hits this season, too. He played through rib and ankle issues against the Panthers but is on a roll entering his first playoff game since the 2020 season with the Cleveland Browns. He passed for 1,456 yards with 11 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 100.6 rating during the 5-1 finish.

Mayfield did not practice Thursday, along with left tackle Tristan Wirfs (illness) and linebacker K.J. Britt (calf).

Hurts was limited for the Eagles on Thursday while Brown did not practice. Neither did safeties Reed Blankenship (groin) and Sydney Brown (knee).

This is the sixth time the Buccaneers and Eagles have met in the postseason, with Tampa Bay holding a 3-2 lead and having won the most recent meeting two years ago on wild-card weekend.

–Field Level Media

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