FINAL: Eagles 23, Buccaneers 21
The Philadelphia Eagles have done the impossible: They have won a football game.
Nick Foles delivered a Joe Montana-like performance today, guiding the Eagles to an improbable comeback against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just when it seemed like it was all over.
The Eagles (4-9) have snapped their eight-game losing streak, while the Buccaneers (6-7) lost a game in the tough NFC playoff hunt. In full irony, it was the exact score of the 2006 game in which the Eagles lost to the Buccaneers on Matt Bryant's 62-yard field goal.
Full player grades and evaluations are now posted.
Nick Foles: A+
Regardless of how he does for the rest of this season, Nick Foles just earned himself a starting job for 2013.
He played turnover-free football for 60 minutes, guiding the Eagles to 14 points in the final 3:55 of the game. He converted two separate fourth-down conversions on the final drive and capped it off with a walkoff one-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin. The final touchdown even came on a play that Foles called himself, and don't underestimate the confidence the coaching staff must have in him to let Foles call his own play in a do-or-die situation.
Foles finished with extremely impressive statistics. He's the 13th quarterback in NFL history with at least 30 completions, 50 attempts, 380 passing yards, two or more touchdown passes, and no interceptions. It did come against the worst pass secondary in the league, but don't forget that Foles was playing without LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, or even Brent Celek.
The offensive line turned in an atrocious performance, allowing Foles to get sacked six times. The running game was dreadful, as Bryce Brown accounted for just six ground yards on 12 carries. Foles also added 27 rushing yards on three carries of his own, including a 10-yard touchdown run. The fact that he moved the ball as well as he did says volumes about Foles.
Whether Foles can become the long-term starter in '13 remains to be determined. But he showed confidence, poise, and command as the starting quarterback today. That's really good news for Eagles fans.
Bryce Brown: F
It was a rough day for Bryce Brown. He didn't fumble the football, which was extremely nice considering he had coughed up the ball three times in his last two games.
But he accounted for just six yards on 12 rushes, averaging one-half a yard per carry. Brown continually tried to run to the outside to pick up yardage, and he was repeatedly stopped by big Tampa Bay defenders in Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennett.
Brown was actually the 26th running back in NFL history with six or fewer rushing yards in at least 12 carries. That's not a game to go on his resume, but it shouldn't negate the great season he's had. The Buccaneers have stopped many great running backs this year, and Brown is still a tremendously-talented player.
Dion Lewis: C
One carry for minus-four yards is poor but Dion Lewis had a huge 28-yard screen pass late in the game that helped the Eagles win.
Stanley Havili: C
Stanley Havili played very little today, as he left with an ankle injury before returning later in the game.
Jeremy Maclin: B+
For much of today's game, Jeremy Maclin seemed to be non-existent. He had just 18 receiving yards entering the final quarter, although his fine blocking was evident on Foles' touchdown run.
But Maclin came up huge in the fourth quarter, coming up with seven catches for 86 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Maclin converted a big 3rd-and-14 with just over two minutes to play, and then his touchdown gave the Eagles their first win since September 30.
Jason Avant: A
The Eagles' seven-year slot receiver was one of just four players to participate last time the Eagles played in Tampa Bay (2006). Avant was terrific today, catching seven passes for 133 yards, by far his highest output of the season.
He was Foles' target on a fourth-down conversion with under one minute to play. Avant also turned in arguably the catch of the year in Philadelphia sports when he secured this pass with one hand.
Damaris Johnson: B
Damaris Johnson quietly had a good game as a receiver, catching two passes for 20 yards. One of those was a 14-yarder in which he broke two tackles. (This grade does not factor in Johnson's punt return fumble, which will be graded under the SPECIAL TEAMS slide).
Riley Cooper: B
Riley Cooper will definitely be back with the Eagles in a role as at least a fourth receiver in 2013. He came up with four catches for 37 yards today, doing so without DeSean Jackson or Brent Celek.
Marvin McNutt: C
The Eagles' sixth-rounder finally dressed today. He was targeted twice with no receptions, one of which was a deep pass over his head.
Brent Celek: B
Brent Celek saw action for one play today, catching a pass before he was concussed.
Clay Harbor: A
Clay Harbor really stepped up his game up with Celek out for the remainder of the game. Harbor finished with six receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown, catching the score that made it a 21-16 game with four minutes to play. Each of Harbor's touchdowns this season has come in a clutch situation in the fourth quarter.
King Dunlap: F
King Dunlap had a really rough game today against the Buccaneers. He surrendered multiple sacks and was beat by every speed end that came his way.
Evan Mathis: B-
Evan Mathis looked to be responsible for the first sack the Buccaneers got of Foles, but that's more because Foles held onto the ball for a long time. In all though, it wasn't one of Mathis's finer days as an Eagle.
Dallas Reynolds: C-
Dallas Reynolds didn't have a particularly strong performance today. He looked to be responsible for one sack and offered little as a run blocker.
Jake Scott: C+
Jake Scott is an upgrade over Danny Watkins, that's for sure, although he didn't show much today. Scott was merely average, struggling at times as a pass and run blocker.
Dennis Kelly: D+
Like Dunlap, Dennis Kelly struggled today as pass blocker. He had a lot of trouble with Michael Bennett and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim as speed-rushing ends.
Trent Cole: F
If Trent Cole dressed today, you could have fooled me. He registered exactly one tackle, zero sacks, zero quarterback hits, zero quarterback pressures, and zero positive impact on the game.
Fletcher Cox: A
Fletcher Cox was dominant today against the interior Buccaneers offensive line. He registered four tackles, one sack, and two tackles for a loss, one of which was a huge stuff of Martin on a screen pass.
Cullen Jenkins: B+
Cullen Jenkins didn't play well in the running game, as he was part of a front four that allowed Martin to run for 126 yards on 28 carries. But Jenkins did have a sack and a big tackle for a loss.
Brandon Graham: B-
Brandon Graham had some good plays today, notably when he dragged down Martin behind the line of scrimmage for a big loss. In all, it was one of his quieter days, as he had just two total tackles.
Vinny Curry: B
Vinny Curry is already a big part of the Eagles' defensive line rotation. He finished with two tackles today and a tackle for a loss.
Derek Landri: C-
Derek Landri had just one tackle today and zero sacks in limited snaps from the defensive tackle position.
Cedric Thornton: C+
Cedric Thornton's two tackles were average but he's a good run defender and an integral part of the rotation.
DeMeco Ryans: A-
DeMeco Ryans again had a very promising day as the starting middle linebacker for this Eagles defense. He tied for the team lead with seven tackles and nearly sacked Josh Freeman on a blitz up the middle.
Mychal Kendricks: A
It was arguably Mychal Kendricks' finest game as a pro. He tied for the team lead with seven tackles, recorded a tackle for a loss and assisted on another, and knocked down three separate pass attempts.
Jamar Chaney: B
Jamar Chaney spent a lot of his snaps in pass coverage today. He did give up the second touchdown to Vincent Jackson, although it's asking a lot of a weakside linebacker to stick with a Pro Bowl receiver like Jackson. Chaney had a nice knockdown of a pass to backup tight end Luke Stocker.
Akeem Jordan: C
Akeem Jordan had one tackle in his limited snaps today and didn't make much of an impact overall.
Nnamdi Asomugha: D-
It certainly wasn't one of Nnamdi Asomugha's finer games. He allowed four catches for over 110 yards, getting beat on a jump ball in the end zone by Mike Williams and a 40-yarder across the middle by Jackson.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: A
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played arguably his finest game since joining the Eagles. He played tight, physical coverage on Mike Williams for most of the game, allowing just three catches for 18 yards. The touchdown by Williams wasn't when DRC was on coverage against him. DRC finished with three tackles, one of which was a huge wrap-up of Martin.
Curtis Marsh: B
Believe it or not, Curtis Marsh looked very promising as a nickel corner today, stepping into the role usually filled by Brandon Boykin.
Brandon Boykin: C
Brandon Boykin didn't play a lot of snaps as the dime cover corner, and gave up one 17-yard reception to Tiquan Underwood.
Nate Allen: C+
Nate Allen played a prominent role as part of a secondary that didn't allow Freeman to complete more than 45 percent of his passes. Allen nearly had an interception himself on a tipped ball.
Colt Anderson: B
Anyone realize how much better this defense was without Kurt Coleman? Colt Anderson is awful in pass coverage but he plays very tough, physical defense against the run.
Alex Henery: F
What an awful game for Alex Henery. Missing a 58-yarder is no big deal considering the length of the kick. And Henery's attempt actually bounced off the upright, where it would have been good from 70 had it been on target. But he missed a 31-yarder that just can't happen.
Mat McBriar: B
Mat McBriar got his fair share of work, booming seven punts for an average of 49 yards per punt, including a 66-yarder deep into Tampa Bay territory.
Brandon Boykin/Dion Lewis: A-
The two returners combined for three returns for 29.3 yards per return, with Brandon Boykin running back two for 55 yards total and Lewis taking one for 33.
Damaris Johnson: F
Five returns for seven yards apiece isn't awful but the muffed punt is inexcusable.
Andy Reid: B+
Andy Reid finally won himself a football game. His pick of Nick Foles is looking to be really good, and it says a lot about the Eagles to have beaten a team right in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Marty Mornhinweg: A
Marty Mornhinweg was wise to quietly abandon the run when it became obvious that Bryce Brown couldn't do much. He played to Foles' strengths as a quarterback and the end result was two tremendous drives late in the game.
Todd Bowles: D
Todd Bowles' defense held Josh Freeman to a completion percentage under 45 percent, although Freeman did throw two touchdowns to no interceptions.
Bobby April: F
Henery's missed 31-yard field goal isn't Bobby April's fault but April will have to work with Johnson on when to catch a punt and when not to.