All Baker Mayfield and the resurgent Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted was an opportunity to make some noise in the playoffs.
A strong finish to the regular season provided one. Their 32-9 wild-card playoff victory over Jalen Hurts and the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night guaranteed they’ll have another.
Mayfield threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns, and Tampa Bay’s defense never allowed Hurts and Philadelphia’s sputtering offense to get into a rhythm before a crowd of 63,397 at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs (10-8) won for the sixth time in seven games to advance to a NFC divisional round matchup on the road next Sunday against the Detroit Lions (13-5), another team — like the Eagles — that stymied Mayfield during the regular season.
“We worked extremely hard to get a chance to be in the playoffs and we just wanted an opportunity. Our guys came out and played really really well. … Once again, the defense played lights out. We’re happy, but we’ve still got more to go,” Mayfield said.
“We were underdogs, we’re going to be underdogs next week, too,” coach Todd Bowles added. “We understand that. We embrace it. We like it.”
David Moore scored on a 44-yard reception in the first quarter. Rookie Trey Palmer broke the game open with a 56-yard catch-and-run for a TD that put the Bucs up 25-9 late in the third quarter. Both receivers took advantage of a porous, poor-tackling Eagles secondary to make their way to the end zone.
Mayfield, the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick who’s playing with his fourth team in less than two years, completed 22 of 36 passes without an interception. He capped his first playoff appearance since the 2020 season with a 23-yard TD pass to Chris Godwin.
“We were a little out of sync. That starts with me,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t put them in good enough positions.”
Mayfield said the communication by the Bucs’ offense throughout the week made things feel comfortable during the game.
“Everybody was on the same page, knowing what we were going to do offensively, schematically,” Mayfield said. “Came out and attacked. Obviously, got to make a few more plays overall on offense, but we made more than enough to win tonight.”
It was a disappointing finish for Philadelphia (11-7), which lost to Kansas City in last year’s Super Bowl and then spent spent much of this season resembling a club focused and determined to get back to the title game.
The Eagles played without leading receiver A.J. Brown, who injured a knee in the regular-season finale. Hurts started despite dislocating the middle finger on his throwing hand the previous week, and was 25 of 35 for 250 yards and one TD before being replaced by backup Marcus Mariota in the final minute.
“The reality is we have to be better, and it starts with me,” Hurts said.
The Bucs, who lost to the Lions 20-6 in Week 6, regrouped following a stretch in which they lost six of seven games to go 5-1 over the last six weeks of the regular season to win their third straight NFC South title and clinch a franchise-record fourth consecutive playoff berth.
The Eagles entered Monday night looking for a solution to what ailed them during a stunning about-face that saw them go 1-5 down the stretch after a 10-1 start to the season that included a dominant 14-point victory over Tampa Bay in Week 3.
“The well ran dry a little the last six weeks,” Eagles tackle Lane Johnson said.
Philadelphia outgained the Bucs 472 yards to 174, running 78 plays to Tampa Bay’s 44 in the first meeting. With Mayfield getting off to a quick start against a porous, poor-tackling Eagles secondary, the Bucs gained 178 yards in the first quarter alone Monday night.
Chase McLaughlin kicked field goals of 28, 54 and 48 yards, the latter extending Tampa Bay’s lead to 16-3 late in the second quarter. The Eagles cut into their deficit with Hurts using a 55-yard completion to DeVonta Smith to set up a 5-yard scoring pass to Dallas Goedert.
The score remained 16-9, though. Sirianni took Jake Elliott’s conversion kick off the board after the Bucs were penalized for offsides. The Eagles lined up to go for 2 points from the 1-yard line, but Tampa Bay stopped Hurts for no gain.
Smith finished with eight receptions for 148 yards for the Eagles.
Big Dom returns
Eagles security chief Dom DiSandro was back on the team’s sideline after he was barred for the final five games of the regular season after a sideline altercation with 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw on Dec. 3. The Eagles were fined $100,000 for the incident. DiSandro was permitted to travel and perform all other work duties during the sideline ban.
Three members of the family of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as honorary team captains for the Buccaneers.
Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, and Yolanda Renee King attended the game as special guests and participated in the pregame coin toss. It’s the first time members of the King family have participated in the commemoration of MLK Day at an NFL game.
Eagles: WR Julio Jones left in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and did not return. … CB Darius Slay, who returned after being sidelined for a month with a knee injury, was carted off with six minutes remaining. There was no immediate announcement on the nature of his injury.
Buccaneers: RB Rachaad White limped off the field in the second quarter, but returned and finished with 72 yards rushing on 18 attempts.