There was only one guy in the Eagles' locker room who didn't groan when the subject of the last Buccaneers game was brought up.
It wasn't Jason Avant.
"It was just so sad," said Avant, who had two catches for 21 yards in that game on Oct. 22, 2006. "We just couldn't believe we lost the game. We didn't play a good game."
It wasn't Omar Gaither.
"It was bad," said Gaither, said. "Geez, I forgot all about that game. It was 3 years ago? Time goes by fast."
The reactions are not surprising, considering the monumental loss the Eagles suffered that day. The gloomy decision was made final when Matt Bryant kicked a 62-yard field goal at the buzzer.
The only person in the Birds' locker room who remembered the game fondly was reserve tight end Alex Smith. Smith was a Buccaneer that day and was on the field as Bryant nailed the third-longest field goal in NFL history.
"We were struggling that year and for it to end the way it did was crazy. I know it broke a lot of Eagles' fans hearts," Smith said. "It was tough for me to see if it was good or not, but once I heard the crowd's reaction I knew it was good. I was just surprised we were kicking it from that far."
It was one of the few bright spots in a 4-12 season for the Buccaneers and one of the many valleys the Eagles fell into in 2006. A 1-5 slump would have cost the Eagles a playoff spot if not for Jeff Garcia riding to the rescue.
Jeremiah Trotter had a game-high 12 tackles for the Birds that day.
"I just remember my heart dropping out of my chest," said Trotter, who will make his Eagles return this week. "You play so hard and then you get beat by a last-second field goal like that. But you know what? That's sports for you. That's football for you. Those things happen."
It was a strange game in which the Buccaneers jumped out to a 17-0 lead without scoring an offensive touchdown. The Eagles committed four turnovers, two of which were interceptions returned for touchdowns by Ronde Barber, and showed little life until the fourth quarter. When Brian Westbrook scored on a 52-yard catch-and-run with 33 seconds left, it looked as if the Eagles had escaped with a 21-20 victory. Not so fast, my friend.
"When Brian made that great play, it was like, 'Here we go again,' '' Smith recalled. "Fortunately, we were able to get close enough for Matt to make that kick. He was the hero of the city that week."
Only 13 of the 44 starters that day still have their jobs. Tampa's coach (Jon Gruden) is now in the TV booth. Their quarterback (Bruce Gradkowski) is with the Raiders, and even the hero (Bryant) is a free agent. So vengeance isn't really a storyline this week to anyone except for Smith, who spent the first 4 years of his career with the Bucs before being traded to New England in April. He was signed by the Eagles after the Patriots cut him at the end of training camp.
"First and foremost, I want to win the game," said Smith, who has played sparingly as the Eagles' backup tight end. "But it'll be good to go up against those guys. I spent my whole career there. I know everybody from top to bottom on that team. All I've known my whole career is Tampa. It'll be fun to get back at them a little bit and, more than anything, get the win."