TAMPA - Nick Foles' 22-yard completion to Jason Avant put the ball at the Buccaneers' 1-yard line with 10 seconds left. The Eagles scrambled to the line of scrimmage, assembled, then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 2 seconds.

Tampa called a timeout and regrouped, but Foles found Jeremy Maclin, in the end zone, sliding on his knees toward the right sideline, the winning touchdown cradled in his belly.

But wait.

Was Maclin's left toe in bounds?

Could the Eagles finally get a break?


Foles, in his fourth start, against the worst pass defense in the league, led them from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Their 23-21 win gave them relief, if not relevance.

It was a win and it ended an eight-game skid, and it put them at 4-9, but it was hideous.

Two missed field goals, a slew of penalties, atrocious pass protection and a muffed punt seemed to doom their chances to upset a mediocre Bucs team.

But, really, what chance does a three-win team on an eight-game slide have against a .500 host with maturing players and a real chance at the playoffs?

Some, it seemed early. The Eagles took a 10-0 lead into the locker room but failed to extend it until Maclin's reception from Foles.

It remains significant that the Eagles barely resemble the team they expected to be.

Offensive cornerstones Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce all missed the game with injury. Combined, they now have missed 25 games. Combined, they are assured to miss 34, but since Vick and McCoy remain foggy following concussions, they probably won't return, either, so the group likely will miss 40.

Forty, out of a possible 80.

The loss of tight end Brent Celek to a concussion on the first play of the game did not help matters. Expect him to be shelved for the rest of the season, too. Why risk his return?

Celek's injury meant that more than half of the starting offense was down . . . and that's not allowing for the offense's best player, Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, whose offseason injury cost him the entire year. The Eagles never competently replaced him, or the others for that matter.

It wasn't just the offense, either. In the latest effort to rebuild with recycled materials, Jamar Chaney started the game in place of Akeem Jordan. Chaney's presence moved Mychal Kendricks to weakside linebacker, and Chaney shined in the first quarter. Colt Anderson replaced injured Kurt Coleman at safety, but calling that a downgrade would be splitting hairs.

So, due to injury ineptness (Jordan, Danny Watkins) or insubordination (fired defensive end Jason Babin), 12 of the 22 starters in Game 1 played no role in Sunday's affair.

And, of course, the defensive coordinator and the defensive-line coach were fired after the sixth and 12th games, respectively.

Despite those obstacles, and largely thanks to a penalty on one of the teams' 12 first-half punts, the Eagles managed a 28-yard field goal. It was Alex Henery's franchise-record 22nd straight but his last for a while. It gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

It moved to 10-0 with 1:40 left in the half, a slow-motion, 10-yard scramble by Foles that worked thanks to Maclin's block on unsuspecting cornerback Leonard Johnson.

Then, the follies recommenced.

Henery's streak ended as time expired in the half, due in part to a false start that moved Henery's attempt from the 52 to the 57. He pulled it left.

The shot at a shutout disappeared when Demaris Johnson muffed a punt reception near the 10-yard line, which the Bucs recovered at the 5. From there, especially inaccurate quarterback Josh Freeman lofted a jump ball to Mike Williams, who boxed out Nnamdi Asomugha and collected the TD to cut it to 10-7.

Mat McBriar then failed to spin the laces away from Henery, which led to Henery pulling a 31-yarder, which left things at a 3-point difference.

Nate Allen committed a pass interference penalty on a third-and-1 from the Eagles' 18, which negated a personal foul penalty on the Bucs that would have backed the Bucs up to the 33. Vinny Curry took a facemask penalty on the next play that put the Bucs at the Birds' 8 and set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Foles, in his fourth start, completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards, under duress.

Foles was sacked six times, usually thanks to pressure from his left side, where backup tackle King Dunlap played perhaps his worst game in pass protection.

The Eagles had no recourse. Possession receiver Avant surfaced for his fifth career 100-yard game; seven catches for 133 yards.

The stingy Bucs' run defense, best in the business, geared up to stop rookie sensation Bryce Brown. And they did; he gained 6 yards 12 carries.

But they couldn't stop Foles.

Email: hayesm@phillynews.com