TAMPA - They don't care if you tell them they stink.

They accept accurate descriptions of their misplays, their mistakes, their misevaluated talent.

But don't call them quitters.

The Eagles, undermanned as ever, blew a 10-point first-half lead over the Bucs . . . then, behind charismatic rookie quarterback Nick Foles, overcame an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit against a host in playoff contention.

The collective heart will be questioned when any team loses eight in a row after a 3-1 start; especially when that team underachieved the previous season.

Sunday's 23-21 effort might soften some of that questioning.

"We have so much heart," said corner Nnamdi Asomugha, probably the biggest single disappointment the past two seasons. "We have so much pride on this team."

Foles enjoyed a record-setting coming-out party, and Jason Avant was the playmaker, but Asomugha's afternoon embodied what happened at Raymond James Stadium.

Asomugha left the game with 10 minutes, 20 seconds to play in the second quarter. He collided in midair with Mack Truck tight end Dallas Clark. Asomugha's entire right side went numb. He lay on the field, terrified.

Feeling slowly returned and he hobbled to the locker room, the latest Eagle felled. There, he saw tight end Brent Celek, who had left the game after the first play with a concussion.

Asomugha swore that, if he could, he would return at halftime.

"I knew I wasn't at full strength, but I knew I could play," he said. "I was going to finish. That's the thing about this team: The guys want to finish."

Asomugha was a large part of the Buccaneers' 21-point surge that swung the momentum.

He also was part of the key stop late in the fourth that gave the Eagles the ball back at their 36-yard line.

Asomugha tied for the team lead with six solo tackles. Of course, that partly was due to the Bucs continually throwing at him, but, hey, he showed up.

They all did.

They all have, they say, even through the worst of times.

"They're gutty," said coach Andy Reid.

"We know that we played hard," said Avant, whose 133 receiving yards on seven catches made the entire difference. "It's never been an effort issue. We've made inopportune mistakes."

Those were minimized Sunday. But they were there.

Kicker Alex Henery's streak of 22 straight field goals ended as time expired in the half, due in part to a false start that moved Henery's attempt from 53 to 58 yards. He pulled it left.

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

Mat McBriar then appeared to fail to spin the laces away from Henery, which led to Henery pulling a 31-yarder, leaving things at a three-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 up the Bucs 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.

The offensive line often was brutally bad, surrendering six sacks.

But the Eagles never quit.

"We'd been there before," Allen said. "Nobody panicked."

Allen paused.

"Regardless of what anybody says, we know that we always fight. It might not appear like it at the time . . . "

Foles led one TD drive, the defense held, and then Foles began another.

Against the worst pass defense in the NFL, with the best run defense shutting down rookie revelation Bryce Brown, Foles' last two of 32 completions will be best remembered.

His 22-yard completion to Avant on fourth-and-5 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 at 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?


They experienced stultifying relief, if not relevance.

"You almost forget what it's like to be in a winning locker room," Asomugha said. "Just getting a win is a huge relief."

This time, the effort was not wasted.