STATS INC: NFC title game story lines


Matchup notes The Bucs and will meet for the fifth time in the past four seasons. They are also meeting in the playoffs for the second consecutive season, and the third time in the past four seasons. Philly won the past three meetings, including the last two playoff meetings, by a combined score of 72-22. The teams met in Week 7, as the defeated the Bucs 20-10 at the Vet. In that game, Philly QB passed for a touchdown and also rushed for one, and RB rushed for 152 yards. Tampa Bay is looking for its first Super Bowl berth, and Philadelphia is looking for its second (Super Bowl XV vs. Oakland). This will be the final game for the in Veterans Stadium. The have played there since 1971, but will be moving into Lincoln Financial Field next season. Philly coach Andy Reid and Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden were both assistants on the same Green Bay staff under Mike Holmgren in the early 1990s. Gruden was also the ' offensive coordinator from 1995-97 under Ray Rhodes. and Bucs DE both were teammates at Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago. Tampa Bay notes This will be Tampa Bay's third NFC title game. In the 1979 season, the Bucs were shut out 9-0 by the then-Los Angeles in Tampa (game played on Jan. 6, 1980). In the 1999 season, the Bucs were defeated 11-6 by the now-St. Louis on the road (played on Jan. 23, 2000). Tampa Bay has never won a road playoff game, going 0-6 all time. The Bucs were held under 10 points in five of those six games, and were outscored 152-42 overall. The Bucs scored a team-playoff-record 31 points last week vs. San Francisco, but don't expect the same offensive explosion this week. Tampa has recorded back-to-back 30-point games only once in its history (1997), and of the 17 times the Bucs have ever scored 30+ points, they were held under 21 points in the next game 14 times. Tampa Bay is 7-0 this season when rushing for 100+ yards (including playoffs). Tampa Bay is 1-21 in games kicked off in temperatures below 40 degrees, with the lone win coming three weeks ago vs. Chicago in Champaign, Ill. The Bucs' top-ranked defense has had trouble stopping the rush attack in the past four meetings. In Week 7, they held in check (6 carries, 4 yards), but allowed to run wild on them (152 yards). 's teams are 26-7 when he has a passer rating of 90 or better, including 7-0 this season (including playoffs). But over Johnson's last 10 road games he has 71.5 QB rating and has failed to throw a TD pass in seven of those 10 games (6 TD, 12 INT overall). Tampa Bay DE has 13½ sacks in 13 career games vs. Philadelphia (including playoffs). Philadelphia notes This is the ' second consecutive NFC championship game appearance (lost to last year), and the third overall (defeated Dallas in 1980). The top seed in the NFC has gone on to the Super Bowl in each of the last three, and seven of the last nine seasons. Philly has won its last four home playoff games by a combined score of 130-55. In those four games, the defense scored four touchdowns while recording 14 takeaways, including 12 interceptions. Philadelphia has rushed for at least 100 yards in nine of the 11 all-time meetings with the Bucs, including each of the last four. Over the past eight games, the ' defense has allowed an average of just 11.8 points per game, has a plus-10 turnover ratio and a plus-22 sack ratio. QB completed just 50 percent of his passes this season when he was blitzed, while completing 63.8 percent when he wasn't. The are just 5-11 when McNabb gets sacked four or more times in a game (including playoffs). If this game comes down to a field goal, look for Philadelphia's to be ready. Akers was 30-for-34 this season, and has the best home field goal percentage (44-48, 91.7) over the last three seasons combined.