The Bucs’ unlikely NFC playoff heroes: David Moore and Trey Palmer

TAMPA — Bucs star receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were non-factors for most of Monday night, which means Tampa Bay had to turn to a pair of unlikely heroes in its 32-9 NFC wild-card win over the Eagles.

A birthday boy who had the biggest moment of his journeyman career (David Moore) and a sixth-round rookie who woke up ticked off (Trey Palmer) ripped off the long catch-and-run touchdowns that started the blowout and effectively sealed it.

“You never know when the time is going to come,” Moore said. “Whenever it comes, you better be ready.”

Moore knows that better than most. Though he spent three successful seasons in Seattle with Bucs offensive coordinator Dave Canales, he bounced around with the Broncos and Packers after that before reuniting with Canales this offseason.

Moore already proved his worth last month with a play that helped get the Bucs to this stage in the first place. Moore’s 52-yard touchdown at Green Bay on Dec. 17 effectively clinched a two-touchdown victory and buoyed Tampa Bay’s NFC South title hopes. That, however, came with some drama: Moore spread his arms as he crossed the goal line and dropped the ball inches into the end zone. It was his first NFL touchdown in more than three years.

He didn’t have to wait long for his next one. He entered Monday’s game 10 minutes into the first quarter with an easy message from the coaching staff: Speed across the field.

He lined up far right and motioned toward the middle before Baker Mayfield found him near the opposite numbers with no one nearby. Thank Philadelphia for that. Defensive backs Eli Ricks and Avonte Maddox ran into each other while chasing Moore. Their collision gave Moore enough cushion for an easy catch.

When he turned up field, he had 20 yards of green grass in front of him before the first green helmet neared. Moore caught Darius Slay flatfooted and cut right. Slay never even touched him.

Moore kept going, absorbed a hard hit from Ricks and crossed the end zone to complete his 44-yard score. It was more validation for Moore and the Bucs’ decision to pick him up in an attempt to add depth to the receiving corps beyond their two Pro Bowlers. It was also an unforgettable way to celebrate his 29th birthday.

“For sure, best birthday,” Moore said. “No doubt, y’all.”

While Moore’s day was full of celebration, his unlikely co-star started with anger. Palmer’s 7:47 a.m. social media post was, in all caps, about being “P----D OFF.”

“I just woke up mad,” Palmer said. “I don’t like birds.”

He showed that in the third quarter with Tampa Bay’s biggest offensive play of the night.

The Bucs already had Philadelphia reeling after a safety extended their lead to 18-9. Two plays later, Palmer sped from the right side and caught his first pass of the night. He was immediately hit by James Bradberry but slipped out of the would-be tackle. He cut past a flatfooted defender of his own and outraced the rest of his hated birds with the speed that lured the Bucs to draft him out of Nebraska with the No. 191 overall pick last spring.

Palmer said afterward that he couldn’t even remember what happened on his fourth career touchdown — the longest catch of his career and the longest postseason touchdown reception in franchise history (56 yards).

“I just knew I was gone,” Palmer said.

The Eagles were, too. The Bucs’ 25-9 lead with 16:19 left looked insurmountable given how well Tampa Bay’s defense played and how much Philadelphia’s offense struggled.

Evans and Godwin eventually started to come through in the fourth quarter. Evans had a pair of catches, including a 19-yarder that got the Bucs past midfield, and Godwin had a touchdown reception.

But teams that thrive in the postseason need help beyond the stable of superstars — like Scotty Miller’s critical touchdown catch at Green Bay in the Bucs’ run to Super Bowl 55. They got it Monday with two catches, two touchdowns and 100 yards from two unlikely candidates who made the most of their moment.

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