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The 'real' game should be hot

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2002

ESPN analyst Paul Maguire, who will call the Bucs-Eagles game for ABC alongside colleagues Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann, shared his thoughts about the game with the Times' Sharon Ginn.

* * *

You can't even consider Sunday's game between the Bucs and the Eagles to be relevant to this matchup. Neither team would ever look at the film, I don't think. It just didn't matter.

Both these teams were playing well at the end of the season, especially defensively. (Eagles quarterback) Donovan McNabb, in the final game he played this season -- not the last one, but the one they played the week before -- was terrific. But this is going to be a hell of a defensive battle. I really don't see a whole lot of points being scored. They're going to do the things they do the very best, and that's run the football, especially Tampa Bay. That's what the Bucs do. They only have one receiver (Keyshawn Johnson) they really throw to.

In the cold, I think it's Mike Alstott's game. Warrick Dunn will be ready to play, and he will do some things on the receiving end. Down the road, I don't know if Dunn and Alstott can co-exist. I think they have to make a decision on their offense as to what they really want to do. This is the time to do it. They've already committed to Alstott, and for this game they've got to go with him.

I don't believe that stuff about "they can't win under 40 degrees." At Green Bay (last year), they had one of the best field goal kickers in the game, and he misses. Talk like that just fires up a team. You can write some kind of scenario for everything that happens, every year. The players really don't listen to it, or even think about it.

The big play has got to be made in this game by someone who's not the star. Not Warren Sapp, not John Lynch, not Ronde Barber. Someone's got to play better than he's played all year to really make the difference -- for either team. Somebody has got to step up and take charge. It's going to be interesting.

Tony Dungy is so well-respected by everybody and liked by everybody, but when you get to the owners, what they're thinking about his future, I don't know. All the players are in favor of him, because he's a players' coach. He respects the players, and players like that. If you ask everybody on the team, except maybe some of the guys he doesn't play, they want Tony Dungy as their coach. Would I like to see him back? Yeah. If he isn't going to be with the Bucs, he's going to be somewhere. The outcome of this game is going to tell a lot about whether he stays or goes.

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