© St. Petersburg Times, published September 16, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio.
WHO WERE THOSE GUYS?: It was almost like being in a time warp. A Bucs defense that forced three-and-out drives? Converted a turnover into a touchdown? Notched a shutout on the road? Could it be 1999 again? Or could the Ravens have the NFL's worst offense since Richard Williamson was calling the shots around here?
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, BUT BRAD MAY BE A SANDBAR: Given the lackluster running game, lack of a deep passing threat and struggles on first down, Brad Johnson has been pretty impressive. Defenses know the short passing game is Tampa Bay's only working threat and Johnson still has averaged almost 245 yards a game without an interception.
A BARBER'S TOUCH: He will not duplicate last season's 10-interception effort, but it does not matter. Ronde Barber still is a Pro Bowl corner.
MAKING AN IMPACT: He was fined $5,000 last week for knocking an opponent in the head, and he gave the Ravens one of their longest gains when he was called for unnecessary roughness. On the plus side, Warren Sapp is averaging two tackles a game.
PAUSE TO PRAISE: Please appreciate Karl Williams. He has averaged a touchdown for every 32 punt returns in his career. The rest of the franchise has averaged a touchdown every 425 punt returns.
Five possible explanations Chris Redman is a starting QB.
5. Won the Draw a Picture of Art Modell contest.
4. Brian Billick will go to any extreme to prove he's a genius.
3. Stays away from interceptions by throwing passes 10 yards from anyone.
2. Ravens hoping to catch opposing defenses doubled over in laughter.
1. Scott Milanovich was asking for too much money.
1. Tampa Bay owes Warrick Dunn an apology. Turns out that 2.8-yard rushing average last season was not his fault. More like his destiny. After 52 rushing attempts, the Bucs are averaging 2.8 yards a carry.
2. The Bucs are going nowhere on first down. They tried seven first-down passes and netted 41 yards. That is almost tolerable. The Bucs called 18 running plays on first down and gained 31 yards. That is pathetic. Through two games, Tampa Bay has gained 3 yards or less on 55 percent of its first-down calls.
3. They have cut down dramatically on offensive line penalties. Now if they could do something about those receiver/tight end infractions.
4. You thought Tony Dungy was conservative? The Bucs did not sit on a second-half lead, they sprawled on it. The Bucs did not attempt a pass in the final 18 minutes or so.
5. Not to belabor the point, but ... the defense and special teams have combined to score as many touchdowns as the offense. If you count the final preseason game, the special teams and defense have doubled the offense's total.
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego.
1. DOLPHINS: Jimmy Johnson gave up on this team too soon.
2. PATRIOTS: Bill Parcells gave up on this team too soon.
3. BRONCOS: Back-to-back victories against the Rams and 49ers.
4. SAINTS: See? You already feel better about last week, don't you?
11. BUCS: Their largest margin of victory on the road since 35-0 against Cincinnati in 1998.
Are they missing Trent yet?