© St. Petersburg Times, published September 16, 2002
All we ask is that the weekly announcing team show up prepared. Learn enough to be informative, watch last week's game, read up on the Internet.
Sunday, Fox analyst Bill Maas was prepared. He and play-by-play announcer Sam Rosen wasted little time delving into the Bucs' offensive line changes, the problems last week stopping New Orleans on third down, and questions regarding the supposedly aging defense. They also tapped into the Ravens salary-cap problems (though a graphic would have helped) and their rebuilt defense.
Thank you. Now that we know that you know a little about the Bucs, we can leave the volume up and the radio off.
HIGHLIGHTS: Maas was sharp early in the game, especially at drawing distinctions between Sunday's game and the loss Sept. 8. He pointed out that quarterback Brad Johnson was taking shorter drops, and at "a seven-step drop, he's a sitting duck." A few seconds later, Rosen noted Johnson's completion made him 7-for-7.
Maas said whoever got the upper hand along the offensive and defensive lines early would dominate.
A generic comment, but considering the time of possession in the first half, it rang true as the Bucs sandwiched two long drives around a three-and-out by Baltimore to start the game.
But Maas also made sure that viewers knew, even in the lopsided game, that the Bucs offense did not score a touchdown.
BIG PLAY?: The game was a stinker, with just a few exciting plays, one being Derrick Brooks' interception return in the final minutes. Did you stick around for a boring second half and miss it, considering Indianapolis was mounting a dramatic comeback on CBS?
DID THEY OR NOT?: At halftime, the Fox studio crew mentioned a possible sideline dispute between receiver Keyshawn Johnson and coach Jon Gruden, though it went unmentioned by Rosen and Mass (and for that matter sideline reporter Brent Harris) the rest of the game.
OOPS: Maas may have overreacted when running back Michael Pittman was carted off the field, saying "this isn't good." Rosen added that Pittman has battled the injury bug and then contradicted himself by noting he missed one game the past two years.
Regardless, Pittman's injury was just cramps.
OVERDONE: There wasn't much else to talk about, so the Fox production team beat us over the head with Johnny Unitas. Rosen suggested that some of Ravens quarterback Chris Redman's early struggles might be related to the pressure after the Unitas pregame ceremony, which was a huge stretch as Redman proved he's not very good with poor play all game.
Terry Bradshaw seemed to catch himself when he solemnly babbled about Unitas and the emotion in Baltimore. Jim Brown praised him for "good insight," to which Bradshaw, almost embarrassingly, said: "Not really."
WORST COMMENT: Maas was too self-serving considering the Unitas theme when he said: "You want to argue about the greatest quarterback of all time? Well, two of the greatest (Bradshaw and guest John Elway) were in our studios all day."
WELL DONE: Bradshaw had the best comment of the day on the pregame show, looking into the camera and telling Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to wear the black hightops to honor Unitas even if the league was going to fine him $25,000.
He said he, Elway and Howie Long would foot the bill. Elway and Long nodded in agreement.
NEXT TIME: Cameras zoomed in on Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis wildly celebrating after he drilled Mike Alstott on a meaningless short reception but weren't there the next play after Pittman beat him on third and 9 for a first down.
If cameras are going to show the players overreacting on minor plays, why not some comeuppance, especially when it happens on the next play?