By JOHN ROMANO, Times Sports Columnist
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 24, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio.
CONSIDER IT A DIVIDEND: Okay, it was important for the Bucs to keep pace with New Orleans and Carolina in the division. And it was a nice shot of confidence for a team struggling to find its identity. But, honestly, wasn't it sweet making Rams coach Mike Martz look like a fool? Mr. I'm-smarter-than-the-world is 0-3 and a little less sassy than yesterday.
WAS THIS THE O'S OMEN?: Not counting the freebie drive set up by a turnover, Tampa Bay's offense scored 13 points. And, still, it was a step forward. Brad Johnson and Jon Gruden are growing more comfortable with their philosophy.
FACING THE BEST: Rams quarterback Kurt Warner is the highest-rated passer in NFL history, but his lead would be much larger if it wasn't for Monte Kiffin and the Tampa Bay defense. Warner has thrown 12 interceptions in four games against the Bucs.
PRIME TIME AGAIN: Tampa Bay's famed defensive line, relatively quiet the first two weeks, deserves an Emmy nomination for best supporting actors in a prime-time series. Simeon Rice got his first interception in five years and Warren Sapp got his sixth sack in his past four Monday night games.
WHERE, OH WHERE, IS RUSS HOCHSTEIN?: Guard Kerry Jenkins went down with a cracked fibula and tackle Kenyatta Walker sprained an ankle. The team's weakest area is a little weaker.
A LIST OF FIVE
Five reasons Rams coach Mike Martz is not as special as he thinks.
5. Not quite as smart as Ron Zook.
4. Not quite as charming as Ray Perkins.
3. Not quite as intimidating as Dick Vermeil.
2. Not quite as humble as Brian Billick.
1. Definitely not as cute as Gruden.
FIVE INSIDER OBSERVATIONS
1. After watching replays, referee Johnny Grier ruled Aeneas Williams stripped Keenan McCardell of the ball before he hit the ground. Grier also believes Charlie Brown attempted his kick before Lucy pulled the ball away.
2. Before breaking his leg, Jenkins was called for two penalties in a span of three plays, leaving Tampa Bay coaches fuming. Apparently, it was Walker's turn to commit another penalty.
3. Warner completed his 1,000th career pass Monday night, reaching the milestone faster than any quarterback in NFL history. See what you can accomplish when you never have to throw a pass to Jacquez Green?
4. A screen pass to Michael Pittman picked up 6 yards in the third quarter. Research indicates it was Tampa Bay's most successful screen pass since Jerry Eckwood's first down in 1979.
5. The Bucs had no offensive
linemen on the bench by the end of the game and Gruden said Sapp would have gone in as an emergency replacement. Gruden apparently recognized Sapp's perfect technique while creaming Warner during Derrick Brooks' interception return.
FIVE SUPER PICKS
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego.
1. DOLPHINS: We've seen this before as a prelude to a late fade.
2. PATRIOTS: Could not even give a game away to the Chiefs.
3. SAINTS: If only Gruden put in as many hours as Jim Haslett.
4. EAGLES: Worst-case scenario? A third straight playoff game in Philly.
11. BUCS: Can the NFL make the Rams a permanent opponent for the Bucs?
FIVE FINAL WORDS
Derrick Brooks? Team TD leader.
Back to the Bucs
Offense gets help from all around
Jenkins, Walker add to line's injury woes
A proven formula delivers victory
Constant pressure damages St. Louis
Rivalry brings out Bucs' best
RaysGood shines through
McRae doesn't plan to lobby for his job
LightningTime for Willis to take his shot
Shuffle will continue with tonight's lineups
CEO: Early expectations too high
Carried away? Not Dolphins
Spurrier sees game from other end now
Around the AFC
All are skeptical except Panthers
Around the NFC
Returning with a new attitude
Quake jolts England,a few Ryder players
Wildcats take FIU to school
Around the state
Around the nation
Nothing to lose, so rookie's a contender
Canadiens win with late goal
Sliding D'backs lose Gonzalez
FHSAA could cut back on games
Young star continues program's tradition
New champs in GCAC tourney