© St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio.:
THE AARP WOULD BE PROUD: Maybe the players are not so decrepit, after all. The Bucs defense is making big plays and keeping teams out of the end zone, just like the old days. Tampa Bay has given up 47 points through four games, matching its best start. So if the old coots want to play Donna Summer music in the locker room, I say Love to Love You Baby.
A NEW KEE TO THE OFFENSE: So this is what other folks mean when they say it's best to have two wide receivers in the same offense. Keyshawn Johnson is as clutch as ever, but Keenan McCardell has added tremendous dimension to the offense. He already has more yards than Reidel Anthony last season and more TDs than Anthony and Jacquez Green combined.
STOPPING IN MID GIDDINESS: The three wins have come against teams who are a combined 0-10.
ONE OTHER WORRY: Don't you think, eventually, the Bucs will have to run the ball? I mean, just enough to keep Clyde Christensen from laughing?
THAT'S SOME GOOD STUFF: Five days after the Bucs announced Kerry Jenkins would miss 2-4 weeks with a leg fracture, he returned. Turns out, Excedrin also comes in extra strength tablets.
Five decisions people will live to regret:
5: The Bengals got away from what they do best. After keeping quarterback Akili Smith away from the field a year, they allowed him back.
4: Keyshawn Johnson was penalized for arguing with a Bengals defensive back. He couldn't find Jon Gruden.
3: Half the crowd was gone by the fourth, raising the obvious question: What the heck were other people still doing there?
2: Rob Johnson played a few meaningless minutes at the end. There goes his chance to redshirt.
1: After 27 years as an assistant coach, Dick LeBeau was offered the job as Bengals head coach in 2000. His mistake? Accepting.
5: Jon Gruden was hired to do two things: Improve the offense and light a fire beneath underachieving players. The fire is burning and the offense is coming.
4: There seems to be marked improvement on special teams. Punter Tom Tupa has been an upgrade, and the return teams may be the best in franchise history.
3: The defense is making big plays. The Bucs have forced eight turnovers, turning three into TDs, not including Brian Kelly's INT he returned to the 1. And Tampa Bay has 13 sacks. It took seven games to get 13 last season.
2: Teams appear to be getting wise to Tampa Bay's penchant for the short passing game, which has opened deeper routes. The Bucs had two TD passes of 35 yards or more. They had one in 2001.
1: Warren Sapp is healthy. He also is looking nasty and sassy. The past two weeks he has performed like the player who was the most dominant defensive lineman in 1999-2000.
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego:
1. RAIDERS: How many draft picks would it have cost to get Bill Callahan?
2. EAGLES: If only Donovan McNabb would let the money go to his head.
3. DOLPHINS: Face the Pats next for early control of the AFC East.
4. SAINTS: This should be the Chargers, but I refuse to believe in them.
10. BUCS: Only took four weeks to get on top of the NFC South.
Bengals? The Bucs of old.