By JOHN ROMANO, Times Sports Columnist
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 14, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
MAKE WAY FOR THE A-TRAIN: You may applaud the return of Mike Alstott. You are entitled to act smug because you knew he was underutilized. Just don't get carried away. The Browns may have the NFL's worst group of tacklers and no one is better at breaking tackles than Alstott. The Bucs are better off with Michael Pittman and Alstott sharing the rushing load. All this proved was the distribution needs to be more equitable.
A QUARTERBACK WEEP: Tim Couch picked the wrong week to give up crying.
MARADONA WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD: Quick thinking by Martin Gramatica when he kicked a loose ball across the field. If only the Bucs had a striker in position for the header.
INTENTIONAL GROUNDING: These calls were the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the referee. For most teams, purposefully throwing the ball away is a penalty. For the Bucs, it is a strategy.
ON THE OFFENSIVE: Warren Sapp lined up as a tight end late in the game for a Pittman carry in the red zone. The play went nowhere but, on the bright side, it gave Sapp a new set of opposing players to taunt.
A LIST OF FIVE
Five possible reasons Browns linebacker Darren Hambrick, recently charged with grand theft, was not a factor:
5: Concerned about banks being closed for Columbus Day.
4. Waiting for his Social Security check.
3. Kept checking the crowd for his old cellmates.
2. Bucs distracted him by offering free toasters and a no-fee checking account.
1. Dang handcuffs.
FIVE NUMBERS TO PONDER
18.6: The average margin of victory during Tampa Bay's five-game winning streak. The Bucs have outscored six opponents 143-56, the widest disparity in the league. Take your parity and stuff it.
.343: Winning percentage of Tampa Bay's first six opponents. The Bucs have yet to beat a team that currently has a winning record. Why is this significant? The tide is about to turn. Only one of Tampa Bay's next six opponents has a losing record and their combined winning percentage is .588.
16.1: Average yards gained on Cleveland's 12 possessions. Not counting penalties, the Browns had the same number of first downs (nine) as punts. Now that is a dominant defense.
31: Consecutive regular-season games without a pass play of 60 yards or more between Oct. 1, 2000, and Sept. 23, 2002. Brad Johnson has since connected on passes of 65, 76 and 64 yards in three consecutive games.
3.4: Average gain by Browns running back Jamel White on 10 receptions. He averaged 3.8 yards on nine running plays. That's a team in need of a vertical passing attack.
FIVE SUPER PICKS
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego:
1. RAIDERS: Blame the loss to the Rams on Jerry Rice. The team was hung over from celebrating his 40th birthday.
2. DOLPHINS: Their fade usually doesn't begin until December.
3. SAINTS: The NFC South could come down to Bucs at Saints on Dec. 1.
4. PACKERS: The NFL always seems more interesting when the Packers win.
6. BUCS: The Bucs have started a season 5-1 twice before. Both times they went 5-5 the next 10 games.
FIVE FINAL WORDS
Party at the Glazers' house.
Back to the Bucs
Alstott makes most of start
Browns praise tough Bucs defense
Bucs fail to convert on scoring chances
It's a group effort on D
RaysPiniella in limbo; others in demand
LightningFisticuffs with 'Canes help build camaraderie
Gators fall out of Top 25 for first time since 1990
'Noles aren't demoralized after defeat
USF refs not music lovers
Hurricanes: Win wasn't in doubt
Offense changes ahead for UF
Ex-Cornhusker missing after bombing in Bali
Security tight at 'Skins game
Obscure Saint totals 356 yards in rout
Cowboys, Carter win on 2 late TDs
Sub lifts Falcons on road
Alexander shines under bright lights
First Ram win, first Raider loss
Titans return to old form against Jags
Mare kicks Denver off Mile High perch
Halo, World Series
Fear of Bonds pays off for Giants
NL: Coach sees self more as observer
AL: Twins won't be satisfied
McMurray stuns NASCAR
Florida leads national boom in triathlons
Freaky goal helps Wings win
Penske Racing makes official switch to Dodge
Michael Schumacher: 3 in a row in Japan GP
NBA: Bulls forward faces gun, license charges
Pak retains Mobile title by 4 shots
No-look plan nets win for Tataurangi
Daily fishing report