© 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.
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.
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.
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.
Party at the Glazers' house.