By JOHN ROMANO, Times Sports Columnist
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 28, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
THE YING VS. THE YANG: The Bucs defense forced four turnovers, allowed one third-down conversion and set a team record by holding Carolina to 15 yards of offense in the first half. Imagine what kind of stats this defense could produce against the NFC South's most pitiful offense. Oops, guess that's impossible.
KICKING THE HABIT: Maybe you never lost faith in Martin Gramatica, but it has been some time since he has had this type of impact. Before nailing clutch 52- and 53-yard field goals in the fourth, Gramatica had gone 27 games, dating to 2000, with only one field goal of 50 yards or more.
ELIMINATING THE THREAT: Curses! You knew it would happen. Sooner or later teams would learn their best chance of stopping the Bucs offense was keeping the ball out of Derrick Brooks' hands.
WHO'S NEXT?: Aaron Stecker has seen limited action as a change-of-pace back. Perhaps the time has come to have a change of direction. Considering the lack of running lanes, the Bucs might be better off with the quicker, more elusive Stecker getting more touches. Can it be worse? The Bucs are averaging 3.5 yards per carry.
DANCING FOOL: After officials initially ruled Steve Smith made a diving 39-yard reception, the Carolina receiver did a mid-field shimmy and shake. One problem. He never caught the ball, and the play was overruled. Gee, what does he do for an actual reception? The second act from Chorus Line?
A LIST OF FIVE
Five ways this game set offenses back a quarter-century:
5. The Panthers scored nine points, then tried to sit on the lead.
4. Panthers quarterback Randy Fasani completed five passes for 46 yards. And defensive end Julius Peppers said he played "great."
3. The most exciting offensive weapons -- Tampa Bay's placekicker and Carolina's punter.
2. The teams combined for 119 plays from scrimmage, more than half went 2 yards or less.
1. It was televised.
FIVE MUSINGS IN A DULL GAME
1. Fox has been disappointed in ratings for the World Series. Was the network trying to make baseball look good by making this the No. 1 game of the week?
2. Is there another NFL stadium that gives NASCAR updates on its scoreboard? And what does CART think about that?
3. Panthers offensive lineman Todd Steussie tried to act surprised when called for a personal foul. Sorry, but the cameras caught you cutting Chartric Darby's legs after the play. It not only was a cheap shot, but gutless.
4. Is anyone happier than Roman Oben today? The Bucs almost did not get a chance to tie with two minutes left because Oben's false start penalty took them out of field goal range. Fortunately, Rob Johnson hit Ken Dilger for a 12-yard pass to set up Gramatica's 53-yard field goal.
5. Ditto for Johnson's delay of game penalty on the final drive. Johnson redeemed himself with a 9-yard scramble.
FIVE SUPER PICKS
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego:
1. PACKERS: Brett Favre has 14 TDs and 3 INTs.
2. 49ERS: Bullpen failed against the Angels.
3. SAINTS: Two losses were by a combined seven points.
4. BRONCOS: Is there a team worth fearing in the AFC?
9. BUCS: Did not score more than 20 in a game in October, yet are tied for first. Go figure.
FIVE FINAL WORDS
Does Lou Piniella know offense?
Back to the Bucs
Gramatica at top of his game
McFarland breaks his right forearm
Defense overcomes offense again
RaysThe Piniella era with Devil Rays to begin today
LightningLightning set for first test of fortitude
16,743: Emmitt top of the heap
Angels in paradise
24 hours, 7 days a week
Stewart pads NASCAR lead as foes falter
Blue Jackets prevent 3rd road rout by Kings
Ex-OF gets 18 months on heroin charges
Bat puts MVP Glaus in the spotlight
Birdie bounce off fiancee gives Byrd win
Gator coaches spend bye week critiquing calls
Defense stalls again against run
'Noles' loss brews discord
Wallace's changes fail to help car
Rookie survives wet, wild Honda Indy 300
Redskins display balance in victory
Defense does job for K.C.
Vick gives Saints a sick feeling
Texans stun Jags for 2nd win
NFL notebook: Seahawks WR is stable after seizure
Broncos win; Pats still seeking lost title form
Strahan meets his favorite target again
Daily fishing report