© St. Petersburg Times, published November 25, 2002
Fox analyst Cris Collinsworth correctly laid it out in the pregame: a Bucs win over Green Bay and they become the favorites for the Super Bowl.
Sunday, mission accomplished.
In the best performance by an announcing team on a Bucs game this season -- and why not, as Collinsworth, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are the network's No. 1 trio -- one of the biggest Bucs wins was delivered seamlessly, starting with a graphic showing how wretchedly Brett Favre plays in Raymond James Stadium.
Other early "dead-ons" included Aikman pointing out that stopping Ahman Green would be a key; it was. And in a pregame interview with sideline reporter Pam Oliver, Bucs safety John Lynch said Favre would make some errors and "we have to catch them when he throws 'em to us." They did.
Some other observations from Sunday's telecast:
KEEPING VIEWERS INFORMED: Warren Sapp was jawing with Packers coach Mike Sherman after the game, but Fox signed off just as it was getting good. Bravo for coming back and filling viewers in.
Sherman ripped Sapp for a shot on Packers lineman Chad Clifton, who was blindsided 30 yards from the play on an interception return. Fox showed one replay, but the announcing team admired the hit rather than admonishing it.
WHAT'S SO FUNNY?: Favre was seen smiling with Sapp after his third interception -- will it be so funny if the Packers have to make a return trip to Tampa in the playoffs? Probably not.
ENCORE, ENCORE: Collinsworth shredded Rob Johnson when Tampa Bay played in Carolina earlier this season, and got in a few more shots when the backup QB came in Sunday.
After it appeared that Shaun King was coming in for Rob Johnson, the object of boos, Collinsworth said: "I think Jon Gruden has already seen enough of Rob Johnson."
Buck replied: "So have the fans," followed by Collinsworth's "me too."
That was gentle compared to Collinsworth's later criticism of Packers WR Terry Glenn for not running routes hard and quitting on plays.
UGLY IS PRETTY: Rob Johnson was to Collinsworth as Tom Tupa was to Buck, who critiqued every kick by the punter. But every time Buck called a punt "ugly" it rolled 20 yards and turned out to be pretty good.
HELLO? HELLLLO?: Oliver was way too slow updating Brad Johnson's health.
SAPPED: Who's missing the days the television cameras were obsessed with Gruden's facial expressions rather than the thousands of shots of Sapp yukking it up?
TOO CONSERVATIVE: Collinsworth hinted that Sherman's ridiculously conservative play-calling at the end of the first half was, well, ridiculously conservative, but didn't dive in and explain how it turned the momentum in the Bucs' favor.
But he was frustrated with Sherman's play-calling: "He's Brett Favre; at some point you have to cut him loose.
Of course, once Favre was cut loose, the Packers' hopes for victory faded beneath an avalanche of interceptions.
UHHHH ... UMMMM ... : So, what exactly was Brad Johnson's gesture all about after his two-point pass to Keyshawn Johnson?
Buck called it disturbing; Collinsworth said: "I don't think I want to see that again."
LIFELESS: All of Favre's retirement talk this season has to have Packer fans verrrrry nervous, and Bucs fans feeling good about a postseason rematch.
"He just doesn't seem as intense and enthusiastic," Aikman said.