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© St. Petersburg Times, published November 25, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
PROVE IT ALL NIGHT: Best start in franchise history. Man, did Al Davis get ripped off or what?
LOCAL HERO: Brad Johnson threw nine TDs and had zero interceptions in November. Sorry, but it's no coincidence his winning percentage as a starter (.645) is second to Brett Favre (.661) among active QBs.
BACKSTREETS: The line is supposed to be the strength of this defense, but the cornerbacks make a strong argument. Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly may be the NFC's top duo. They entered 1-2 in the NFL in passes defensed and shut down Green Bay's deep game.
BORN TO RUN: A mobile quarterback should cause headaches for a defensive coordinator. Around here, he drives the offensive coaches crazy. Rob Johnson may be the most talented QB on the roster, but he may be the least effective because he is too prone to run. In nine pass plays, he scrambled or was sacked four times. Rob has nine sacks and 45 pass attempts this season. Brad Johnson has 16 sacks and 335 passes.
WALK LIKE A MAN: The tight ends have not had the impact once anticipated, but Joe Jurevicius has picked up the slack. Working out of three-receiver sets, the free-agent acquisition has had crucial receptions.
Five problems with Brad Johnson's double vision:
5: Could not see past two Gilbert Browns.
4: Kept setting the backfield up in a wishbone.
3: Glazers! Glazers! Too many Glazers!
2: Kept telling guard Kerry Jenkins to hike the dang thing.
1: Could not handle two Keyshawns shouting for the ball.
5: Yes, Barber stopped a Green Bay scoring opportunity with an interception near the end of the third quarter. But Greg Spires set up the third-down pass by dropping Ahman Green short of a first down the previous play.
4: Yes, Mike Alstott was a load in short yardage and red zone situations. But Jameel Cook, who does not have a carry this season, was critical as the lead blocking back for Alstott.
3: Yes, it was a tremendous play by Jurevicius to get both feet down for his touchdown reception in the third. But give Raymond James officials credit. The replay on the scoreboard convinced coach Jon Gruden to challenge the call just before the next play was run.
2: Yes, Martin Gramatica came through with a clutch 51-yard field goal in the third. But Tom Tupa helped set the Bucs up with good field position by dropping a punt deep in Green Bay territory on the previous possession. Tupa had four punts inside the 20.
1: Yes, Brad Johnson's 39-yard pass to Keyshawn Johnson set up Tampa Bay's field goal before the half. But it was a 17-yard punt return by Karl Williams that helped set up the short scoring drive.
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego:
1. BUCS: Okay, I'm a believer. And it has taken only 11 weeks to convert.
2. FALCONS: Why didn't Michael Vick come out as a freshman?
3. PACKERS: Give Favre homefield advantage and he will not lose.
4. 49ERS: Jeff Garcia may be the most underrated QB in the game.
5. EAGLES: Can Duce Staley carry them until Donovan McNabb recovers?
Count the Bruce Springsteen titles.