© St. Petersburg Times, published December 2, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
HAS ANYONE SEEN THE KARMA?: Remember two weeks ago when the stars aligned perfectly? This was the payback. Not only did the Bucs lose, but Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans, Green Bay and San Francisco won. A loss this weekend to Atlanta could drop Bucs to No. 6 seed.
THIRD IS NOT THE CHARM: It's one thing when Aaron Brooks makes you look bad on third down. But when Jake Delhomme completes a pass on third and 8 with the game on the line, you deserve to lose. Too harsh? He had not completed a pass since 1999.
WHAT A RUSH: Deacon Jones? Reggie White? Joe Greene? Carl Eller? Amateurs. No player, before Simeon Rice, has put together five consecutive multi-sack games. Rice is on pace to set a Tampa Bay season record with 19 sacks.
SUNDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: The defense has been so dominant and the offense so shaky, the special teams have gone largely unnoticed. Not this night. A fumbled kickoff, a long punt return, a missed field goal and a delay of game penalty. Other than that, the Bucs looked fine.
YOU'RE TOO KIND: The best thing the Bucs had going for them was New Orleans coach Jim Haslett. He went for a two-point conversion too early in the game and had another brain cramp when he kept Tampa Bay's final TD drive alive by declining a penalty. That set up a fourth-and-4 conversion instead of a third-and-20 predicament.
Five reasons to turn the sound down on Chris Berman:
5: Last funny nickname? Bert "Be Home" Blyleven in 1986.
4: Grown too chummy to criticize certain players.
3: Would need three Valium just to dial down to bombastic.
2: Stupid John Facenda impersonations.
1: Under the mistaken impression he's the reason we tune in.
5: It took a month, but Brad Johnson threw an interception, setting up New Orleans for an easy field goal. Three points for the Saints.
4: Martin Gramatica is ultimately to blame for the 42-yard field-goal attempt that went off the upright, but do not forget the Bucs were in range for a shorter attempt before a penalty and a sack. Three points for the Saints.
3: When the Saints went for a two-point conversion in the first quarter, John Lynch and Warren Sapp stopped Deuce McAllister. Two points for Lynch and Sapp.
2: Brian Kelly has been brilliant much of the season, but he was fooled by Brooks and Joe Horn. With Brooks on a rollout, Kelly hesitated and allowed Horn to get behind him in the end zone. Seven points for the Saints.
1: Rice's third sack led to a safety, but his second sack may have accounted for more points. The Saints were on the Bucs 16 when Rice dropped Brooks for a loss, knocking them out of field-goal range. Three points for Rice.
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego:
1. PACKERS: Black & Blue division? More like Soft & Fluffy.
2. FALCONS: Subplot to next weekend's showdown: Warrick Dunn coming home.
3. EAGLES: Now that you think about it, are quarterbacks really necessary?
4. SAINTS: Who, exactly, has been beating these guys?
5. BUCS: 0-5 in Sunday night road games. That's a bad omen for Dec. 29 at Chicago.
At least Mike Sherman's happy.