© St. Petersburg Times, published December 9, 2002
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
JUST A REMINDER: Technically, this was Tampa Bay's second victory against the Falcons in 2002. Realistically, it was the third. The Bucs kept GM Rich McKay from jumping ship to Atlanta in February, which was more important than the two on-field victories. The Bucs are 10-game winners for the fourth time in McKay's eight seasons. In 19 seasons before McKay, the Bucs won 10 once.
WHITE MEN CAN'T DANCE: In case you were wondering, Joe Jurevicius also does a mean Hokey Pokey.
WHO WOULD HAVE BELIEVED IT?: We once pointed out this offense was scoring at a lesser pace than the Clyde Christensen juggernaut. No longer. After averaging 20.6 points in the season's first half, the Bucs have scored an average of 27.2 the past five weeks. At the current pace, it will be the second-highest scoring offense in franchise history.
A 5-YARD AND 7-POINT PENALTY: Greg Spires shut down the greatest scoring threats on the field. He sacked Michael Vick and blindsided Derrick Brooks.
DUNN DEAL: An ankle sprain kept Warrick Dunn from gaining a single yard in his return to Raymond James Stadium. Unlike last season when it was the Bucs offensive line that kept Dunn from gaining yards.
Five reasons Vick cannot yet be called the NFC's most effective quarterback:
5: Does not make quick enough reads.
4: Needs to work on his accuracy.
3: Too eager to sprint out of the pocket.
2: Poor mechanics when throwing on the run.
1: Brad Johnson.
5: Showing up.
4: Failing to buy lifts for Ashley Ambrose and Ray Buchanan. Atlanta's cornerbacks are a talented pair, but they came up short against Tampa Bay's big receivers. Ambrose is 5-10 and Buchanan is 5-9. They were no match for Jurevicius (6-5), Keyshawn Johnson (6-4), Keenan McCardell (6-1), Rickey Dudley (6-6) and Ken Dilger (6-5).
3: Underestimating the defense's speed. Whether it was linebacker Shelton Quarles going 40 yards downfield to break up a pass or Brooks running sideline to sideline for tackles, the Bucs showed remarkable quickness. Power is the best attack against Tampa Bay's defense.
2: Failing to challenge Tampa Bay's pass protection. New Orleans has shown the best way to derail the Bucs offense is putting pressure on Brad Johnson. The Falcons were not creative enough with blitzes. Given time, Johnson will pick apart any secondary.
1: Challenging Ronde Barber. Few quarterbacks throw in Barber's direction these days. The first time Vick tried, Barber was all over receiver Brian Finneran and deflected the pass into Dexter Jackson's hands for the game's only turnover.
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego:
1. EAGLES: The Super Bowl could come down to NFC homefield advantage.
2. BUCS: Two victories away from their best regular season.
3. PACKERS: Have set their alarm clocks for January.
4. SAINTS: Finish with three games against last-place teams.
5. RAIDERS: Can we petition for two NFC teams in the Super Bowl?
Kiffin is the full Monte.