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Sound bites

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 24, 2002

Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox not only dominated action on the field, but on the tube Monday night as well.

With Maddox shredding the Bucs, numerous comments were made and graphics shown to put his performance into perspective. At one point, commentator John Madden, noting Maddox's ability to consistently hit receivers in stride, said, "Two or three years ago, that's what (Rams quarterback) Kurt Warner was doing." Later, Madden made a point to give credit to the Steelers offensive line: "The way to keep a quarterback comfortable is to keep him clean."

A first-quarter graphic showed how Maddox does most of his damage on passes to his left. Two plays later, he hit Plaxico Burress on the left side of the field for a big gain on third and 4. Later in the half, a chart showed Maddox's quarterback rating to that point as 155.8. At the same time, Bucs quarterback Shaun King had a 4.9 rating.

Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels mentioned early in the second quarter that Maddox had passed for more yards (152) in 17 minutes than Tampa Bay's defense gives up per game. To the credit of Madden and Michaels, they noticed early Maddox was on and stuck with it.

PAY ATTENTION, PLEASE: ABC missed on a second-quarter fumble by Steelers running back Dan Kreider. Viewers saw Kreider fall after being tackled, but had no idea the ball popped free until about three seconds passed. Maddox was hurt on the play, and while a replay showed him being hit late by Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp, a personal foul call against the Bucs was missed.

THINKING AHEAD: Sideline reporter Melissa Stark catches a ton of grief, but she made the right call at halftime by getting Bucs coach Jon Gruden to tell her he wouldn't make a decision on whether to replace King until after the first series of the third. King played two series before getting the heave-ho in favor of Rob Johnson.

BEST LINE: After Bucs safety Dexter Jackson was flagged for taunting late in the second, Madden noted, "When you're not playing, just shut up."

WORST LINE: "Only tonight's winner will truly have a Merry Christmas." -- Michaels during the introduction. After a cliche like that, there's nowhere to go but up. Well, most of the time.

A few minutes later, Michaels said, "We say the same thing every week, but this should be a great one. One of these weeks, it's going to come true."

Or not.

YOU DON'T SAY: In the first half, when Michaels said, "Tampa Bay has never had a kickoff return for a touchdown -- never!" you could bet every Bucs fan watching cringed. As if they haven't been reminded of that stat enough.

GOOD CALL/BAD CALL: With things getting dull late, Madden and Michaels switched to the hottest topic in football: The possibility of Bill Parcells becoming Dallas' next coach. "I think it would be a very formidable duo," Michaels said, referring to owner Jerry Jones and Parcells.

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