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BucsTalk Of The Town

Gimme five

Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio.

By JOHN ROMANO, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2003


Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio.

How much is enough?: Jon Gruden has been a smashing success. So far. The Glazers made a coaching change because they wanted more postseason success. A victory today is a must. But is reaching the NFC Championship Game satisfactory? Or is a Super Bowl appearance required?

The long and short of it: Do you suppose the 49ers might try to exploit a height advantage in the passing game? Even though Ronde Barber (5-10) and Brian Kelly (5-11) have been superb on the corners, they are giving up a few inches to San Francisco receivers Terrell Owens (6-3), J.J. Stokes (6-4) and Tai Streets (6-2).

The Buc stops here: The legend of Baltimore's 2000 defense was created with an incredible stretch during the postseason. The Bucs could draw favorable comparisons with a Super Bowl run of their own. Tampa Bay led the NFL in most every major defensive category in the regular season, including passing yards, rushing yards and points per game.

No time to waste: With a new playbook and five new starters, it took until mid-season before the offense was remotely effective. The question of the day is how quickly can the offense regroup now that Brad Johnson is returning from a 27-day layoff?

Secondary is primary: Give Rich McKay, Tim Ruskell and the front-office crew credit for Tampa Bay's secondary. The Bucs were No. 1 in the NFL versus the pass while using an entirely homegrown set of defensive backs. Barber, Kelly, John Lynch, Dexter Jackson, Dwight Smith and John Howell were all drafted by Tampa Bay. And not a one was a first-round pick.

FIVE CHANGES IN TEAM POLICIES

5. Rookie hazing was eliminated. So were the rookies.

4. Keyshawn Johnson limited each month to 20 receptions or 10 complaints (whichever comes first).

3. One Buc Place declared a Clyde-free zone.

2. New rule for injuries: If it isn't broken, it isn't serious.

1. Addendum to new injury rules: If it is broken, we have plenty of tape.

FIVE THINGS THAT MUST GO RIGHT

5. The Bucs win with defense. For the defense to be effective, it must succeed on third down. In their four losses, the Bucs gave up 30 third-down conversions. In the other 12 games they gave up 45.

4. Warren Sapp must dance.

3. Finish the job in the red zone. Of their last 11 scores, eight have been field goals. That simply will not do.

2. Dexter Jackson must come up big. No one can consistently cover Owens one-on-one, so the Bucs free safety will be critical.

1. Someone must block Hugh Douglas. (Yes, yes, but it never hurts to look ahead.)

FIVE NUMBERS TO PONDER

1. 18 -- Touchdowns allowed by Tampa Bay's defense. Take away the two games against New Orleans and the Bucs defense has given up 13 TDs in 14 games.

2. 29 -- Touchdowns scored by Tampa Bay's offense. Hard as it is to believe, this is actually one less than last season.

3. 63 -- Average rushing yards in Tampa Bay's last three playoff games. The Bucs have rushed for 77, 50 and 63 yards. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that they failed to get a touchdown, or a victory, in any of those games.

4. 5.2 -- Average point differential in the fourth quarter. The Bucs have averaged 7.7 points and given up 2.2 points.

5. 49.5 -- Brad Johnson's quarterback rating in four playoff starts with the Vikings, Redskins and Bucs. His career rating in the regular season is 84.6.

FINAL FIVE WORDS

Terrell, will you sign this?

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