© St. Petersburg Times, published January 13, 2003
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
EAGLE EYES: The best regular season in team history is followed by the franchise's most impressive postseason game. And, still, you wonder if it matters. Since Dec. 31, 2000, the Bucs are 22-9 against NFL teams not from Philadelphia. Versus the Eagles? 0-4.
A KO OF TO: What's the fuss about Terrell Owens being a showboat? He was a gentleman. Didn't make a peep all day. And when the game was over, he was polite when he asked Ronde Barber if he could have his jock back.
THANK YOU, AL DAVIS: The Glazers flirted with Jon Gruden and Steve Mariucci last year. Based on Sunday, they made the right choice. The 49ers looked like a team without direction or VCRs. Did 49ers coaches watch any video of how the Saints and Eagles paralyzed the Bucs with blitzes?
POSSUM OFFENSE: Speaking of coaches, how smart is Gruden? He set everybody up with that whole anemic offense ruse. Had us fooled for 16 weeks.
WHERE IS KATHERINE HARRIS WHEN YOU NEED HER?: Rich Gannon and Brett Favre finished 1-2 in voting for league MVP. Gannon is a fine player, and Favre is a future Hall of Famer. Yet neither was more deserving than Brad Johnson, who did not get a vote. This offense stinks without Johnson. With him, the Bucs are Super Bowl contenders. You can't get more valuable than that.
Five explanations for Tampa Bay's resurgent offense:
5. Jupiter is aligned with Mars.
4. Opponents must respect how tight end Warren Sapp stretches the field.
3. Asked Tony Dungy if he could please mess up Peyton Manning instead.
2. Simple matter of playing the percentages. They're 1-1 when Todd Yoder catches a pass, 13-3 when refusing to throw his way.
1. Had 27 years to work on it.
5. The 49ers could have had the ball at their 31 after a second-quarter kickoff. Instead, they got greedy and forced the Bucs to kick again because Corey Ivy was offside. On the re-kick, Ivy stripped Vinny Sutherland of the ball and the Bucs recovered.
4. In the first quarter, the 49ers had a first and goal from the 4. Jeff Garcia was 6-of-7 for 57 yards on the drive, but handed the ball to Kevan Barlow on second down. He lost 2 yards, the 49ers settled for a field goal and never again had a chance to tie.
3. After a Bucs punt, the 49ers had possession at their 15. Again, they got greedy and accepted a penalty. This time, Tom Tupa dropped it on the 49ers 3. Two plays later, Garcia was intercepted. Four plays after that, the Bucs scored to go up 28-6.
2. A week after producing the second-greatest comeback in postseason history, the Niners crawled into a fetal position at the end of the first half. With 50 seconds and two timeouts remaining, they ran out the clock and accepted a 28-6 halftime deficit.
1. Not offering the Glazers an extra $50 to take Mariucci.
5. Al Singleton leaps to deflect a potential TD pass to Tai Streets.
4. Dwight Smith has six tackles, an INT and a fumble recovery. Not bad for a nickelback.
3. Of Rickey Dudley's 17 receptions this season, four are TDs.
2. Monte Kiffin again delivers a superb defensive game plan.
1. Whoever gave Bill Cowher a shoulder to cry on after the Pittsburgh coach bellyached his way through the weekend.
Philly: Cold day in hell.