© St. Petersburg Times, published January 20, 2003
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: Coach Jon Gruden was, in a word, brilliant. His offense does not have nearly the talent of Philadelphia's defense, but his game plan had the Eagles on their heels. With a variety of shifts and formations, he constantly created mismatches in the passing game, all the while making sure Brad Johnson did not have to sit too long in the pocket.
IN THEIR DEFENSE: It may be time for this defense to take its place among history's greatest. The Bucs have been among the best defenses in the NFL for years, and now they have a conference championship as a calling card.
SORRY, PHILLY: For every fan ever been abused by the lunatics in the 700 Section in Philadelphia, here's a warm thought: Veterans Stadium will close without ever knowing a Super Bowl champion.
OOPS, BAD IDEA: Andy Reid either had too much confidence in his defense or too little respect for the Bucs offense. Either way, the Eagles coach began with a conservative game plan and, by the time he opened things up, it was too late.
NOT HERE, NOT NOW: Philadelphia's first 17 games? A total of 59 sacks. Philly's final game? Zip. See ya next year, fellas.
Five reasons the Eagles came up short:
5: Jon Gruden.
4: Ronde Barber.
3: Brad Johnson.
2: Joe Jurevicius.
1: Wimps couldn't handle the cold.
5: Did you notice Hugh Douglas on Sunday? Neither did anyone else. That's because Roman Oben, Tampa Bay's left tackle, shut down Douglas. The three-time Pro Bowl pick, who abused the Bucs in the past, had one measly tackle.
4: The biggest play was substantially aided by a guy who barely showed up on the TV screen. When Jurevicius was ready to turn upfield on his 71-yard reception, he was sprung by a huge block from Ken Dilger.
3: We must give credit where credit is due. And those nutty Eagles fans certainly helped out. They got it in their heads it would be a good idea to chant Derrick Brooks' name and hurl insults his way. The normally even-mannered Brooks got a little cranky, and it showed. He had seven tackles, a deflected pass and kept his teammates on edge. 2: The oft-ridiculed Tampa Bay offensive line looked like it was in trouble in the second quarter when Cosey Coleman went down with a knee injury. But when Todd Washington stepped in, the Bucs drove 80 yards for a touchdown on their next possession.
1: Bless their furry little chins, the Glazer boys.
5: As valuable as he is on field goals, Martin Gramatica is something of a liability on kickoffs. Even with a strong wind behind him, he couldn't put the ball in the end zone. The Bucs might consider a kickoff specialist for next season. It would mean far more in field position than a backup linebacker.
4: Letting Brian Mitchell burn you on punt and kickoff returns in October is a shame. Letting him do it again in January is a joke.
3: By failing to field a punt, Karl Williams put the Bucs offense in a hole in the second quarter. The ball bounced to the 2.
2: With the wind at his back, Tom Tupa produced a 6-yard punt.
1: Barber muffed a punt return, but got a gracious call from the ref. The penalty netted the Bucs about 25 yards and led to a field goal.
Belated thanks, Mr. John McKay.