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TV sound bites

Dream duo solid calling big game

By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2003

The debut season of the Dream Team broadcast pairing of Al Michaels and John Madden was like most Super Bowls: It didn't live up to the hype. How could it? The way the Michaels-Madden partnership was hailed, they were half expected to cure cancer this fall.

Sunday, however, ABC's wily veterans, despite a few hiccups, handled the occasion with aplomb.

Cool-hand Michaels and the congenial Madden adjusted smoothly to the surprising blowout, such as when Madden said of Bucs coach Jon Gruden, "You wonder how one face can get in (that) many positions." They shifted back into focus when the Raiders rallied, with Madden criticizing Oakland's dubious two-point conversion attempts.

GRASPING THE SCENE: After Derrick Brooks' interception return for a touchdown clinched the victory with just more than a minute to go, Michaels said: "Could there be a better way for the Buccaneers to put an ultimate exclamation point on it?" No, there couldn't.

GRASPING THE SCENE, II: Madden wisely warned about players getting too fired up beforehand, and he chastised the flopping Raiders for a lack of emotion with the game slipping away in the third quarter.

EERIE COINCIDENCE: Shortly after Charles Woodson's interception on the third play, the always-informed Michaels noted that in the Raiders' 27-10 win over the Eagles in Super Bowl XV, Oakland's Rod Martin intercepted a pass on the third play.

ON TARGET: Even after his early interception, Madden correctly forecast the injury-slowed Woodson would be a weak link: "I think the Raiders are just trying to get by with him out there. Charles Woodson with a plate in his leg isn't really Charles Woodson."

NOT EXACTLY: On a 23-yard run by Michael Pittman keyed by a lead block from Mike Alstott, Michaels crowed, "Good block by Alstott; what else is new." Alstott infrequently is used as a lead blocker, in part because he's not that good at it.

INSIGHT: John Lynch and Jerry Rice were miked, and in the first quarter Raiders receiver Jerry Porter was questioning the play-calling to Rice: "They can rush the passer, but can they stop the run?"

YES, THEY CAN: After stifling the Raiders in the first half, Lynch said, "Every play they've run, we ran in practice. It's unreal."

CLUED IN: Madden introduced a term, "clueing," to describe defenders who watch and react to the eyes of the quarterback. After Dexter Jackson's late first-quarter interception, he said, "No one clues better than the zone defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."

Five minutes later, Jackson did it again. And Dwight Smith was locked on Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon from the snap on his third-quarter interception, which he returned for a touchdown, as was Brooks on his and Smith again on the last one.

HALFTIME: Nice job, Sting. "Sen-ding out an S-O-S ... Rai-ders need an S-O-S."

ARE YOU SURE?: The mysterious AWOL situation with Oakland center Barret Robbins, renowned for his adept line calls, was surprisingly dismissed by Madden, though the Bucs' domination of the line of scrimmage was perhaps the game's biggest factor. "These guys are pros," Madden said. "The Raiders aren't losing because Adam Treu is at center."

WITH DEGREES IN B.S.: During self-introductions, Simeon Rice said, "School of Hard Knocks." Oakland's Charlie Garner said, "University of the Untouchables." Whatever.

MYTH PERPETUATION: A pregame piece by Melissa Stark declared Warren Sapp "the heart and soul" of the Bucs defense. Really? Did Brooks retire? Sapp wasn't one of the Bucs' top four defensive players this season, or on Sunday.

WHY HIM?: As Rice, Jackson, Smith, Brooks, et al, kept piling up the big plays, the cameras nonetheless repeatedly showed Sapp, who was doing little on the field.

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