Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
THERE ARE CURES FOR IMPOTENCE: The Bucs have scored 26 in two games against the Eagles and Panthers. What do you call that? Midseason form. The Bucs played successive games against Philadelphia and Carolina in October and scored 22. I say they're way ahead of the curve.
A SPECIAL LOSS: It would not be fair to heap additional punishment on Tampa Bay's special teams. Those guys need encouragement, not derision. So stop carping about the long kick returns. Quit bellyaching about the multiple blocked kicks. Instead, offer a kind word. And maybe some job references.
SOME PERSPECTIVE: This team is no different from last season. The offense struggles and the defense shines. It can be frustrating at times, but this formula did win a Super Bowl.
BRACE YOURSELF: In the real world, referee Walt Anderson is an orthodontist in Texas. Not even the NFL is immune to the horrors of HMOs.
A KEY TO SUCCESS: He had a noticeable drop in the end zone and another at midfield. Do not be fooled. Keyshawn Johnson still is invaluable. On an offense with limited power, he imperils his body every week with catch after catch across the middle.
A LIST OF FIVE
Five reasons the Panthers should be talking smack:
5: How else would you know who they were?
4: Because punter Todd Sauerbrun is one tough cuss.
3: The Eagles are too pathetic to hold our attention these days.
2: Helps them forget Jake Delhomme is their quarterback.
1: It will be worth a laugh in January.
FIVE CRITICAL MOMENTS
1. A trigger-happy referee and Warren Sapp's notorious reputation kept the Bucs scoreless in the first half. Sapp, in as a tight end, was trying to defend Mike Alstott after a play. Instead he got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Bucs should have had first down at the Carolina 36 but were pushed beyond midfield. The drive soon ended.
2. The game might not have reached overtime were it not for the hustle of Michael Pittman. Carolina's Al Wallace had gone 53 yards with an interception return before Pittman caught him at the 7. It saved a touchdown and Carolina had to settle for a field goal.
3. The referee called three personal fouls for hits on quarterbacks and still missed one of the most blatant. Greg Favors purposefully knocked Brad Johnson to the ground after a pass in the fourth quarter. The Bucs should have gotten a first down at the Carolina 14. Instead, they had to go for a 47-yard field goal that was blocked.
4. Brad Johnson is among the best in managing a game plan, but he made a critical miscalculation in overtime. Johnson switched from a pass to a running play on third and 15 at the Carolina 41. This is a team, remember, that averages 2.8 yards per carry. The play lost a yard and the Bucs were not in position for a field goal.
5. Feb. 17, 1995. The Panthers sign John Kasay.
BIG EASY PICKS
Checking out the best bets for Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston:
1. CHIEFS: A Priest who always delivers on Sunday.
2. BUCS: They would be kicking themselves if capable of it.
3. BILLS: Just imagine if Willis McGahee had two good legs.
4. COLTS: That division has first-round bye potential.
5. RAMS: Someone's in charge of hiding Kurt Warner's uniform.