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Sound bites

FRANK PASTOR
Published December 21, 2003

Yes, we know Michael Vick is quick and elusive. He makes the Falcons a better team. He might, as Fox studio host James Brown claimed, "single-handedly have lifted the spirits of an entire city."

Yet for all of the hype surrounding the quarterback, Vick had not beaten the Bucs in six tries entering Saturday's game.

And he wasn't the reason Atlanta broke the streak either.

Vick threw two touchdowns, but the power running of T.J. Duckett set the tone and a big-play defense that intercepted Brad Johnson four times was the difference in the Falcons' 30-28 win.

Vick might be the most athletic player in the NFL, as Fox continually reminded viewers, but it was his supporting cast that knocked the Bucs out of playoff contention.

Other observations from the broadcast:

HOLIDAY OVERLOAD: As if the brisk weather wasn't enough, broadcasters Sam Rosen, Bill Maas and Chris Myers felt compelled to remind viewers of Christmas' quick approach with one bad holiday reference after another:

"In the season of giving, sometimes at the bottom of the pile you're going to be giving the business." - Maas.

"It's holiday time in Tampa but not a holiday time for the Buccaneers." - Rosen after the Bucs fell behind 27-7 at halftime.

"Little Cindy Lou Who, that's who that is." - Maas, adding unnecessary color to a shot of cheerleaders in Santa garb.

WOULD HAVE LIKED TO KNOW: When the Bucs played the Raiders in the Super Bowl, we heard how important the knowledge Jon Gruden gleaned from his time in Oakland was in Tampa Bay's win. So what did former Bucs general manager Rich McKay's 27 years in Tampa Bay, including nine as GM, do for Atlanta? We never heard.

NO SALE: Studio analyst Terry Bradshaw said he was "not sold" on owner Arthur Blank's claims that McKay is the answer in Atlanta. While acknowledging McKay did a nice job managing the salary cap in Tampa Bay, Bradshaw credited former coach Tony Dungy with putting together the nucleus of the team that won a Super Bowl under Gruden.

ON THE MARK: Maas rightly called for a flag and fine on Bucs guard Kerry Jenkins after Jenkins pounced on Patrick Kerney and twice shoved his helmet into the ground after Kerney laid a clean hit on Johnson.

"That's bull c--- right there," Maas said.

ON THE SPOT: Fox was quick with shots of Gruden grimacing and Blank rubbing his hands together and patting players on the back on the Atlanta sideline after Travis Hall batted down Johnson's two-point conversion to seal the Falcons win.

THAT EXPLAINS IT: Anticipating a question on the minds of many viewers, Maas pointed out that Martin Gramatica's pooch kick in the final seconds was meant to be dropped just over the first line of the receiving team, giving the Bucs a chance to recover, but was kicked too far downfield with too little hang time.

ON THE SIDE: Unlike many sideline announcers, who have little to say or belabor the obvious, Myers was prepared and prompt. Early in the game, he suggested that since McKay and Blank are on the NFL's diversity committee, minority coaches such as ex-Bucs assistant Lovie Smith could be candidates to replace Dan Reeves in Atlanta. Then, when Vick completed a touchdown over cornerback Ronyell Whitaker, Myers reminded viewers the two were roommates at Virginia Tech. Asked about the best part of being Vick's roommate, Myers said Whitaker responded, "I don't have to play against him." Now, we know why.

BEST LINE: "Some of the guys are starting to look like Santa Claus." - Maas on the Bucs' age.

WORST LINE: "If you beat the Bucs, you'll be the grinch who stole their Christmas." - Myers to Falcons interim coach Wade Phillips.

BOTTOM LINE: "For the Bucs, their reign as champions has ended." - Rosen.

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