Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
IT ALL EVENS OUT: The next time you feel inclined to complain about how a referee's decision cost the Bucs dearly, please remember this game. The Bears lost a 77-yard touchdown and an interception in Bucs territory on a pair of calls that easily could have been ignored by the officiating crew.
KEEPING DRIVES ALIVE: Want to know why the offense has performed better under Brian Griese? He makes plays on third down. Griese has converted first downs or touchdowns on nine of 19 passing attempts. Brad Johnson completed first downs or touchdowns on 8 of 31 passes.
HEY, I KNOW THAT MUDDLE: I can understand if Lovie Smith took some of Tony Dungy's style to Chicago. But was it wise to bring Tony's offense too?
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: It appears the Bucs will be forever haunted for pursuing Charlie Garner instead of retaining Thomas Jones. But, at least on this day, Tampa Bay can take solace in the performance of Michael Pittman. Playing perhaps his best overall game since Super Bowl XXXVII, Pittman gives hope that the running game may yet have life.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE: It was one of the best moments of a lost season. Joe Jurevicius popping up from his first reception and signalling for a first down, just the way you remembered. And then, not long after, Mike Alstott is carted from the field. There is some seriously bad karma 'round here.
A LIST OF FIVE
Five chores for Bruce Allen during the bye week:
5. Look for spare change in McCardell's locker.
4. Convince media to refer to old players as "vintage assets."
3. Change Jon Gruden's alarm clock from 3:20 a.m. to 3:40 a.m.
2. Find Amish Halloween costumes for the Glazers.
1. Inquire about the possibility of a bye season.
FIVE LEVELS OF OPTIMISM
LEVEL 1: Michael Clayton is on pace for 1,154 yards receiving with about five touchdowns. It would be the best offensive rookie season the Bucs have seen since Warrick Dunn in 1997.
LEVEL 2: Hey, Pittman is only fumbling once a game.
LEVEL 3: The defense, while making fewer impact plays than it once did, plays well enough to win each week. In seven games, the defense has allowed one touchdown four times and two TDs twice. Only the Rams offense found the end zone three times.
LEVEL 4: If the offense can just get the ball inside the 5, Martin Gramatica is absolutely money on those 22-yard field goals.
LEVEL 5: The Panthers have given up. The Saints always choke. The Falcons have a nasty case of schizophrenia. Who says the Bucs can't come back? If the Bucs win their next game (home against Kansas City) and the Falcons lose theirs (at Denver), Tampa Bay will only be two games behind when it goes to Atlanta on Nov.14. Okay, okay. I said it was Level 5.
FIVE SUPER PICKS
Checking out the best bets for Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville:
1. PATRIOTS: Might even make the front of the Boston Globe today.
2. EAGLES: Lose style points for close game against the Browns.
3. COLTS: Eventually will get hot. Right?
4. VIKINGS: Only because everyone else is wimping out.
20. BUCS: So who do you suppose will get hurt in the bye week?