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© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2000
"There's no doubt the Rams have the best overall team in the NFC, if not the NFL. They have a high octane offense with a pretty good defense, but they are going up against a very good defense that can stop a very good offense. The Rams are in for something they are not accustomed to: a dogfight. -- Larry Cassidy, St. Petersburg
"I don't think you prepare any differently. . . . We go through the same routine and I think you approach this like any other week. You do the same things. You watch the same amount of film that got you here. And I think that's the way we've been approaching it. We're not a type of defense where all of a sudden were in the NFC Championship Game and were going to start playing new schemes. We're gonna go what we've done all year, and we have to do it well." --Bucs FS John Lynch, on preparation for the NFC Championship
I probably had been a little bit of a disappointment before this season. I was even placed on the expansion unprotected list. But I have had my best season ever with career-highs in tackles, sacks, starts and forced fumbles. Heck, I was second on the team in sacks this year. That's what I've always done best, from my days as an USA Today All-American prep star through my All-American college career, where I broke Lawrence Taylor's record with 24 for my career, and was picked by the Bucs 22nd overall (with a pick obtained in the Craig Erickson trade) in 1996. I was injured for most of 1997, and last year saw some action as a sub on the defensive line and on special teams. This season, I forced that big fumble that Steve White recovered against Chicago, and hope for more big plays this Sunday. Who am I? answer
Web sites of the day
Here's our ranking of the individual sites of the Tampa Bay Bucs.
1. www.big99.com: A shot in the picture gallery of Warren Sapp with an Afro is worth the trip. While his merchandise offering is limited, the Game Face Playoff shirt is pretty sweet. Extra points for the message board, though Sapp takes some hits from out-of-town fans. Negative points for the stats not being updated through the Chicago game.
2. www.shaunking.com: Audio clips of the Buc quarterback, and one of the few player sites that actually has some mention of the Washington game. We know the players are busy, but if someone is tending to these things, how can you not have playoff updates?
3. www.hardynickerson.org: Probably has the most personal information on any player, including Nickerson's training program. But we admit to ranking it at No. 3 because of Hardy's own recipes for two of our favorites: Down Home macaroni and cheese and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmmmm.
4. www.hit55.com: The same folks who do Sapp's page do linebacker Derrick Brooks' page. Pretty much the same fare here, though Derrick's Diary offers some insight into a day in the life of a professional football player.
5. www.lynch47.com: Not the fanciest, high-tech intro, but we dig the butler getting run over by Lynch and fumbling a football off a platter. This site is just like Bert Emanuel's, though not as cluttered. But how can you have NOTHING on the Washington game, one of Lynch's finest moments as a Buc?
6. www.87mph.com: Hey, Bert's Oct. 25 Halloween Bash is coming up . . . uhh, wait, that's old, isn't it? Could climb our chart with a little updating, and maybe we found the poem to the fans a tad cheesy, but we're jaded. Site also has Emanuel's catches of the week (only one on the site is Nov. 21 grab -- insert own joke here). Like Bert's Buc career, lot of potential here just not the production to match.
7. www.nfltwins.com: The site for twins Ronde Barber of the Bucs and New York Giants' Tiki. The intro is cool, and we didn't bother with Tiki's stuff, but the site has promise. Again, at this point we're just peeved about the lack of updated stats on these sites.
8. www.alstott40.com: This site is under construction, but heed our advice above and you just might crack the top 5 when you're up and running.
Bucs E-Bay item of the day
We were checking out this custom wood billiard triangle and a Tampa Bay Buc cue ball when we stumbled upon this site: www.bigbeargames.com. This place offers all kinds of sports, and for our purposes, Bucs merchandise for the home gameroom. You can order a Buc cue, a Buc cue case, a Buc cue ball, and even NFL billiard cloth. A little pricey, sure, but for the billiards and Bucs enthusiast, a nice touch to add to your game room.
However, if you want to try to get these items a little cheaper, you may have luck at www.ebay.com, where www.bigbeargames.com is selling the Buc cue ball for a starting bid of $9.99 (item number 241015439), which is less than the $21.99 it charges on its Web site. And the Buc Custom Wood Billiard Triangle, with the logo on all three sides of the triangle, is going for $13.99 to start (item number 237170048), though we couldn't find it on the bigbear site.
To bid, go to www.ebay.com, enter search mode, and enter item numbers.
What they're saying
Bucs playoff trivia
Obscure Buc of the day
Kevin McLeod, Fullback -- When Mike Alstott blasts forward for some key yards, or breaks loose for a big gainer, there's a good chance that Kevin McLeod may have had something to do with it.
The Bucs' 6-foot, 250-pound fullback is a load, and often throws his weight around for fellow backs Alstott and Dunn. As the blocking back in the Bucs Jumbo or Rhino sets, it is his job to open holes in short yardage situations.
McLeod played tight end his senior year at Auburn in 1997 after playing fullback his first three years. For his career, McLeod caught 16 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran 66 times for 256 yards (135 in one game as a sophomore) and seven scores. This was after he was named the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Two-Way Player of the Year in high school for a 700-yard, 125-tackle season.
Jacksonville drafted McLeod in the sixth round but released him before the season started. The Bucs signed him to the practice squad in October of 1998, and re-signed him as a free agent Jan. 15, 1999.
McLeod still is waiting for his first NFL carry, but his first catch was a memorable one. Against Detroit on Dec. 12, he made a juggling reception in the second quarter for a 3-yard touchdown.
Inside the game
24 Screen Left
This is one of the Bucs' most successful plays, the screen pass to Warrick Dunn. According to Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Shula, here's how it works:
1. "This tackle on the end . . . we try to get his legs out (from under him) so his hands can't block and stop the screen."
2. "The guard on (the weak side) starts here and pulls after he hits the tackle (in front of him) for about a one count. That guard and the center then release into the screen. They both pull."
3. "The quarterback drops back and kind of sets like he's throwing the ball downfield and he throws it to Warrick. He's going to read the two guys' blocks (guard and center) and they're basically going to block the first things that show up in this area, knowing pretty much it could be (a linebacker or a safety)."
4. "The fullback releases to this side to try and pull somebody away from the screen (preferably the other linebacker)."
"One of the reasons this works is because it's to the weak side of the formation (the side without the tight end or three receivers). A lot of teams, and we're one of them, have a lot of what you'd call strong-side passing, where we're trying to throw the ball where our three receivers are. So if we can get people committed to coverage over there, now you can isolate the defense where you've just got the corner and the linebacker -- and the free safety coming late -- where you can get your receiver, two linemen and your halfback in that area and get 'em outnumbered over there.
"The key is really to get the defensive linemen up the field, so you try to (run this play) more in passing situations."
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