© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 2000
ST. LOUIS -- Tony Dungy toed the company line. Shaun King said he stopped watching the play. But Bert Emanuel had absolutely no doubt: His reception in the fourth quarter Sunday that was changed by instant replay to an incomplete pass was good and legal.
So legal he had no idea why it was being reviewed.
"I caught it clean," said Emanuel of what would have been a 13-yard gain to the Rams 22 with 47 seconds left. "I didn't see any replays in the dome. All I know is I caught it clean. I didn't even think it was close enough to be reviewed.
"You work so hard to get things accomplished, and to have it taken away by instant replay . . . I don't see it."
Referee Bill Carollo said the ruling was made because Emanuel used the ground the help him make the catch.
"It was apparent that the player, as he was catching the ball, used the ground. The tip of the ball hit the ground. . . . And because the ball hit the ground, by rule it's an automatic incomplete pass."
"You go out and play 60 minutes," offensive lineman Frank Middleton said, "so how fair is it for four guys to change the call that everyone in the stadium knew was (good)? It's crazy, but we have to live with it. I hate the Rams."
King said he was unaware the play was being reviewed, and stopped watching Emanuel after the catch.
"I started looking over to the sideline for the next play," King said. "It's just part of the game. You have no control over it. The officials made what they thought was the right call. I didn't know at first it was even being reviewed."
Had the pass counted, the Bucs would have faced third and 10 at the St. Louis 23. Because of the ruling, they were pushed back to the 35, confronted with third and 23. King threw an incompletion under heavy pressure on third down, and his fourth-down pass was batted out of the end zone.
"I'm a league guy, so I think it's a good system, and next year I'm sure there will be some improvements," said Dungy, who has been at the losing end of several replay calls this season. "Hopefully the calls are right."
While the reversal could have proven crucial, defensive tackle Warren Sapp refused to blame the loss on the controversial call.
"That play didn't cost us the championship," he said. "We had a lot of chances to win this game."
Ironically, GM Rich McKay is on the NFL Competition Committee that devised the new replay system. Sunday's call closed the book on a season that began for the Bucs with another controversial replay call -- a 28-yard reception by Karl Williams in the season opener against the Giants that helped New York win 17-13. The league acknowledged three days later that the call was in error.
PRETTY SPECIAL: Because of the outcome, the Bucs special teams won't get much attention in the aftermath. But, as a group, they had an outstanding game.
Placekicker Martin Gramatica made both of his field goals (from 25 and 23 yards). But almost as important, all three of his kickoffs reached at least the goal line, something he had not been able to do much of the season. One was a touchback, and the other two resulted in Rams possessions beginning at their 23 and 13.
Tampa Bay's kickoff and punt coverage teams, facing two of the best returners in the league in Tony Horne and Az-Zahir Hakim, also played well. The Rams averaged 8.3 yards on punt returns and 19 yards on kickoff returns.
HIT OF THE GAME CANDIDATE: Derrick Brooks' blow on receiver Torry Holt on the Rams' second drive of the game, hitting him square in the ribs after a 4-yard gain. Holt was X-rayed for broken ribs, but was diagnosed with only bruises. He returned in the second half, but left in the third quarter with a bruised shoulder.
OTHER INJURIES: Hakim was given an IV at halftime because of dehydration and cramps. . . . Rams tackle Fred Miller suffered a sprained knee in the fourth quarter. . . . Bucs defensive end Marcus Jones suffered a dislocated finger but did not leave the game.
UNDER PRESSURE: The Rams defensive front kept pressure on King much of the game, registering five sacks for 37 yards. The Bucs credited the St. Louis defensive ends for most of those.
"Kevin Carter is a Pro Bowl defensive end and I expected a lot from him," Bucs tackle Jerry Wunsch said. "We felt both of their defensive ends are good. They have a lot of team speed and were flying around us. We had a chance to make some plays, and because of (the ends), we didn't."
NOT TOO FOXY: The Bucs got no love from the Fox Network in the pregame broadcast. The network was in commercial when the Buccaneers offense was introduced (amid a shower of boos) to the Trans World crowd. But when the lights went down, the smoke and lasers turned on and the fireworks set off for the Rams introductions, Fox broadcast every second.
WHO'S IN CONTROL? You can apparently count the air traffic controllers at Lambert-St. Louis Airport among the Rams faithful. Upon the arrival of Tampa Bay's team plane Friday afternoon, the Northwest pilot ended his approach transmission to the control tower with a friendly, "Go Bucs." The controller, now aware of the plane's cargo, waved the plane off its approach and forced it to circle around, costing the Bucs another 15 minutes in the air.
Wonder how long they would have had to circle if the controller knew Mike Alstott was sitting in the cockpit?
ODDS AND ENDS: Hardy Nickerson's third-quarter interception came after he had two in the regular season (vs. Denver and Kansas City). Brian Kelly had a fourth-quarter interception. His only one of the regular season came against Seattle. . . . The Rams' safety in the second quarter was the second time this season Tony Mayberry hiked a shotgun snap out of the end zone: The first was in Tampa Bay's 19-5 win over Philadelphia in Game 2. . . . No, those weren't boos. The crowd was yelling "Bruuuuce" every time receiver Isaac Bruce caught a ball. . . . Doug Williams and Lee Roy Selmon were honorary captains at the coin toss for the Bucs. Injured Bucs tackle Paul Gruber also was invited to participate. Dan Dierdorf and Lawrence McCutcheon represented the Rams. The Rams' all-time playoff record improved to 14-20. The Bucs dropped to 2-5. . . . The Rams were presented the George Halas Trophy as winners of the NFC, named after the former Chicago Bears founder and owner. ... The Rams are 10-3 against the Bucs, 2-0 in the post-season. Their other playoff game against Tampa Bay was the 1979 NFC championship, won by the then-L.A. Rams 9-0. . . . The Rams are 10-0 in the Trans World Dome this season, and have won 11 in a row dating to last season. . . . Kickoff temperature outside was 33 degrees with a chance of snow flurries. . . . The 2005 Final Four will be at the Trans World Dome.
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