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What They're Saying
What sportswriters in newspapers around the country had to say about Sundays NFC Championship:
"This is about instant replay. This is about a stunning reversal that ended up robbing Tampa Bay of its comeback hope in the final minute. This is about a system that has previously outshone its warts coming up ugliest when it's meant the most, with a Super Bowl berth on the line. Replay trumps big play. Sad. Because this time the system failed. This time it didn't get it right and, worse yet, was obtrusively wrong. The replay booth stuck its nose into a play it had no business being in, changing the flow and perhaps the outcome of a game that was building to a thunderous climax." --Michael Mayo, Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale
"The Rams held on in the final minute against the Buccaneers because another referee took away a Tampa Bay completion after an obvious catch.
"On the bright side, it saved America from a Tampa Bay-Tennessee Super Bowl with the Buccaneers' best chance of winning being a 2-0 shutout over the Titans. It would have been a good way, however, to cap off one of the most ridiculous NFL seasons in memory."
"This was a game of Nibble versus Big Gulp.
"Tampa Bay is the nibbler. The Bucs depend solely upon their defense, and a punishing one it is, but they do so at the expense of posing no threat at all on offense.
"They are shamefully uninventive, excruciatingly uncreative. They almost give themselves no chance.
"And yet there they were, inside the final five minutes, clinging to the most improbable kind of lead: 6-5.
"St. Louis is Big Gulp. The Rams want to swallow you whole. A 70-yard catch-and-run here, a 95-yard return there.
"But the Bucs dictated the pace of play Sunday."
"For a team that supposedly has few weaknesses on offense, the Rams looked mortal early on. The reason was Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers defense is a hard-hitting, disciplined unit, and when St. Louis receivers caught passes, they paid for it.
"Tampa Bay was also doing something that other teams had been unable to accomplish against St. Louis. Rams players rarely broke tackles, especially (Marshall) Faulk, who has made a living out of making the first defender miss, and then the second and third as well. And Tampa Bay was succeeding even though Pro Bowl defensive end Warren Sapp was quiet, thanks to double teams.
"The problem for Tampa Bay, as it has been all season, was the offense."
"I feel bad for Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy. He could be Chuck Noll or Tom Landry in this league. He may be the most honorable and humble man I've gotten to know in 25 years of covering sports. But his team is going to sit right where it is -- close, but not quite there -- until he hires an innovative offensive coach. That means he has to fire Mike Shula, which Dungy is loathe to do. Shula, and there's no delicate way to put this, is a drag on this team." --Michael Wilbon, Washington Post
"Tampa Bay came thisclose to pulling off the largest post-season upset since Namath's Jets. In no way, defensively, did the Buccaneers remotely resemble a 14-point underdog. For the Bucs, there would be no football justice in the Trans World Dome.
"But in the end, it's best this way. Best the Rams didn't fade, and finally survived."
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