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Bledsoe bruised but stands until end

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 4, 2000


photo
[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Warren Sapp reaches his target with an early hit on Drew Bledsoe.
FOXBORO, Mass. -- The Bucs physically battered the Patriots all day, but when they needed three critical stops at the end of the game, it was brains instead of brawn that helped them triumph.

The Patriots had second and 10 from the Bucs 22 with 14 seconds remaining and Drew Bledsoe, who has rallied New England from a fourth quarter deficit 17 times, at the helm.

The critical stop came on second down. Bledsoe rolled hard to the right, then threw back to his left to Chris Calloway, who appeared to be open before cornerback Brian Kelly flashed back and broke up the pass. Kelly said he knew something was up.

"All of sudden they put (Calloway) in the game late and they took Tony Simmons out," Kelly said. "It was definitely for a reason, and I spotted it. We knew they had a throwback in their offense. He rolled long and Calloway really didn't sell it good. He just ran in and ran back out. I just stayed with him and knocked it down."

On the next play, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, calling signals with Brad Culpepper in Chicago, went with a stunt in which he and Tyoka Jackson crisscrossed at the line. Jackson hurried Bledsoe into an incompletion.

"Generally, we call that stunt when they're a little bit farther away from the goal line," Jackson said. "He was even concerned calling it, but it was the right call. Sapp and Marcus Jones collapsed the whole left side of the line, I just came around easily; they never saw it coming."

The final play saw Bledsoe throw an errant pass out of the end zone. He told reporters it was a miscommunication with receiver Terry Glenn.

LYNCH DEAL UPDATE: Strong safety John Lynch said he expects to agree to terms on a contract extension today.

"It's not done yet, but I'm real excited about it," Lynch said.

General manager Rich McKay also indicated that the extension was imminent.

KEYSHAWN'S DEBUT: Keyshawn Johnson had four receptions for 64 yards and each catch led to a first down. Two, including a 27-yarder plus an unnecessary roughness call, set up Bucs touchdowns.

"Keyshawn adds a dimension to us," coach Tony Dungy said. "He made some big plays off of play action, and he was into it. He dictates some things people do in coverage and that helps the other guys."

BIG FULLBACK: It was a little weird seeing No. 64 in the Bucs backfield, but the decision to put guard Randall McDaniel at fullback for a few plays was deemed a success by Dungy.

Until Rabih Abdullah and tight end Blake Spence are ready as backup fullbacks for the team's jumbo package, the coach said McDaniel will continue to fill in.

"They brought it up to me early in the week," McDaniel said. "On Friday I worked a few plays back there. But it's not something I haven't done before because I did it a ton with the Vikings.

"I'd like to do it a little better, but it worked out. If I have to do it again, I'll get a little more practice at it and it'll come back to me."

When McDaniel went to fullback, rookie Cosey Coleman went to guard. The problem with McDaniel playing fullback, however, is he has to sit out a play or the team has to call a timeout before he can return to guard. On the offense's last series, the Bucs had to use a timeout because Coleman was confused about the rule.

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