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Simplicity leads to punt block


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 2000

PONTIAC, Mich. -- The complexities of football are often too intricate for the common fan, but the Bucs' Ronde Barber said there was nothing sophisticated about his partial block of a John Jett punt in the first quarter. "Joe (Marciano) said, "Go block the punt,' " Barber said of his special teams coach. "So I went out and blocked the punt. It's an easy game sometimes."

Marciano changed the punt-coverage team at the last second. Barber was jogging off the field but quickly reversed track when Marciano called for a block attempt. Barber got in position just as the ball was snapped. That might have contributed to Barber going in untouched.

"It kind of helped us because I don't think their guy, who was settled in to protect, saw Ronde in his spot and lost focus," Marciano said. The block, which caused the ball to travel only 13 yards, helped set up the Bucs' second touchdown. In the second quarter, linebacker Alshermond Singleton cleanly blocked another Jett punt that gave the Bucs a first and 10 at the Lions 30-yard line. However, special teams failed to convert that into points when Martin Gramatica narrowly missed a 38-yard field goal. Overall, special teams were a mixed bag. The blocked punts were on the positive side, as was a 42-yard Karl Williams punt return in which he almost scored. Safety Eric Vance provided a key block to spring Williams, who would have made it if Terry Fair hadn't made a shoestring tackle from behind.

The negatives were kickoff returns of 70 and 63 yards by Detroit's Desmond Howard. Part of the problem was low kickoffs by Gramatica, plus the Lions' timing, which cleared a huge path.

The Bucs changed strategy by kicking to the corner of the field and pinning Howard. His returns after the change were 8, 23 and 25 yards.

"We were down a little bit, but we came back as a special-teams group," Marciano said. "Obviously, we have to do a better job, but our guys didn't quit. I thought we came back pretty good."

DUNN DEAL: Running back Warrick Dunn scored his first rushing touchdown in nearly two years on a 1-yard sprint to the left.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," said Dunn, who rushed for 34 yards on 10 carries. "It's been forever and a day. All I can do is hope there are many more."

His last rushing touchdown had been Nov. 1, 1998 against Minnesota.

NEW TIGHT END?: Don't look for guard Randall McDaniel to start demanding the ball. The 13-year veteran got his first touchdown reception on a 2-yard toss from Shaun King when he lined up as fullback, and one is fine with him.

"They don't have to throw me the ball the rest of the year," McDaniel said.

McDaniel almost had a second touchdown reception with the same play. This time, King threw the ball slightly behind him and linebacker Stephen Boyd flashed in front of the pass.

"It was tipped," McDaniel said. "That's my story and I'm going to stick with that. I couldn't believe when they threw it again. I thought I had another one. I saw a flash of him coming by, there's nothing else I can say. I should have caught it."

INJURIES: Rookie safety David Gibson re-aggravated his left foot sprain, cornerback Donnie Abraham sustained a knee bruise and Gramatica had bruised ribs.

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