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This Washington is focused on Bucs, too

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 1, 2000


LANDOVER, Md. -- Remember the Titans. It sounds like something offensive coordinator Les Steckel would say to convince the Bucs his scheme works.

In this case, it's the latest motion picture starring Denzel Washington, who plays a football coach at a racially-divided high school.

Washington was interviewed about his acting exploits as a football coach on Fox's Under the Helmet last week. While he did not say Tony Dungy served as the model for his character, he applauded the Bucs coach for his quiet but stern style.

"I know he's tough, but he's not a yell-and-scream type of guy," Washington said. "You can tell there's an energy underneath."

Washington said he thinks the Bucs are a Super Bowl contender.

"I think the team everybody has to watch out for is Tampa Bay," Washington said. "I think this is their year. They're tough. They have a strong football team."

SPREAD 'EM: To negate the Bucs run defense, teams are spreading them out with four and five receivers and trying to run the ball after safety John Lynch and linebacker Derrick Brooks commit to pass coverage.

"It's a little bit of trying to spread us out and then attack, run right at us," Dungy said. "They're trying to get John Lynch out of the box and make us declare. It's a little easier to read what we're doing when you've got detached receivers.

"The Jets ran a lot of empty backfield where they really weren't running in those situations but they were trying to get a mismatch, get Curtis Martin or Richie Anderson outside on linebackers and throw them the ball, which is pretty good strategy."

STILL HURTING: Reports out of Detroit have Lions quarterback Charlie Batch still hurting from the seven sacks he sustained against the Bucs. Although he doesn't talk about it unless he's asked, Batch still has pain in his ribs and back.

FUMBLING, STUMBLING: Fullback Mike Alstott fumbles once every 36 times he carries the ball, the second-worst percentage among frontline ball carriers. Fortunately for Alstott, Saints running back Ricky Williams is the NFL fumble king with one fumble every 34 carries.

JUST FOR KICKS: You may recognize the Redskins specialists. Punter Tommy Barnhardt, who played for the Bucs from 1996-98, and placekicker Michael Husted, who played in Tampa Bay from '93-98 and ranks as their all-time leading scorer, now boot for the Redskins. Husted is with his second team since leaving the Bucs. He kicked for the Raiders in '99 before losing his job to Joe Nedney. Of course, Oakland used a first round pick on FSU placekicker Sebastian Janikowski.

ERR IT OUT: When the Bucs attempt less than 20 passes, they almost always win for Dungy. Tampa Bay was 14-0 in that scenario heading into last week against the Jets. But the Bucs suffered their first defeat despite attempting less than 20 passes -- completing 7 of 19 against the Jets.

WRONG PLACE: The Bucs have lost two games in the past nine months and cornerback Brian Kelly has yielded the winning touchdown pass in both. It was Rams receiver Ricky Proehl who beat Kelly for a game-winning TD in the NFC Championship game in January. Then Sunday on the Jets' final series, Kelly substituted for cornerback Donnie Abraham, who had leg cramps. Kelly had man-to-man coverage on Wayne Chrebet, but bit hard on the run fake and watched helplessly as Martin threw to Chrebet.

Between those plays, Kelly has performed well and the third-year pro from Southern Cal is a future starter. But he can't keep showing up on the wrong end of plays that lose games.

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