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Moulds is not easy to break

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 24, 2000


TAMPA -- They have dealt with Minnesota's Cris Carter and Randy Moss. They have handled Green Bay's Antonio Freeman and Chicago's Marcus Robinson. They have seen enough of Detroit's Johnnie Morton, Germane Crowell and Herman Moore.

The Bucs have ample experience dealing with big, physical receivers. They'll need it to deal with Bills star Eric Moulds on Sunday.

"He's one of the most physical receivers in the league," said cornerback Donnie Abraham, who described Moulds as a receiver in the mold of former Packers great Sterling Sharpe. "What he does well is adjust to the ball. When the ball is in the air, he adjusts to it no matter which way it's thrown. Usually, the way they like to throw to him depends on what the defense gives. "We've been faced against so many different receivers this year that it's nothing new. But we'll definitely be dealing with a big challenge if we don't make plays with the ball in the air."

Moulds, a fifth-year veteran, leads the league with 76 receptions and has amassed 1,019 yards and four touchdowns. To defensive coordinators, the 6-foot-2, 204-pounder is a double threat -- a possession receiver capable of going deep. "We face the Randy Mosses and the Chris Carters twice a year, and this guy's as good as those guys," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "It should be a challenge. He's definitely a good hands guy." Said coach Tony Dungy: "Eric's a big, strong, physical type of guy who overpowers a lot of defensive backs. ... They have a lot of confidence throwing to him, and he's averaging about eight balls a game."

CONTAINING THE QUARTERBACK: The Bucs won't overlook the out-of-pocket skills of Buffalo's quarterbacks.

Starter Rob Johnson has a stunning 7.6-yard average running the ball. He has 257 yards on 34 carries this season.

"He has good awareness and is somewhat like a (Daunte) Culpepper, not with the exact speed or quickness but the same ability to run the ball," defensive end Marcus Jones said. But as good as Johnson is, backup Doug Flutie has earned a reputation for producing magic out of the pocket.

"If it's Flutie in there, it's going to be a long, long night," Jones said. "He's one of the types of quarterbacks where, for one reason or the other, he finds a way to win games and is an elusive-type player who's able to run." INJURY REPORT: Starting defensive end Chidi Ahanotu (right knee bruise) sat out practice Thursday the first time this week. He is listed as probable.

Fullback Mike Alstott (left knee sprain) is out. Defensive end Steve White (right ankle sprain) is doubtful. Safeties John Lynch (left shoulder sprain) and Eric Vance (right ankle sprain) are questionable. Guard Frank Middleton (left shoulder sprain) is probable.

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