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Winner cheers slumping Gramatica

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2001


CINCINNATI -- Martin Gramatica wasn't trying only to kick himself out of a funk Sunday. He was in a bragging rights battle with little brother Bill, who plays for the Cardinals.

CINCINNATI -- Martin Gramatica wasn't trying only to kick himself out of a funk Sunday. He was in a bragging rights battle with little brother Bill, who plays for the Cardinals.

Hours after Martin kicked the Bucs to a 16-13 overtime victory against the Bengals (his third field goal of the day), Bill did the same in a 34-31 overtime victory over the Raiders.

For Martin, the winning 21-yarder was an important boost to his confidence.

"It felt a lot better than usual after missing two during the game," he said. "It's like I owe it to my team and I was going to do whatever I could to make that kick. You have to do it. I screwed up enough during the game, so I had to come through at that point."

What turned out to be a good day for the Gramaticas began on a sour note for the Bucs' third-year kicker.

On Tampa Bay's first possession, Gramatica hooked a 43-yard attempt wide right. It was his third miss in four attempts.

"I don't know what's happening; it's hard to explain," said Gramatica, who last week failed to convert a 25-yarder against the Rams for his first NFL miss inside the 30. "I'm going out there and doing my best and things aren't happening the way they usually do."

Coach Tony Dungy was somewhat sympathetic toward his Pro Bowl kicker, saying the resodded center field at Paul Brown Stadium, where kickers plant their feet, is not the best of surfaces.

"He doesn't usually miss field goals," Dungy said. "We know (Bengals kicker Neil) Rackers didn't have a great percentage and we see why now. It's not a great field; it's resodded in the middle and there's tough footing. I think any kickers coming in here to kick consistently, it's probably pretty tough." Gramatica said he was relieved to redeem himself but wouldn't blame the surface.

"It's bad, but I can't use that as an excuse," he said. "I just didn't hit the ball as I'm used to or as good as I wanted to."

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