By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 31, 2001
TAMPA -- One of the biggest decisions the Bucs made to beat the Ravens on Saturday and lock down a playoff spot Sunday was the signing of free-agent kicker Doug Brien three days before the Week 16 game.
Subbing for injured Martin Gramatica, Brien kicked three field goals in the Bucs' 22-10 victory.
It seems Brien isn't going to be a one-week wonder.
With the Bucs hosting Philadelphia on Sunday in a game meaningless to both teams, they seem inclined to let Gramatica rest his sore right hamstring one more week.
"I think we'll definitely keep (Brien) until we see that Martin is definitely out of this," coach Tony Dungy said. "Muscle pulls can be a tough thing. We don't have an urgent need for that roster spot right now. A guy who kicked you into the playoffs, you don't necessarily want to let him go."
Brien came off the streets to nail field goals of 42, 38 and 24 yards, accounting for the Bucs' first nine points.
"He did a great job," Dungy said. "It's one thing to be a good kicker, which he is, but to have not kicked competitively in a long time and come in a pressure situation where you're trying to get your team in the playoffs, that said something about the type of guy he is. We're happy to have him. He did a great job for us (Saturday) night."
Gramatica remains the team's No. 1 kicker.
"I think he probably will (be ready Sunday)," Dungy said. "It might be wise for us to go another week and see. We'll just kind of play that by ear. I think the team developed some confidence in Doug, so there's no question he can do it. But we'll see how Martin is, and with three more days off, he may be just fine."
RUN, BOYS, RUN: Against an impressive Ravens defense known for shutting down the run, the Bucs managed 123 yards on 31 carries and sealed the victory with another highlight reel touchdown run by Mike Alstott, this one from 32 yards.
Maligned most of the season for ineffectiveness, Saturday's effort by the running back tandem of Warrick Dunn and Alstott marked the second straight game the Bucs have gained more than 100 yards on the ground. The Bucs rushed for 157 yards in a 48-21 win over the Saints on Dec. 23.
The key has been a mixture of Alstott's power running and Dunn's versatility.
"We're starting to find a pretty good rhythm," Dungy said. "We've got our big-back package that we're sprinkling in there and our three-wide package where we would be spreading people out with Warrick. People are having to defend both. Hopefully it's coming into place.
"We're getting the right checks, the right plays, with the right blocking calls. The backs are getting more of a feel. We're converting more on third down and so we're getting more runs, and those guys are getting a chance to get a feel for things."
INJURY UPDATE: Dungy gave the team Sunday, today and Tuesday off. The three-day break should help a list of players with nagging, but not serious, injuries.
The exception could be defensive end Marcus Jones, who has a right shoulder sprain.
"Marcus is the guy we're concerned about the most," Dungy said. "It's a shoulder injury and it looks like it might be something that could keep him out this week. Other than that, we had a lot of guys who were tired and banged up from a physical game and we had a lot of guys who just played really hard for 60 minutes. I think with an extra day off, they'll be okay."
Jones' backup, Steve White, a sixth-year player who once started, is having his best pro season and is third on the team with 4.5 sacks. Simeon Rice has 11 and Warren Sapp 6.