1. Archive

Surely the best is yet to come

The Bucs carve up the season into quarters as if it were a football game.

The question: Does anybody want to watch the second half?

The Bucs are nothing if not consistent: Tampa Bay can finish no better than 4-4 at the midpoint for the fourth consecutive season. But consistently horrendous to start the season is not the goal.

"You have a good year and you think it's going to be that way again," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "But it's hard to remember it takes being on top of all the little details to win. Maybe we're guilty of a little bit of that."

Here are some midterm observations. There are no bests, just busts.

WORST PREDICTION: Defensive tackle Warren Sapp boldly predicted in training camp that he would break the NFL sack record of 21 held by former Jets defensive lineman Mark Gastineau. Oops. Sapp has one sack _ which is just one more than Gastineau has this season, and he's retired.

WORST COLLAPSE: There have been a few. But allowing the Vikings to drive 96 yards in the final minute for the win at the Metrodome was a calamity. It happened when Byron Chamberlain caught a third-down pass thrown up for grabs between three Pro Bowl players _ John Lynch, Derrick Brooks and Donnie Abraham.

WORST FALL FROM GRACE: One year after finally getting his due and making the Pro Bowl, cornerback Donnie Abraham was tapped on the shoulder and told to take a seat in favor of Brian Kelly.

Abraham has one year left on a $17.5-million contract. And with Kelly set to become a free agent, somebody must go.

WORST DEBATE FOR RADIO IDIOTS: Mike Alstott or Warrick Dunn? Warrick Dunn or Mike Alstott? Thunder or Lightning? Enough already! Neither of these guys is really getting it done. Take last week's game at Lambeau Field: Alstott averaged 1.8 yards and Dunn 1.7. But as they say in the radio biz, numbers don't lie.

WORST INJURY: Watching linebacker Derrick Brooks heroically gimp around on a bad wheel is more painful than his foot sprain. There can be no doubt who the most valuable player on defense is.

WORST STAT: Keyshawn Johnson, 52 receptions, 673 yards, 0 touchdowns. Nada. Zero. zip.

WORST MENTAL BLOCK: Rookie Dwight Smith trying to field kickoffs cleanly conjured images of Chuck Knoblauch throwing to first base.

WORST GAME PLAN: The Bucs' decision to let Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper check down at will to his running backs and tight ends in a loss at the Metrodome.

WORST SNIPING: Sapp saying "the jury is still out," on Johnson. Your honor, we've reached a verdict. Johnson is not guilty of the Bucs' 3-4 start.

WORST MATADOR: Rookie left tackle Kenyatta Walker held the red cape for many of the Steelers' 10 sacks of Brad Johnson.

WORST START BY AN OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Clyde Christensen doesn't know whether the Bucs should pass first and run second, or run first and pass second. Turns out they don't do either very well.