TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
HALF-TIME: The season is half over, the Bucs have won half their games. Here's the question: Are they halfway there or halfway done?
RONDE BARBER: Hard to overestimate his impact when you consider the Lions had five possessions in Tampa Bay territory and Barber stopped two of them with diving interceptions.
I'M GOING TO TELL MOM!: Was this the NFL or an 8-year-old mighty mite game? We understand the league is intent on protecting quarterbacks, but that personal foul on Marcus Jones was a joke. He shoved _ he did not hit, spear, kick or pile on _ Charlie Batch before the quarterback went out of bounds. Good thing they didn't catch him talking in the cafeteria.
REMEMBER THE OBJECTIVE: The Bucs are so intent on killing the clock, instead they routinely kill leads. Ahead 17-10, they began a critical fourth-quarter drive with a Warrick Dunn carry. It went for negative yardage. The sad part is that it was no surprise. In seven previous carries on first down, Dunn had gained 16 yards. Stick with what is working, not what is conventional.
BRAD JOHNSON: It is easy to rip on the free agent quarterback when a team starts 4-4, but Johnson essentially has done what the Bucs have asked. He has a high completion percentage and a low interception rate. He also has been dependable in the clutch. Counting Sunday, Johnson has led the Bucs to three winning drives in the fourth quarter (Dallas, Green Bay, Detroit), not to mention the fourth-quarter comeback in the overtime loss at Tennessee.
A LIST OF FIVE
Five reasons we're glad Marty Mornhinweg is in Detroit:
5: Did you see all the colors and categories on his play-calling chart? It looked like a Denny's menu. Bet his mom made him take a briefcase to school.
4: Lions have lost the past five games by a combined 23 points. Not quite sure what that says about play-calling in the clutch, but it is not a ringing endorsement for Marty.
3: Cleverly inserted rookie quarterback Mike McMahon in for a series during the first half to give him real game experience. So now McMahon is well-versed on the intricacies of fumbling in your own territory in a 3-0 game.
2: Knows in his heart that Tony Dungy can kick his rear.
1: He is 0-8.
Five moments that made a difference in the first half of 2001:
BRIAN KELLY TO THE RESCUE: A bad start could have been much worse if Kelly had not made a touchdown-saving tackle on Emmitt Smith in the season opener.
SHELTON QUARLES IN THE 98-YARD (SEMI) DASH: In the first of what surely will be many must-win games, Quarles intercepts Brett Favre and goes 98 yards (without stopping for oxygen) against the Packers.
RETURN OF MIKE ALSTOTT: Virtually nonexistent for a year, Alstott's 39-yard TD run against Green Bay not only was the winning score but his reintroduction to the offense.
JOHN LYNCH'S HANDS: Batting down Favre's final pass in the end zone to preserve a 14-10 win that kept the Bucs from being buried in the division.
THE TRUTH HURTS: The 84-yard punt return by Karl Williams Sunday gave the Bucs a boost when it was needed badly.
BIG EASY PICKS
Checking out the best bets (and the Bucs) for Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans:
1. RAMS: What does Marshall Faulk eat for breakfast and where can I get some?
2. RAIDERS: Rich Gannon might be the most underrated player in the league.
3. PACKERS: Setting things right in the NFC Central.
4. DOLPHINS: Gets the edge on Pittsburgh because they actually scored a touchdown (unlike the Steelers) in their division showdown Sunday.
13. BUCS: Going out on a limb and saying, dadgummit, they're the second-best 4-4 team in the league, right behind the Saints and ahead of the Colts.
FIVE FINAL WORDS
Can Bud Selig contract Detroit?