Observations from Bucs broadcast:
It's clear the Bucs no longer automatically rate a high-profile announcing team _ or a large audience. Because the Lions did not sell out the Silverdome, the game was aired only in the Tampa Bay area and a few other Florida markets, accounting for about 5 percent of the national market. Neither announcer Curt Menefee nor analyst Sean Jones carry the same cachet as a Madden or Summerall but then these days, neither do the Bucs.
Menefee and Jones did a solid job, but Jones _ who was dismissed from the Fox Sports Net NFL This Morning lineup before the season _ had a tendency to stumble over words and names. During the player introductions, he mistook defensive tackle James Cannida for Warren Sapp. Later he called Donnie Abraham "Abrams."
Sideline reporter Jennifer Hammond was a big improvement. Unlike fellow Fox reporters Ron Pitts or Pam Oliver at Bucs games this season, she supplied timely injury reports. It took minutes for her to relay to viewers that Warren Sapp had a knee contusion and likely wouldn't return.
Menefee and Jones were at their best when illustrating the first two challenged calls of the second half. When Ronde Barber picked up what appeared to be a fumble and ran it into the end zone, Menefee (correctly) pointed out that Barber was right to keep running because there was no whistle and Jones (correctly) pointed out that the challenge was justified because there likely was no fumble. On the second challenge, Menefee noted that officials needed "indisputable visual evidence" that Cory Schlesinger had broken the plane of the goal line to reverse the no-touchdown call. Seconds later, the official used just that phrase to explain why the call would stand.
Huh?: There's a time to be loose during a broadcast, and a time not to be. With the game tied at 17 late in the fourth and officials trying to determine whether Keyshawn Johnson stayed inbounds on a reception, Jones kept prattling on about referees' eyesight and "Bugs Bunny carrots." It may have been funny _ the first time.
Parting shot: Jones needs to consider his audience, which in this case came from Tampa Bay and adjoining markets. He (good-naturedly) ribbed Martin Gramatica for jumping around after the winning field goal: "Cut it out!" he said. "You did your job!" Hey: Nobody around here is going to complain about a celebration.
_ SHARON GINN