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  • [Bucs] Manic Monte

    By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
    Published: Oct 17, 2004

    ST. LOUIS - Hang around Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin long enough and you get the feeling that if you could somehow tap into him, you'd discover an alternative energy source.
    Kiffin is the human equivalent of the silver ball in a pinball machine. He's not walking or even running through life; he's bouncing through it like the sheared end of a downed power line.

    ``You know how it is when you get so worked up that you can't even get the words out to speak? That's Monte,'' safety John Howell said. ``And he's like that all the time, every day.

    ``He's like that at practice, he's like that before games. He's like that when he's getting ready to turn on the tape machine for us to watch film in a meeting. He just eats, sleeps and breathes this stuff.''

    Kiffin definitely eats and breathes football. Whether he sleeps it or not is up for debate. After all, Kiffin doesn't sleep much, especially during weeks like the one leading into tonight's game at St. Louis.

    ``Around here, your motor is always running high,'' defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said. ``But during weeks like this, when you're taking on the `Greatest Show on Turf,' it runs a little higher.

    ``It's only natural because it's always a playoff-like atmosphere when we face the Rams. You just can't help but get up a little more, so for Monte, it's a few more cups of coffee, a few more hours looking over tape each night.''

    The overtime and extra caffeine have paid dividends in the past. Since 1999, when the Rams' high-wire act first debuted, the Bucs have kept St. Louis from matching its gaudy average point output three times.

    Only three other teams - New Orleans, San Francisco and the New York Giants - can make that claim, but none of them have done it while twice playing on the Rams' turf, including once during an unforgettable playoff game.

    The date was Jan. 23, 2000. At stake was the opportunity to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXXIV. Few gave the Bucs much of a chance. After all, the Rams had the homefield edge and all that offensive firepower.

    Through 16 regular-season games and one playoff game, they had produced an average of 33.8 points a game, never scoring any less than 21.

    Against Kiffin's defense, though, the Rams didn't reach the end zone until late in the fourth quarter and scored just 11 points - which was still enough to win the game.

    The victory, of course, launched the Rams toward their first Super Bowl title - they beat Tennessee, 23-16 - but it also launched a rivalry between the Bucs and Rams.

    During the years it has raged - this will be the fourth ``Monday Night Football'' meeting - it has been a classic matchup of offense vs. defense.

    And the rivalry within the rivalry has been Kiffin vs. Rams coach Mike Martz, the offensive rocket scientist whose passing game has earned the ``Greatest Show on Turf'' tag.

    The one thing Kiffin and Martz agree on is speed. Both coaches believe it is the most important aspect of their respective schemes, the thing that sets their teams apart.

    ``They play fast, especially on that turf of theirs,'' Bucs defensive tackle Anthony McFarland said. ``But we play fast, too. Not a lot of people can play as fast against them as we do. We try to match their speed.''

    That appears to work. Since losing that NFC title game, the Bucs have won each of the three meetings with the Rams, including a 38-35 shootout at Raymond James Stadium in 2000.

    And while speed no doubt played a factor in those victories, Martz believes it is the Bucs' uncanny ability to do something else that has allowed them to have so much success against him.

    ``I think the thing they do better than anybody is they take the ball away from you,'' Martz said. ``They flat out create turnovers, and that, by and large, is one of the most impressive things about them.''

    The Bucs have created a total of 10 turnovers in their last two games against the Rams, and if they can put some pressure on quarterback Marc Bulger, they could maintain that pace tonight.

    The Rams offense the Bucs will face tonight, though, is more balanced than in the past. The addition of rookie running back Steven Jackson is one reason.

    Jackson is a powerful runner, and while he's only getting about a quarter of the carries, his average of 6.9 yards a rush is proof that he's a productive alternative to feature back Marshall Faulk.

    ``They've got some new receivers, too,'' Kiffin said. ``They lost [Az-Zahir] Hakim, but now they've got these young guys like [Shaun] McDonald and [Kevin] Curtis coming on, and [Isaac] Bruce and [Torry] Holt, they haven't lost a step.''

    The Bucs defense has a different look, too. Warren Sapp and John Lynch are gone, but Martz said he doesn't see a lot of changes.

    ``The structure is fairly similar to what they've been doing,'' he said. ``There are a couple of coverage changes that are a little bit different, but Monte is very creative.

    ``He'll always find a way to take advantage of his personnel. I mean, they're not the fourth-best defense [statistically] in the league for nothing. He gets them up so they'll be flying to the ball with the same intensity and speed that they've always had.''

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  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] Barber Beats The System
    by DJRamFan
    By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
    Published: Oct 14, 2004

    TAMPA - Bucs coach Jon Gruden has been talking all season about finding a way to get cornerback Ronde Barber involved in his offense.
    As it turns out, the only thing Gruden had to do to get some offense out of Barber was leave him on defense.

    It may be more of an indictment of the Bucs offense than an example of the veteran's versatility, but Barber leads the team with two touchdowns.

    ``Hey, I'm just doing my job,'' Barber said. ``If you look at the board that lists our job descriptions on defense, it says score and get the ball back for our offense.

    ``I take that literally.''

    Good thing. If not for Barber's latest TD - a fumble return Sunday against New Orleans - the Bucs (1-4) might still be winless.

    Though their offense had its best game of the season against the Saints, it was Barber's second-quarter score that gave the Bucs a lead they never lost.

    ``It's plays like that that win you games,'' Gruden said. ``And in the last few years Ronde Barber has made a lot of them for us.''

    He's made eight to be precise - more touchdowns than any defender ever to wear a Bucs uniform.

    Nevertheless, Barber, 29, can't seem to shake the image of a player who excels only because he works well in the Bucs' zone-based system.

    The label ``system guy'' has hung with him like a shadow. If you need proof, check out the 2004 Sporting News Pro Football Scouting Guide.

    ``In any other scheme,'' the guide says, ``Barber would not be nearly as productive.''

    What's supposedly holding Barber back, according to the scouts, is the fact he lacks ideal speed and strength.

    But at least one former foe doesn't buy any of the knocks. Not anymore, he doesn't.

    ``In Oakland we didn't really hear that much about him, not even during Super Bowl week,'' former Raiders receiver Tim Brown said. ``All anybody ever really said was that he was a good corner.

    ``But since I've been here I've developed a whole new level of respect for him. ...

    ``There's more to being a cornerback than knocking down balls and that kind of stuff, you know, and he has it all. He has cover ability, he can tackle you, he has the ability to digest formations and play intelligent football.

    ``Believe me, I've been around a long time and seen a lot of guys and you see a lot of guys with one or two of those skills, but you rarely see guys with all of them. He's got all of them. And on top of that, he's tough as nails.''

    Mentally tough is what Bucs defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin calls Barber, who admits it took him a while to get over the knocks that scouts delivered in evaluating him.

    ``It used to...
    -10-14-2004, 04:26 PM
  • RamDez
    NFL Marquee Matchup
    by RamDez
    NFL Marquee's Andrew Perloff breaks down this week's Monday night gameTampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4) at St. Louis Rams (3-2)
    Monday, 9:00 p.m. EST (ABC)
    Edward Jones Dome (66,000) </SPAN> Setting The StageWhen the NFL started bandying about the idea of making the Monday Night matchup flexible to avoid dud games, they had this one in mind. What was supposed to be an epic battle of offense vs. defense with key ramifications in the NFC playoff race has turned into a matchup between a decent team and a bad one.

    The Rams are coming off a miracle win in Seattle that helped them keep pace with a Seahawks team everyone assumes is poised to take over the NFC West. Meanwhile, the Bucs turned to an unlikely hero, quarterback Brian Griese, to lead them to their first win of the season in New Orleans.

    But despite early bumps in the road for both teams -- especially the Bucs -- these teams still excel in their specialties. St. Louis' offense is quickly climbing back to the top of the rankings, while Tampa Bay's defense remains stingy.

    BreakdownSizing up St. Louis
    The Rams were down 17 points with about six minutes left in their big showdown with the Seahawks. A 2-3 record and deep hole in the divisional standings seemed certain. But Marc Bulger is not one to feel pressure. He calmly rallied his team to force an overtime period and won the game 33-27 with a perfect 52-yard strike to Shaun McDonald.

    Bulger jumped to the league lead in yards (1,426), attempts (180) and completions (120), and has brought back some of the pizzazz to a Rams offense that has cooled off the past couple of years. Credit coach Mike Martz for inserting some new blood into the offense, including WRs McDonald and Kevin Curtis and rookie RB Steven Jackson.

    McDonald and Curtis have filled that vital role of third receiver that used to be taken by Az-Zahir Hakim. Jackson is a complete change of pace from Marshall Faulk and offers the big-play capability Faulk no longer has. With his 6.9 yards-per-carry average, Martz will look to get Jackson involved against a Bucs D that hasn't been great against the run.

    Faulk can still be a dangerous weapon as well, although he's disappeared in about half of St. Louis' games. The last time Faulk faced Tampa Bay, he was held to just nine yards on six carries, so maybe this is a good time to give Jackson more looks. Don't forget to give some credit to the defense for the comeback against Seattle. After letting up 306 yards and 24 points in the first half, they allowed just 85 yards and three points in the second.

    The defense's biggest star is also its most controversial. Defensive end Leonard Little has three sacks on the season -- including a huge one on Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter -- while dealing with a very public court case stemming from his April 24 arrest for driving under the influence. Little...
    -10-16-2004, 02:10 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams try to get over big win
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas Of the Post-Dispatch

    Sunday, Oct. 17 2004

    Never feel like you're out of a game - no matter what the circumstances at the
    time. That's something Mike Martz has stressed since he became head coach of
    the Rams in 2000.

    The Rams took those words to heart Oct. 10 in Seattle, staging one of the
    biggest comebacks in NFL history.

    "I was so proud of the way we played that game in every phase," Martz said.
    "Special teams, defense, offense. The coaches kept coaching hard."

    And the Rams erased a 17-point deficit in the last 5 1/2 minutes of regulation
    to defeat the Seahawks 33-27 in overtime.

    "And we'll enjoy that," Martz said.

    Just not right now. Martz enjoyed the plane ride back from Seattle, but by
    Monday morning, he was back watching tape and all business.

    On Wednesday he said Seattle "is done and over with. It doesn't have any
    bearing on this week."

    When the players returned to practice Thursday, the message was the same. Just
    like Martz doesn't want them to dwell on a tough loss, he doesn't want them
    dwelling on a big victory.

    "It's really the same thing," Martz said. "It goes both ways. This thing you
    put to bed. ... We're moving on. Just like a heartbreaking loss."

    In essence, Martz didn't want the Seattle victory to be a distraction. It might
    seem like a strange approach, but then again, maybe not.

    "I think it's really boosted morale," Martz said. "We want to keep that good
    feeling of winning. That confidence. But one game does not make a season. We've
    got the entire season left."

    Starting with tonight's "Monday Night Football" encounter with Tampa Bay at the
    Edward Jones Dome. "We've got to stay focused on Tampa Bay," Martz said in the
    days leading up to the game. "Otherwise you won't be at your best, and we
    certainly want to be at our best."

    The message seemed to sink in with the Rams players, although we won't know for
    sure until about 11 o'clock tonight.

    "If we're sitting here concerned about how great we played in the fourth
    quarter against Seattle, then we're not going to play well against Tampa Bay,"
    safety Adam Archuleta said. "So you look at it, you enjoy it. Pat yourself on
    the back, but then you've got to get back to work."

    Rather than dwelling on Seattle, why not build on it?

    "That's what we've been talking about in practice," defensive tackle Ryan
    Pickett said. "Let's build on this comeback. And on defense, let's go out and
    start the game and...
    -10-18-2004, 04:21 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] Bucs Ready To Prove They're Better Than 1-4
    by DJRamFan
    Published: Oct 16, 2004

    TAMPA - There is no denying the Bucs are 1-4, but ask just about anyone in their locker room, and they'll tell you that record is not an accurate reflection of their ability and that they're eager to show it Monday against St. Louis.
    ``We are 1-4 in reality but this is a chance to prove that record is not indicative of the character of this team and that we're in fact better than that,'' DE Simeon Rice said.

    Many Bucs said they want to prove that to the rest of the league, but some said it's more important to prove that to the players in their own locker room.

    ``Right now it's a matter of us proving to ourselves that we're better than 1-4,'' WR Charles Lee said. ``We know what kind of character we have in here and nobody is going to quit.''

    QB Brian Griese isn't about to quit. Not when he suddenly has a chance to take the starting quarterback job away from the injured Chris Simms, but he said he's most concerned right now with keeping the Bucs on a winning track.

    ``This is a team that's very hungry and one that understands that we've let an opportunity slip away,'' said Griese, who will make his first start for the Bucs.

    ``We also understand that it's early in the season and that no matter what anybody says, no matter what injuries we might have, that we can get back into this and do something this season.''

    MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Led by Torrie Cox, who ranks second in the NFC with a 26.2- yard kick return average, the Bucs have the fifth-best mark in the NFL.

    The Bucs punt return team hasn't kept pace. That unit ranks 29th in the league with a 4.3-yard average, and the decision to replace injured returner Joey Galloway with Tim Brown seems to be one reason for the low rating.

    Brown has stood back as the Bucs punt returner 11 times this season, but has only returned three punts, the longest for 8 yards. Brown has called for a fair catch on the others, a move that Coach Jon Gruden defended this week.

    ``In fairness to the punt returners, I have never seen guys punt the ball like they are punting it to us,'' Gruden said. ``Some of these are orbital, majestic blows and there is going to be no return.''

    Still, Gruden admitted that the Bucs believe they can do better on punt returns and said it may not be long before they start working someone else there.

    ``We tried to get Michael Clayton to do that,'' Gruden said. ``He is not quite ready for that, although he will be in time. You need a great decision-maker and a sure-handed man back there.''

    Cox is another possibility. Gruden said Friday that Cox has been working on returning punts and the Bucs may use him there if he proves capable of handling the ball without incident.

    THE GREATEST RAP OF ALL: Former league...
    -10-16-2004, 03:09 PM
  • RamDez
    Rams-Bucs: A history of intensity
    by RamDez
    Rams-Bucs: A history of intensity
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Oct. 16 2004

    "I can say I hate these (Rams). . . . This is a team that I want to beat,
    and I don't even like watching them on TV. I mean, Devin Bush, I don't like.
    D'Marco Farr, I don't like. (London) Fletcher, I don't like. I can name the
    whole defense - I don't like them, and if they don't know it, they will by

    - Then Tampa Bay OG Frank Middleton, in December of 2000.

    * * *

    Ah, those were the days. Tampa Bay, with its bare-knuckle defense and its
    ugly-duckling offense. St. Louis, with its video-game offense and all the hype
    that came with being dubbed the Greatest Show on Turf.

    The contrast in styles made for a fascinating NFC championship game at the end
    of the 1999 season - a slugfest won by the Rams 11-6 on Ricky Proehl's dramatic
    "Catch for the Ages" late in the fourth quarter.

    That's where a white-hot rivalry was born.

    "It just kind of rode on from that game," Rams offensive guard Tom Nutten said.
    "They probably wanted to get some revenge from that particular game. . .and it
    just snowballed."

    Actually, the Bucs wanted revenge right after that game, with Middleton getting
    into a scuffle with Bush - then a Rams safety - outside the Rams locker room at
    what was then called the Trans World Dome. Punches were thrown, and police had
    to step in, but no charges were filed.

    "It was a very intense game," coach Mike Martz would recall later. "You look at
    tape, you can see it was a slugfest. It was a heavyweight fight."

    The ABC television network thought so, too. So much so, that for the next three
    seasons the Buccaneers and the Rams squared off annually on "Monday Night

    "They've always been really close games that always came down to the wire,"
    Nutten said. "The fans love it, and the media love it."

    And ABC still loves it. The teams didn't play in 2003, but with the Bucs back
    on the Rams' schedule in '04 - surprise! - here they are in St. Louis for
    another prime-time tussle this Monday night at the Edward Jones Dome.

    "We've had some battles," Rams offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. "We've
    battled them here, down there, I mean they've all been tight games. Just
    hard-fought games."

    With one common theme: Since that '99 NFC title game, the Bucs have won every

    On Dec. 18, 2000, just a couple of days after Middleton's outburst, Tampa
    surprisingly outscored the Rams 38-35 at Raymond James Stadium.
    Marshall Faulk scored four TDs, Torry Holt had 165 receiving...
    -10-17-2004, 02:34 AM