Rays, Bucs and Bulls tank over the weekend

Instead, the Bucs turned in one of those frustratingly stale performances filled with timely mistakes, missed opportunities and, at the end, a constipated final drive that came up short. They lost 13-9. Here's some of the good, the bad and and the ugly.

The game started out in Tampa Bay's favor with the defense forcing the Cowboys into three-and-out on their first three possessions. And amid it all a beautiful site: newly activated rookie Clifton Smith dropping back to return punts. That meant that we didn't have to watch Dexter Jackson, the second-round bust, run backward or fall to the turf in fear. Smith had a couple of nice efforts, including a 17-yard return on that first Dallas punt, but I'd have preferred Leonard Nimoy as a return man over Jackson.

Joey Galloway finally played after missing five games with a foot injury, and had a handful of nice plays. I think Jon Gruden finally embarrassed the aging speedster to suit up, what with the coach's heaping praise on his replacement Antonio Bryant. Gruden's referring to Galloway at a "white tiger" because sightings were so rare was clearly not meant as a compliment. By the way, Bryant started out hot with five early catches but then faded.

Fox's broadcast crew of Kenny Albert and Darryl Johnston practically canonized Galloway for knocking down a pass that had been tipped, thus preventing an interception. I thought, Hey Joe, why not just reach up and catch it? Later in the game, Michael Clayton did that just, hustling after a high tipped pass and clutching it for a two-yard game instead of an incompletion.

Commentators like to praise Jeff Garcia for his shifty mobility and knack for making circus throws. That's all well and good, but I think the Bucs QB overdoes it. There were several times that he didn't step into passes when he had the chance, and it hurt his accuracy.

Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud really manned up against the Cowboys, as he does pretty much every week. On a day when Cowboys running back Marion Barber broke a lot of Tampa Bay tackles, Ruud was fundamentally sound, using his arms to wrap up and bring down ball carriers instead of just dropping the shoulder and risking bouncing off of them. Those fundamental wrap-up tackles don't look as dramatic on the highlights, but I'll take the results anytime.

I know it's the heat of the action, but Ronde Barber's horse-collar tackle of Marion Barber that drew a  15-yard personal foul penalty really seemed avoidable. Marion was barreling toward the sideline when Ronde grabbed his jersey behind the neck and yanked him backward. If Ronde let Marion go out of bounds, the Cowboys would've been forced to punt and not scored their only touchdown at the end of the first half.

Derrick Brooks and Phillip Buchanon dropped interceptions, allowing Brad Johnson to avoid any INTs at all. Both were touch catches, but would've been game-changers.

When Cato June drew a questionable personal foul penalty late in the half that helped keep the Cowboys touchdown drive alive, Gruden went apoplectic. It used to be that the networks tried to keep cameras away from raging coaches for fear that they'd be seen cursing. Fox seemed to fetishize Gruden's "fuck"-filled tantrum. My favorite: Gruden glaring at someone -- anyone, everyone? -- and screaming "Fuck you!"


On the Bucs' last drive that took them down to around the Cowboys 20 but stalled when Garcia couldn't convert on fourth down was tough to watch. He never looked downfield or into the end zone. I don't fault him nearly as much as the Bucs offensive line, which let the Cowboys pressure Garcia with just four pass rushers. Usually, late-game drives take the gas out of a pass rush, but Dallas front four kept on coming. Also, you gotta figure that Tampa Bay receivers weren't getting open quickly enough.

And finally a couple of thoughts not related to the actual game:

The Guitar Hero commercial that was a sendup of the Risky Business living room dance scene creeped me out. Alex Rodriguez, Michael Phelps, Kobe Bryant and (I think) Tony Hawk dancing and writhing around in their dress shirts and undies to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" was a very poor use of some high-priced talent.

The Fox announcers, pimping the World Series later that night, pointed out something I did not know. If the  Rays can win the World Series, Tampa Bay will be just one of four cities to have won championships in the NFL, MLB and NHL. The others: Boston, Chicago, New York and Pittsburgh. Hmmm. That's looking exceedingly unlikely.


Former bug-eyed Bears linebacker Mike Singletary took over as head coach for the San Francisco 49ers this week, and while his team got its ass pounded by the hapless Seattle Seahaws, Singletary set the tone for how he's going to coach -- by benching prima dona tight end Vernon Davis, and sending him to the locker room, after he committed a stupid penalty. For more, click here.

Wanna peruse a trying-to-be-funny-but-failing rant about how lame Tampa Bay Rays fans are? Click here.

The Rays postseason success has given rise to more discussions about a new stadium, but not so much in the local media. Philly.com did have a new-stadium article, though. The local sports pages are more interested in the actual World Series.

Here's what Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw had to say about the Bucs/Cowboys game. Click here.

Cowboys punter Sam Paulescu put such a wallop on Clifton Smith on a punt return that he made the highlight reels. The hit has made him a fleeing folk hero in Dallas. Check out his story.

It was a bad, bad, bad weekend for Tampa Bay sports teams, with (two) losses by the Rays, Bucs and, for good measure, the USF Bulls.

The Rays were the big news, of course, playing in their first World Series. On Saturday night, their hitters looked befuddled by 45-year-old Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer, who lobbed the ball at the plate, um, very accurately. The St. Pete club had a chance to win, but blew it in the bottom of the 9th inning with a series of blunders.

Last night, they simply got stomped, 10-2.

There were a plethora of indicators that last night was simply not the Rays night:

Two errors by usually surehanded second baseman Akinori Iwamura.

Three walks by starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine, tying a career high, including walking in a run with the bases loaded. He was pulled earlier than usual.

Ryan Howard finally hitting a ball to the opposite field: a three-run homer over the left-field fence. He later homered to right center, giving him five runs batted in for the game.

Catcher Dionner Navarro had to dig a ball out of the dirt in the 6th inning ... while Edwin Jackson was intentionally walking Ryan Howard.

And probably worst of all: Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton hit a homerun off Edwin Jackson, the first time a pitcher homered in the World Series since 1974. Meanwhile, the best Rays hitters made Journeyman Joe Blanton look like Bob Gibson.

Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria's power outage continued. Longoria looked like he had a case of vertigo at the plate, like he couldn't wait to strike out and get back to the dugout. Pena managed a walk.

After the Rays went meekly in the first inning, Andy Sonnanstine, known for his control, took the mound and proceeded to be wild. He fell behind in counts, and walked in a run. He did manage to get out of the inning lightly scathed, though, giving up only that one run.

In the bottom of the first, Ryan Howard tapped the ball back to Sonnanstine, who trapped Jimmy Rollins between third and home. Sonnanstine flipped to Evan Longoria, and Rollins, scampering back to third, was called safe. A replay clearly showed that Longoria had practically shoved his glove up the crack of Rollins' ass. Blown call, and a big one. Sonnanstine walked the next batter, forcing home a run. Analyst Tim McCarver pointed out, though, that Sonnanstine should have thrown to second and got the slow-running Howard out on a double play.

Late in the game, the Phillies homerun derby got going in earnest.

Another note about Saturday night's game: It turned out all for naught, but B.J. Upton's one-man comeback was more solid evidence that his detractors have their heads up their asses. He got an infield hit, stole second, then stole third, then came home on a throwing error, which tied the game.

The Rays now face elimination tonight as Scott Kazmir goes against Phillies ace Cole Hamels. Uh oh.


No one would claim that going into Dallas and beating the Cowboys is an easy thing, but the stars had aligned so that yesterday's Bucs game certainly seemed winnable. The Cowboys had been reeling, and were forced to use 40-year-old ex-Buc Brad Johnson at quarterback in place of Tony Romo.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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