Game notes and anecdotes
The Tampa Tribune, published 13 January 2003

Tampa Bay scored more points in the first half of Sunday's 31-6 victory than it had in its three previous playoff games - combined. And the Bucs did it not just with the leg of K Martin Gramatica, but with touchdowns, too. FB Mike Alstott became the first Buc to find the end zone in the postseason since former TE John Davis and QB Shaun King connected for a 1-yard touchdown reception in a 1999 NFC divisional playoff game against Washington.

Alstott, who had 60 of the Bucs' 121 rushing yards, scored on the team's second possession of the game. He followed the lead block of DT Warren Sapp for the 2-yard score, ending Tampa Bay's playoff touchdown drought at three games. Earlier in the week, Alstott said the team couldn't settle for three when the opportunity for seven points was there. The Bucs scored three touchdowns on their four trips inside the red zone. ``That was key,'' said Alstott, who extended his club record for postseason touchdowns to five with his two scores. ``You've got to capitalize when you're in the red zone and when we were down there, we did. That's huge. We relieve our defense by putting more points on the board and that's a good feeling.''

For once in his postseason career, Gramatica didn't have to be all of the Bucs' offense. In Tampa Bay's three previous playoff games, Gramatica contributed all 18 points. Sunday, he was responsible for only three of the 31 points. ``We'll win however we can,'' Gramatica said. ``Today the offense played awesome. The defense was outstanding and we just had to make sure we didn't make any mistakes on special teams.''

Special teams did its part by providing good field position for the offense and many times pinned the 49ers deep in their own territory. KR Aaron Stecker averaged 24 yards per return and PR Karl Williams fielded one punt for 12 yards. P Tom Tupa averaged 47.3 yards per punt, including one that was downed at San Francisco's 3-yard line. The only special teams miscue was Gramatica's wide-right miss on a 45-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. It's the first time Gramatica, who was selected the NFC's Special Teams Player of the Month in December, has missed since the Dec. 1 game against New Orleans. He had nailed 12 consecutive field goals before the miss.

Gramatica has been good at refocusing all season and is looking ahead to the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles. ``We know we've got to get touchdowns against [Philadelphia],'' Gramatica said. ``We can't settle for field goals. But a 3-0 victory wouldn't be bad. We'll take it anyway we can get it.''

The 49ers' offense finished the regular season first in the league on third- down efficiency. They didn't live up to their ranking Sunday. San Francisco converted only 25 percent of their third downs (3-for- 12). ``We came into this game first on third-down efficiency on defense,'' CB Ronde Barber said. ``That was a challenge to us. We've faced some good offenses or some offenses that came in ranked pretty good all year long. It comes to us, being about us.''

Barber made a big play on one of San Francisco's third downs late in the game when he intercepted QB Jeff Garcia's pass intended for WR Terrell Owens. Barber returned the pick 80 yards for a touchdown, but the score was nullified by DE Simeon Rice's face-mask infraction. That didn't stop Barber from giving the ball to his twin brother, New York Giants RB Tiki Barber, who watched the game from the Bucs sideline.

Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and wife Linda greeted players in the Bucs' locker room following the game. They weren't the only notable faces. Former San Francisco head coach Bill Walsh, a 49ers consultant, paid a visit to the Bucs' locker room. He wanted to congratulate Coach Jon Gruden, who used to work with Walsh in San Francisco. Some smaller guests also were welcomed. A couple of players had their children in the locker room, including SS John Lynch, whose son Jake waited patiently while his dad conducted postgame interviews. Jake Lynch occupied his time by playing with a makeshift balloon - an inflated surgical glove with a happy face drawn on it.

Brad Johnson required at least six stitches to close a cut he suffered when San Francisco LB Derek Smith got his hand inside Johnson's face mask in the third quarter. Johnson was replaced by backup QB Rob Johnson for one series before returning. Joe Jurevicius suffered a dislocated left pinkie finger in the second half and left the game momentarily, but later returned. OL Cornell Green suffered a right knee sprain and RG Cosey Coleman suffered a right ankle sprain. San Francisco starting CB Ahmed Plummer was injured in the first quarter on a pass play. Plummer was covering Jurevicius, who converted a third down with a 13-yard pass from Brad Johnson. Plummer dislocated his right shoulder and was taken into the 49ers locker room for X-rays. He did not return.

The five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumble recoveries) created by the Bucs were the most in franchise history. The Bucs caused three turnovers in a game on three previous postseason occasions (1982 NFC first-round game, 1997 NFC divisional game and 1999 NFC Championship Game). ... The 25- point victory margin was the largest in Tampa Bay's postseason history. ... Former Bucs coach Sam Wyche attended Sunday's game. He watched the pregame warm-ups from the Bucs sideline and greeted some of his former players, including Lynch.