Fox's Broadcast Was On The Ball
The Tampa Tribune, published 20 January 2003

``They made a believer out of me because I didn't think they would do it,'' said Jimmy Johnson, ``NFL on Fox'' pregame analyst following the Bucs' 27-10 victory in Sunday's NFC Championship Game. That was the sentiment of Fox's announcers Sunday. They knew the Bucs had a great defense but still didn't believe the Bucs had enough offense to win in Philadelphia.

And after the Eagles converted Brian Mitchell's 70-yard kickoff return into a touchdown, it looked like they might be right. The Eagles scored so fast, Fox didn't go to commercial following the score or after the ensuing kickoff - times during the game when the networks usually take commercial timeouts. And it only took 52 seconds for Fox to put the Bucs' cold-weather statistics on the screen.

Overall, the final game of the season for the first-year broadcast crew of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth was their best. They had done their homework and it showed. Both analysts (Aikman and Collinsworth) were ready to react on each play.

When the Bucs responded to Philadelphia's opening- drive touchdown with a field goal, Collinsworth responded with ``Already, the Bucs have a much better game plan against the Eagles this time,'' referring to the Bucs' 20-10 loss to the Eagles in Week 7. Collinsworth also was critical of the Bucs' special teams, following another long kickoff return by Mitchell. ``This is a special teams whooping,'' he said.

When the Bucs took the lead late in the first quarter following a seven-play, 96-yard drive, Collinsworth noticed how the Bucs had taken the Veterans Stadium crowd out of the game. ``This crowd is stunned,'' Collinsworth said.

And when Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb had the ball knocked out of his hand when he was sacked by Simeon Rice near the end of the first half, both Aikman and Collinsworth were on top of the play - calling it a fumble before Fox showed the replay. The non-game action pictures Fox provided were outstanding. When Martin Gramatica fell to the ground following his second field goal, the cameras caught Warren Sapp stating his case to referee Terry McAulay that running into the kicker should have been called. Buck explained that it was a good no-call and the replays proved him right.

The sound bite of the day came from Buck as Ronde Barber raced to the end zone with a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown. ``And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the way to the Super Bowl with that one,'' Buck said.

The only glaring mistakes came when former Green Bay Packers defensive end Willie Davis called Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer ``Marcus'' while presenting the NFC Championship trophy. And when Fox showed Keyshawn Johnson parading around the field after the game wearing a Terry Bradshaw Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, no one explained why he was wearing it. He wore it because Bradshaw was the only pregame analyst who picked the Bucs to win.