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    By Brent Gaskill, Times Correspondent
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    What's hot: A warming trend has fish on the move and ready to eat. Many retreated to deeper winter holes during the brief cold snap we had a few weeks ago. They have moved back out but have not gone far. Look for trout, redfish and snook at the mouths of residential canals holding on docks with nearby grass flats or scattered mangroves.

    Tactics: Live shrimp have been very productive. Baitfish are still available, but most inshore game fish have turned their attention to crustaceans for the winter. Soft plastic jigs imitating shrimp are also effective. Live offerings should be fished on the bottom close to docks or suspended under a float over grass.

    Looking ahead: Expect more cold fronts. They will send fish farther back into the canals to warmer, deeper water. Keep presentations low and slow for artificial lures and live baits.

    Brent Gaskill runs Summer Vacation Charters out of the St. Petersburg area and can be reached at captbrent@summervacationcharters.com and (727)510-1009.

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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Worst performance

    No question that Bucs QB Josh Freeman had his worst performance since his 10-completion game in a Week 3 loss to the Cowboys. He was 14-of-34 for 189 yards, and 40 of those came on one throw. He didn't throw an interception, but that was because many of his throws weren't close to ANYONE.

    "It just seemed like he wasn't in synch," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.

    Even great quarterbacks have an off day, but what's disturbing is that Freeman now has had back-to-back stinkers and really hasn't been sharp in three of the past four games. Maybe the depleted offensive line that has Freeman under constant pressure has something to do with it.

    Freeman, of course, wouldn't say that. That's not his style. That's what makes him a good leader. He would be a great leader if he would have taken a little more of the blame for the sputtering offense. I wish he would use the word "I" more than he does "we."

    Best performance

    When you think of the great players in Bucs history, you think defense: Derrick Brooks, Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp. But the more you see WR Vincent Jackson, the more you ask where he fits on the list of "Most Talented Buc Ever."

    He already is among the best offensive players this team has ever seen. Jackson caught six passes for 131 yards Sunday — his fourth game of at least 100 yards and his seventh of at least 80. The Bucs' best play is telling Jackson to go downfield and throwing it in his general direction.

    Best lesson

    Schiano will be second-guessed for his decision to run on third and 8 with just less than three minutes left. But here's the lesson that should be learned from it: Nothing is more important in today's NFL than possessing the football. It doesn't matter how good or bad the other team is, how good or bad your defense is, how good or bad your quarterback is. Nine times out of 10, you're better off doing what it takes to keep the ball instead of giving it to the other team. In today's NFL, even no-names such as Nick Foles are good enough to beat you if you keep giving them the ball.

    Three things that popped into my head

    1. Anyone out there still have questions about Bucs DT Gerald McCoy? He had two sacks and five tackles Sunday and is playing lights-out even though his best linemates are on injured reserve.

    2. This game might have been lost in the first half when the Bucs had nearly twice as many punts (seven) as first downs (four). You can't go seven possessions without at least one score.

    3. It's funny. If the Eagles had converted on a two-point conversion with just more than four minutes left and cut the score to 21-18, they might have kicked a field goal and sent the game to overtime on the last play of regulation.

    Final thought

    You cannot lose a game in December to a team from a city whose baseball team (the Phillies) had won more recently than the football team.

    Tom Jones can be heard from 6-9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620 and reached at (727) 893-8544 or tjones@tampabay.com

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    Times staff
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Second quarter
    Eagles 3-0 7:13 9 plays, 33 yards, 2:49
    Alex Henery 28-yard field goal. Key plays: Face mask on LB Adam Hayward on punt return to TB 43; WR Jason Avant 20 pass from Nick Foles on third and 17 to TB 20; Bryce Brown 11 run to TB 9.
    Eagles 10-0 1:40 7 plays, 80 yards, 2:57
    Nick Foles 10-yard run (Alex Henery kick). Key plays: WR Damaris Johnson 14 pass from Foles to PHI 45; Avant 39 pass from Foles on third and 4 to TB 10.

    Third quarter
    Eagles 10-7 11:35 3 plays, 5 yards, :39
    Mike Williams 1-yard pass from Josh Freeman (Connor Barth kick). Key plays: Dekoda Watson recovers Damaris Johnson's muffed punt at PHI 5; Doug Martin 4 run to PHI 1.

    Fourth quarter
    Bucs 14-10 14:26 9 plays, 77 yards, 3:48
    Vincent Jackson 13-yard pass from Josh Freeman (Connor Barth kick). Key plays: Jackson 40 pass from Freeman to PHI 27; Martin 9 run to PHI 18; Martin 2 run on third and 1 plus face mask to PHI 8.
    Bucs 21-10 7:21 11 plays, 75 yards, 5:57
    Doug Martin 4-yard run (Connor Barth kick). Key plays: Martin 11 run to TB 43; Freeman 13 run on third and 9 to PHI 43; Jackson 28 pass from Freeman to PHI 12 on third and 7.
    Bucs 21-16 3:55 8 plays, 72 yards, 3:26
    Clay Harbor 11-yard pass from Nick Foles (pass failed). Key plays: Maclin 24 pass from Foles to TB 48; Maclin 22 pass from Foles on third and 10 to TB 26.
    Eagles 23-21 :00 13 plays, 64 yards, 2:44
    Jeremy Maclin 1-yard pass from Nick Foles (Alex Henery kick). Key plays: Maclin 23 pass from Foles on third and 14 to TB 45; Maclin 9 pass from Foles to TB 31; Foles 3 run on fourth and 1 to TB 28; Avant 22 pass from Foles on fourth and 5 to TB 1.


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  • 12/09/12--17:00: Reunion of champions

  • Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Keyshawn Johnson and Jon Gruden hugged. Brad Johnson fought back tears. Warren Sapp strutted. The old gang was back in town as about 50 members of the 2002 Super Bowl championship team were honored at halftime of Sunday's Bucs game against the Eagles.

    The group reminisced at a party Saturday night, then took the field Sunday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the season capped by a 48-21 victory over the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

    "This weekend is a party," Sapp said. "It was great to see all the guys back together again celebrating something special."

    At halftime, 21 starters — all but current Buc Ronde Barber, who was in the locker room — were introduced, running onto the field with smoke and fireworks. There was Simeon Rice. Mike Alstott. Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson. Sapp. John Lynch. Derrick Brooks, the team leader, was the final player to run onto the field.

    Said Joe Jurevicius: "For the most part, it looks like most of us can step on the field and play."

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  • 12/09/12--17:02: Cowboys 20, Bengals 19
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Grieving Cowboys win on final play

    CINCINNATI — The Cowboys bowed their heads, put hands over their hearts and honored a teammate killed in a car accident during a moment of silence before their game.

    Dan Bailey's 40-yard field goal as time ran out gave Dallas a win over Cincinnati that provided a few seconds of relief from two days of grief. "There was a feeling of numbness on the field, but they focused and found a way to win," coach Jason Garrett said. "However, it is a tragic day for all of us."

    The Cowboys learned on their flight to Cincinnati on Saturday that linebacker Jerry Brown had died overnight in an accident (see notebook) in which teammate Josh Brent was driving. Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter and released from jail Sunday. "I don't remember crying this much other than maybe the day I was born," defensive lineman Marcus Spears said. "With Josh's situation and Jerry being gone, you felt it."

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  • 12/09/12--17:09: Jets 17, Jaguars 10
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Jets' good idea: staying grounded

    JACKSONVILLE — The Jets gained ground by staying on the ground.

    Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell combined for 155 yards rushing, each scoring on a short run, and New York improved its postseason odds by edging the Jaguars.

    "Both those guys found holes because there were holes to be found," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "It was fun to watch."

    New York's second straight win combined with losses by Pittsburgh and Cincinnati left coach Rex Ryan's team a game out of the No. 6 seed in the AFC. And the Jets have a favorable closing stretch, with games against teams with losing records (Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo).

    The Jets were shut out in the first half for the second consecutive week, but they didn't need to change quarterbacks to spark the offense this time.

    Sanchez, benched last week in a 7-6 win against Arizona, was hardly a factor. Neither was backup Tim Tebow, who spent his homecoming on the sideline.

    Greene finished with 77 yards rushing. Powell had 78.

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  • 12/09/12--17:16: Chargers 34, Steelers 24
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Pulling together, Chargers pull upset

    PITTSBURGH — Norv Turner looked nothing like a man who is expected to be fired at the end of the season. His Chargers played nothing like a team that had won once since September.

    And the Steelers, the current No. 6 seed in the AFC, looked nothing like a playoff team.

    Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, two to Danario Alexander, and San Diego snapped a four-game losing streak with a shocker: its first win in Pittsburgh in 15 regular-season tries.

    "They hung together, and I think that starts because they care about each other," Turner said of his players. "They play for each other. They've not been distracted by a lot of the things going on outside and continued to prepare."

    Pittsburgh struggled despite QB Ben Roethlisberger's return.

    "We got whupped," Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote said.

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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    LAS VEGAS — The idea of Manny Pacquiao being knocked out cold was shocking enough. The sight of him facedown on the canvas — unresponsive as bedlam broke out around him and his wife sobbed as she tried to get in the ring — was frightening.

    Juan Manuel Marquez didn't bother to look. He was celebrating the knockout of a lifetime.

    This was boxing at its brutal best, a toe-to-toe slugfest late Saturday that was destined from the opening bell to be decided by fists instead of judges. Both fighters had been down, and both were hurting when Marquez threw a right hand off the ropes with a second left in the sixth round at the MGM Grand arena.

    It will go down among the great fights of their era. And it was barely over when the cry arose to do it again. "If you give us a chance, we'll fight again," Pacquiao said. "I was just starting to feel confident, and then I got careless."

    The case could be made Pacquiao was on the verge of a big welterweight win when Marquez (55-6-1, 40 knockouts) landed the punch that sent him falling. He had come back from a third-round knockdown to drop Marquez in the fifth. Pacquiao was leading on all three cards after the round and was landing big lefts that broke and bloodied the Mexican's nose.

    After three fights that went the distance, both fighters had vowed to be more aggressive in their fourth meeting. Pacquiao ended up paying the price for it when he tried to close the sixth round with a flurry, a big mistake against a counterpuncher who drew him into his sights.

    "I knew Manny could knock me out at any time," Marquez said. "I threw the perfect punch."

    Pacquiao (54-5-2) hadn't been stopped in a fight since 1999 when he was a 112-pounder. He took several minutes to come around before being led to his stool. He stared vacantly ahead as the pro-Marquez crowd of 16,348 screamed. He was taken to a hospital for a brain scan, then went to his hotel, where he ate with wife Jinkee and his entourage, and watched a replay of the fight.

    As it usually does when Pacquiao fights, his native Philippines came to a standstill. In the south, where the boxer-congressman lives, survivors of a typhoon that killed more than 600 last week watched on a big TV screen in a gym that serves as an emergency shelter in New Bataan.

    "People were really dismayed," town spokesman Marlon Esperanza said. "It was like they were hit by another typhoon."

    Marquez had never put down Pacquiao, 33, before he landed a big right hand in Round 3. The power was sure to raise questions about his new bulked-up physique at 39. He said it has come from hard work under a strength conditioner who once provided steroids to Marion Jones and other track stars.

    Still, it was a career-defining moment for Marquez, who believes the judges robbed him in his first three fights with Pacquiao. The first, eight years ago at 125 pounds, was a draw, then Pacquiao won two close decisions.

    The result scuttles, perhaps forever, what would have been boxing's richest fight. With Pacquiao damaged goods after two straight losses, any fight against Floyd Mayweather would be for a lot less money and a lot less interest.

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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    HOOVER, Ala. — Nikita Kotlov scored off a header pass from Eriq Zavaleta midway through the second half to give Indiana a 1-0 victory over Georgetown on Sunday to win the NCAA men's soccer championship.

    It is the eighth championship for the Hoosiers (16-5-3), their first since 2004.

    A crossing pass brought goalie Tomas Gomez out, and Zavaleta sent a header to Kotlov that he easily put into the open net.

    In the first half, the Hoyas (19-4-3) had Tyler Rudy's straight-on shot stopped by diving Luis Soffner's fingertip save. With a minute left in regulation, a header by Georgetown's Ian Christianson hit the post.

    "Sometimes you just need a little bit of luck," Soffner said. "We'll definitely take it."

    The Hoyas were playing less than 48 hours after needing two overtimes and a shootout to defeat Maryland in the semifinals.

    "Our guys fought like crazy, but we didn't have the legs that we normally have,'' Hoyas coach Brian Wiese said.


    AUBURN: Clemson co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Charlie Harbison was hired for the same position.

    Notre dame: The team received an oral commitment Saturday from highly regarded Delray Beach American Heritage running back Greg Bryant, an FSU target. The 5-foot-11, 196-pound Bryant, once an Oklahoma commitment, also had offers from South Carolina and Auburn. Also, Irish linebacker Manti Te'o won the Lott Impact Trophy as the defensive player having the biggest impact on his team. He beat out Arthur Brown of Kansas State, Jarvis Jones of Georgia and Chase Thomas of Stanford.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best candidate

    The coaching carousal continues to spin in college football, and in another month or so you'll start to see changes in the NFL as teams begin the annual season of firing and hiring.

    One name you'll hear a lot — and we've already heard his name with seemingly every coaching opening — is former Bucs coach Jon Gruden. Most didn't believe he would stay away from the sideline for more than a year, but here he is about to wrap up his fourth season as an analyst on ESPN's Monday Night Football. Gruden, 49, has established himself as one of the best broadcasters on television and likely could have a 25-year career in the booth if that's what he wants. But is that what he wants?

    In a feature on Gruden in December's Playboy magazine, his wife, Cindy, said: "Sometimes I think Jon has two monsters on his shoulder. One is go back to coaching, and the other is stay with this, have a nice life with his family. He'll always have two monsters."

    That is why I think he'll go back to coaching someday. The booth will always be there.

    Best coverage

    The annual Army-Navy football game is one of sports' greatest traditions, although the game itself has lost a bit of its onfield pizzazz because of Navy's recent dominance. The Midshipmen won their 11th game in a row in the series Saturday.

    But when you watch the pregame pageantry, you can't help but acknowledge just how special this game is. CBS did its usual splendid job covering Army-Navy more as an "event" than a "game." The result of the game certainly matters to the teams and those who are and were in the military, but for the rest of us, Army-Navy is about those serving this country.

    That sentiment was expressed perfectly before the game by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview with CBS's Tracy Wolfson.

    "Every year this game seems to get better and better," Dempsey said. "And I know (Army was 2-9 going into the game). But it's the spirit of the game and the way that spirit defines us as a military. … It's really about the soul of the military."

    Best remembrance

    ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson wasn't in his usual seat on the Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show because he was at Raymond James Stadium for the Bucs' 10th anniversary celebration of their Super Bowl season.

    The former Bucs receiver did, however, join the show from Tampa and credited — get this — the Tampa Bay defense for the title: "Every player in the National Football League … wants to go out on top. And I think as a group, our defense was dominant. We were able to pull things together, and we were able to deliver a world championship to the city of Tampa."

    Worst ratings

    Yikes. Just when you thought Major League Soccer was gaining momentum, you see the ratings for the MLS Cup final between the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy on ESPN. The game drew about 793,00 viewers. The World Golf Challenge had more viewers.

    Biggest dropped ball

    During Fox's Bucs-Eagles coverage Sunday that included the 10th anniversary reunion of the Bucs' Super Bowl team, former players Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp swung by the broadcast booth to see Fox analyst and former teammate John Lynch. Play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton said there were no microphones for the ex-players, so Lynch would have to speak for them. What the heck? You would think Fox would have one microphone around in case anyone ever stopped by the booth. And in this case, you're better off not even acknowledging the players are there if you're not going to let the audience hear directly from them.

    Most-watched documentary

    Most of the reviews for ESPN's latest installment of its "30 for 30" documentary series are in and are positive. You Don't Know Bo is about former football and baseball great Bo Jackson.

    The film does a solid job of giving Jackson a voice, and there are some interesting tidbits. One of local interest is the Bucs put Jackson on a private plane so he could fly to Tampa to take a physical before the 1986 draft. But the ride violated SEC rules and made the two-sport star ineligible for his final baseball season at Auburn, something Jackson never forgave the Bucs for doing. However, that story is already well known in these parts. Maybe younger viewers who don't remember Jackson and his onfield exploits found the film interesting. And no question, he was a cultural phenomenon in his time, the late 1980s and early 1990s. For me, I'm not all that interested in Jackson's story anymore. Most of us old enough to remember Jackson already knew Bo.

    Three things that popped into my head

    1. Look, I don't the know details of the NHL contract talks, but I do know this: This is the third time in commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure there has been a lockout, and we seem on the verge of losing a season for the second time. If I'm an owner, I have to question if we have the right guy in charge. At least we should have someone with some innovative ideas to perhaps avoid the incredible embarrassment the NHL has become.

    2. Classy moves by ESPN to allow Keyshawn Johnson and the NFL Network to allow Warren Sapp to skip their TV pregame duties to take part in Sunday's 10-year reunion of the Bucs' Super Bowl-winning team.

    3. Guess we can forget about that Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. superfight, eh?

    Most missed

    It's looking more and more as if the NHL is going to lose another season to a lockout. Though the loss of hockey affects many, one of the most affected is NBC Sports, which has the contract to carry the league. It's especially hard on the NBC Sports Network, whose anchor tenant during the week is the NHL. NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said the network's ratings are down in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

    "We've been filling our prime time with some good college basketball and some good college hockey," he said. "But the NHL is a staple of our prime-time lineup from October until May, and not having it is definitely harmful to us."

    Biggest switch

    ESPN is losing one of its more underrated yet popular broadcasters. Sal Masekela, the face of ESPN's X Games and extreme sports coverage, signed a multi­year deal with Red Bull Media House, Sports Business Daily reported.

    Masekela had been with ESPN for 13 years and hoped to stay with the network, but the sides couldn't come to terms on a new deal.

    "It was the hardest decision for me to walk away from the X Games," Masekela said. "It was a relationship that I thought I'd have another six or seven years."

    Worst comment

    Fox's NFL pregame show Sunday addressed the issue of the league potentially eliminating kickoffs to cut down on serious injuries. Analyst Michael Strahan said, "Pretty soon they're going to put (the players) in bubble suits and call it football."

    At a time the NFL is trying to come up with ideas to protect the health of the players, it seems out of sorts for a former player to criticize the league on a matter such as this.

    DIRK SHADD   |   TimesDIRK SHADD | Times

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  • 12/09/12--18:22: Redskins 31, Ravens 28, OT
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Win, RG3's status relief for Redskins

    LANDOVER, Md. — Robert Griffin III wore a big black brace on his right knee. Teammates, though enjoying an overtime win over the Ravens, feared for their franchise player and rookie sensation.

    But hours later, they breathed a sigh of relief after learning Griffin had a sprain, not a torn ACL.

    Team spokesman Tony Wyllie said an MRI exam revealed "everything is clear" in terms of significant ligament damage for Griffin, who had a season-ending ACL tear at Baylor in 2009.

    Griffin said on Twitter: "Your positive vibes and prayers worked people!!!! To God be the Glory!"

    He went down during Washington's final drive of regulation. Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins stepped in and hit Pierre Garcon for an 11-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left, then ran for the tying 2-point conversion. Richard Crawford returned a punt 64 yards in OT to set up Kai Forbath's 34-yard winning field goal.

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Sunday, December 9, 2012


    Third and play-to-win, and the Bucs surrendered.

    Third and step-on-their-necks, and the Bucs backed away.

    Third and keep-the-playoffs-alive, and the Bucs played it safe.

    What in the heck were they thinking?

    For the Bucs, and for rookie coach Greg Schiano, these are the questions that will likely burn from now until the opening of next training camp. On third-and-survival, why would you play not to lose? On third-and-opportunity, why not call a play that would allow victory?

    Forget about the lousy punt that followed. Forget about the leaky defense that could not slow a rookie quarterback playing on a lousy team. Forget about the dropped interception at the end.

    This is where the avalanche began.

    On third and brain-cramp.

    At the time, the Bucs appeared to be on their way to nailing down a victory despite their ragged play against a dysfunctional Eagles team that was riding an eight-game losing streak. One more first down and the clock probably would have been inside the final minute when the Eagles got the ball back.

    Instead, on third and 8, the Bucs gave the ball to Doug Martin, who was promptly tackled, oh, 8 yards from the first down.

    Soon afterward, the Bucs lost.

    Oh, how I hated this play call. I hated the mentality of it, and I hated the mind-set behind it, and I hated the odds of converting it. As for you, you probably hated the result that followed it.

    To me, it is as simple as this: Were the Bucs' chances of winning better if they trusted the game to the world's worst pass defense, or better if they tried to throw the ball to Vincent Jackson, whom the Eagles couldn't cover with a field tarp? Yeah, yeah. I understand Schiano wanted to force Philadelphia to use its final timeout, but with almost three minutes to go, ball possession seemed a lot more important than stripping an opponent of a timeout.

    "There are two ways to play it," Schiano said. "You can try to throw the ball. We decided to run the ball and make them use their timeout or let it tick. My thinking was that we can punt the ball away and if we get a stop, the game is over.

    "We're on our side of the field. It's risk-reward. We can get a tipped pass."

    True. On the other hand, you can also get a first down.

    Think of it like this: The Bucs had 15 other third-down situations Sunday, and only twice — both times on third and 1, and the Bucs converted once — did they call a running play. Why? Because it's hard to run 8 yards on third down.

    For crying out loud, if anyone should know how careless it is to put the game in the hands of the Bucs' cornerbacks, it's Schiano. He has seen them aflame all season long. Besides, rookie quarterback Nick Foles had just taken the Eagles 72 yards for a touchdown against the Bucs' defense. It shouldn't have surprised anyone to see him do it again.

    On the day, Martin carried the ball 28 times, and only twice did he have a run of longer than 8 yards. One was a first-down play. One was a second.

    So now you're going to ask him to break one.

    "We thought we might pop one," Schiano said. "That's a feast-or-famine run."

    Maybe. Still, you don't see a run on third and 8 very often, do you? You don't see Peyton Manning handing off in that situation. Or Drew Brees. Or Eli. Or almost any other quarterback you can name.

    Yes, Freeman had a thoroughly rotten afternoon. That's true. But he played better in the third quarter and the first part of the fourth as the Bucs went from a 10-point deficit to an 11-point lead.

    The odds of throwing to Jackson for a first down? I like them. The odds of throwing to Mike Williams? To Dallas Clark? The odds of Freeman taking off on a scramble to get the first down (he had done so earlier in the game)? I like all of those better. Heck, I like the odds of the Eagles' secondary blowing up before the Bucs had a chance.

    But running up the middle? Giving the ball back to an opponent? Entrusting victory to these cornerbacks? No, thanks.

    As a result, the Bucs have now lost three straight, and they will have to win out to finish with a winning record. The way I figure it, they have to win six of their next three to get into the postseason.

    Soon, the conversation will change. Fans will wonder: What happened to the moment? Why isn't the offense as sharp? Why can't the defense make a play every now and then?

    In the meantime, can someone please explain one more time the thinking behind third and huh?

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.


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    Times staff, wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Greg Schiano, Bucs coach, on losing three in a row:

    "I'd be disappointed if there was a harder way to prepare and get ready than what we have been doing. We try to do everything that we can. Turn over every stone. That is the way that we operate. We are going to continue to do that. We have to do something."

    Josh Freeman, Bucs QB, on the offense in the first half:

    "We had a great week of practice, but we just weren't finding the plays (in the game). We weren't finding the plays downfield that we normally do."

    Michael Bennett, Bucs DE, on the Eagles' final play:

    "It was a sprint-out pass, and you know that that was their play. That's most teams' play in the NFL. … It's one of those things, they called that play, we knew that play, and as veterans on this team, we should have stood up and made those plays."

    Gerald McCoy, Bucs DT, on playing in front of the Super Bowl XXXVII title team:

    "Yeah, you recognize they're here; you'd like to win the game for them. If you know the history of Tampa Bay, you know that Philly was an issue for them. A game like this, you definitely want to get the win."

    Andy Reid, Eagles coach:

    "The fans were unbelievable. … They were out here. … (At) times I wasn't sure who had more fans. I was proud of that part. … You go two months without winning a game in Philadelphia, that's a tough thing, man. I'm proud of these guys, just staying true to themselves and battling like crazy and coming up with a win down here. The fans down here were awesome."

    Reid, on talking with QB Nick Foles before the final TD:

    "He was feeling it. It's a great thing when your quarterback is in tune like that. When he came off, he goes, 'Hey, I'm feeling this right here.' "

    Foles, on choosing the play:

    "I just like a movement play in that situation because it changes throwing lanes. If you're in the pocket, a guy can undercut it, whereas if you're on the run, there's no undercut. … It was the first play that came to my head."

    Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eagles CB, on stopping the pass:

    "The pressure was better, even if (Freeman) had an open route. He wasn't able to just stand there and make the throws he could normally make, so I think the pressure is what really got him."

    Bob Ford, Philadelphia Inquirer:

    They pulled it off this time, however, with help from the 32nd-ranked pass defense in the league and a terrible decision by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano to turtle his own offense in the drive between the two late Eagles touchdowns. Nevertheless, Foles took a big step forward and a big step up in the organization's eyes.

    Josh Alper, NBCSports.com:

    It was an excellent performance across the board for Foles. The same can't be said of Josh Freeman. He was terrible in the first half, and the (Bucs') failure to get on the board there loomed large in the final quarter as the Eagles went on long drives that wound up with touchdowns. … Blowing an 11-point fourth-quarter lead to a team on an eight-game losing streak tends to be the sort of thing that means no trip to the postseason.

    Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com NFC South blogger:

    The Buccaneers have made big strides this year, but they're not going to consistently sell out their stadium the way they did in their glory years unless they start winning games like this.

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  • 12/09/12--18:48: Vikings 21, Bears 14
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    MINNEAPOLIS — Everyone in the stadium knows Adrian Peterson is going to get the ball. No one seems to know how to stop him once he does.

    With Peterson's sights set on 2,000 yards rushing, his latest jaw-dropping performance also made sure the Vikings can keep their eyes on the playoffs.

    Peterson rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, and Harrison Smith returned an interception for a score Sunday to lead a 21-14 victory over the free-falling Bears.

    Peterson topped 100 yards in the first quarter as the Vikings overcame another lackluster day from quarterback Christian Ponder and got a victory that keeps their playoff hopes alive.

    "The guy's unbelievable," Ponder, a former FSU standout, said of his star running back. "I don't know if he's human or not."

    Jay Cutler was 22-for-44 for 260 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and couldn't finish for the Bears, who have lost four of five. He took a hit to the head from defensive end Everson Griffen in the fourth quarter and played the rest of that drive but was replaced by Jason Campbell with 3 minutes left.

    Cutler had a neck injury, the Bears said. "It started stiffening up more and more," Cutler said. "I just have to take it day by day."

    Campbell threw a 16-yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall with 1:48 to play. Kyle Rudolph recovered the onside kick.

    Not even a year removed from a torn ACL, Peterson has 1,600 yards with three games to play, putting a 2,000-yard season within reach. He ran for 51 yards on the opening play and continued to gash the broken-down Bears the rest of the way.

    "I think about it," Peterson said of 2,000 yards. "I don't try to think about it too much. I feel like it will happen. It's obvious we're going to continue to run the ball, and the chips will fall where they may."

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  • 12/09/12--18:56: Panthers 30, Falcons 20
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An unstoppable Cam Newton and the Panthers got their revenge on the Falcons.

    Four days after Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy promised "payback" and "punishment" for the Falcons, Newton threw for 287 yards and scored on a 72-yard run in Sunday's 30-20 win.

    Despite missing four starters and having 13 players on injured reserve, the Panthers dominated the NFC South champions. Newton piled up a career-high 116 yards on the ground, and Carolina racked up 475 yards overall, avenging a Week 4 loss to Atlanta and snapping a five-game losing streak to its Interstate 85 rival.

    It was Newton's first victory in four tries over his hometown team, and he said it was special.

    "I think this game allows me to have a little chip on my shoulder," Newton said.

    Carolina's defense was superb through 2½ quarters, helping build a 23-0 lead and a 356-86 edge in total yards.

    The Panthers had little to play for other than revenge on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whom they believed disrespected them after Atlanta's 30-28 come-from-behind win Sept. 30.

    Hardy was upset when television cameras caught Ryan cursing at the Panthers sideline, telling them to get off the Falcons' field. Hardy responded by saying last week the Panthers were a "better team" than Atlanta.

    After Sunday's win, Hardy turned the tables, repeating several times what Ryan told them in Week 4 as he walked off the field. At one point Falcons kicker Matt Bryant shot back at Hardy, "Watch us in January (in the playoffs)."

    Hardy left the locker room before media members were allowed in.

    Ryan downplayed the war of words.

    "I don't pay too much attention to it," said Ryan, who threw for 342 yards, two scores and one interception. "They were better than us (Sunday), that's for sure."

    Said Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn: "It's tough to say that we're overall better than the Falcons because they're 11-2, but I like Greg's confidence."

    Atlanta coach Mike Smith said he'll use the loss as a "teaching point" and "we have to play our best football here in the fourth quarter" of the season.

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  • 12/09/12--19:16: Sports in Brief
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012


    Messi sets goals record

    BARCELONA, Spain Lionel Messi scored his 85th and 86th goals to break the world record for a calendar year and lead Barcelona past Real Betis 2-1 Sunday. Messi has scored 74 goals for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina to surpass Gerd Mueller, who scored 85 (72 for Bayern Munich and 13 for West Germany) in 1972. "The record is nice, but the important thing is the win that keeps us on the patch we want to continue on," Messi, 25, said.

    England: Robin van Persie curled a free kick into the net in the third minute of stoppage time to give visiting Manchester United a 3-2 win over Manchester City in the Premier League.


    Dodgers beat deadline to sign Korean pitcher

    The Dodgers signed LHP Ryu Hyun-jin, a seven-time All-Star in the Korean league, to a six-year, $36 million deal. The Dod­gers paid $25.7 million to talk to Ryu and had until Sunday to sign him. Ryu, 25, went 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA in South Korea and helped it win gold at the 2008 Olympics.

    Indians: 1B Mark Reynolds signed a deal the Akron Beacon Journal reported is for one year and $6 million. In 2012 he hit .221 with 23 homers and 69 RBIs for the Orioles.


    Sides talk, bargaining might resume soon

    The NHL and union talked, and a return to the bargaining table might happen soon. "Trying to set up something for this week but nothing finalized yet," deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. Talks halted Thursday. Moments after union executive director Donald Fehr said he believed a deal was close, he was back to say the league had rejected the union's latest offer. All games through Friday, the Jan. 1 Winter Classic and the All-Star Game have been canceled.


    Perry, O'Hair finish big to take Shootout

    Kenny Perry and Sean O'Hair birdied five of the last six holes to win the Shootout in Naples. They finished the scramble event at 31-under 185, one better than Rory Sabbatini and Charles Howell.

    Et cetera

    skiing: Slovenia's Tina Maze won her third straight World Cup giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland, extending her lead in the overall standings. She leads Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch by 234 points. Defending champ Lindsey Vonn placed 27th and is third, 263 behind Maze.

    Figure skating: 2010 Olympic Kim Yu-na ended a 19-month sabbatical by winning the NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany. Kim, 22, competed in the second-tier event to secure a place at next year's world championships.

    Autos: Shane Koperda clinched the Limited Late Model Championship in a race won by Roger Crouse on Saturday at East Bay Raceway in Gibsonton.

    Bowling: Chris Barnes of Double Oak, Texas, and Missy Parkin of Lake Forest, Calif., won the World Bowling Tour men's and women's titles in Las Vegas to kick off the PBA season.

    Times wires

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  • 12/09/12--19:20: Rams 15, Bills 12
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Rams stay in race

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Unbeaten in their division, Sam Bradford and the Rams are starting to show they can win anywhere — including cold and wet Buffalo — to stay in the playoff race.

    Bradford capped a 14-play, 84-yard drive with a 13-yard pass to Brandon Gibson with 48 seconds left to beat the Bills.

    "I think it says a lot about the maturity of the team," Bradford said. "I think this team grew up a little bit more today."

    Bradford, the 2010 No. 1 draft pick, enjoyed his second consecutive fourth-quarter comeback, a week after rallying St. Louis to a 16-13 overtime win over San Francisco.

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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — For a team that won the ACC tournament in March, suffering three straight losses at home was demoralizing.

    But Florida State stopped the slide with its most decisive win of the season Sunday.

    Michael Snaer scored 19 and freshman Aaron Thomas had a career-high 15 as the Seminoles routed Maine 91-59.

    Terry Whisnant had 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting and former Clearwater High standout Okaro White added 13 points and seven rebounds for FSU (5-4), which had lost consecutive games to Minnesota, Mercer and Florida.

    "It's good for the confidence of our team, to start getting that bad taste out of our mouth and just get on the right page," Snaer said.

    Snaer was more aggressive Sunday, shooting 6-for-18 and grabbing six rebounds. He set the tone early, scoring 12 as FSU pulled ahead 41-27 at halftime.

    "At some point I've got to stop playing tentative and play with some guts," Snaer said. "Just play my game the way I know I can play. When I don't worry about it, just go out and play, I trust myself as a player and just play the game I know how to play."

    The Seminoles shot 43.8 percent (32-of-73) and 45.8 percent (11-of-24) on 3-pointers. They had 16 assists, five by Devon Bookert. And they committed just seven turnovers, one in the second half against the Black Bears (3-6).

    "We went into the game wanting to re-establish ourselves in transition. We wanted to get out and run little more and attack," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We saw some signs of some things that we like, but we still have a long ways to go."

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  • 12/09/12--19:31: Giants 52, Saints 27
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rookie David Wilson was given a simple piece of advice by special teams coach Tom Quinn before the Giants' game against the Saints: "Run fast."

    The first-round draft pick did more than that.

    Wilson had a 97-yard kickoff return for one touchdown, ran for 100 yards and two more scores, and piled up a team-record 327 all-purpose yards in a 52-27 win Sunday.

    "To come up and have a breakout game like this is an excellent feeling," said Wilson, the first NFL player with 200 yards in kickoff returns and 100 rushing in a game. "I went out there and my teammates went out there and we played great and put up 50 points."

    Wilson, taken No. 32 overall, one pick after Tampa Bay rookie star Doug Martin, was benched after fumbling in the opener. It took until recently for him to work his way back into coach Tom Coughlin's good graces.

    "He made some huge plays today, when we needed it the most," said Victor Cruz, who had 121 yards and a TD receiving.

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  • 12/09/12--19:36: Browns 30, Chiefs 7
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Browns still on roll

    CLEVELAND — Rookie Travis Benjamin's electrifying 93-yard punt return touchdown in the second quarter helped the Browns win their third straight. The Chiefs had a draining week after Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide.

    Cleveland continued a resurgence under second-year coach Pat Shurmur, whose future remains uncertain. The Browns, who opened 0-5, surpassed last season's win total and have their longest winning streak since 2009. It was Cleveland's largest margin of victory since beating Arizona 44-6 in 2003.

    "It's been a long year," said linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, a former Seminole High standout. "At first, it was rocky. We were in a lot of close ballgames and we weren't able to finish, and now … we have something going right now."

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