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THE NFL WEEK 5 | IN THE SPOTLIGHT

In Tampa, 'Playoffs' a Dirty Word

September 29, 1997

They're young, bold and unbeaten.

But more than anything, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to keep the team's best start in 18 years, as well as the attention it has received, in perspective.

The Buccaneers haven't finished with a winning record or earned a postseason berth since 1982, and Coach Tony Dungy and his players are doing everything they can to avoid mention of the "p" word in assessing the club's 5-0 record.

Sunday's 19-18 victory over Arizona was the sixth in a row for Tampa Bay, dating to 1996, breaking a franchise record set in 1979 when the Buccaneers won their first five games on the way to an appearance in the NFC championship game.

"I think it's still a little too early to be talking about the playoffs. But that is something that I have talked about with our players," said Dungy, whose even temperament has set the tone for the way the players have handled success.

The fast start has rekindled fan support and attracted national media attention.

However, Dungy is confident the team will be able to retain its focus.

"I really think we've got the type of team where it's not going to be that big of a deal," said Dungy, who held the team together a year ago in the wake of a 1-8 start. Since then, the Buccaneers are 10-2.

"I think we've got enough guys left from that 0-5 and 1-8 team that understand it's a long journey and that there's not a big difference between the top teams and the bottom teams, that the reason we've gotten here is because we work hard."

And, Tampa Bay's fans have rallied behind quarterback Trent Dilfer, the first time they have really embraced him in four seasons.

"I would hope it's because of the perseverance, not necessarily because I've played decent a few games," Dilfer said.

"That's what I want people to see and be happy for me and cheer about. I think what I appreciate most is they've seen that I've allowed the criticism, hard times and adversity to make me better."

Dungy smiles when he thinks about how far the team has come.

"We thought we'd get better and felt we were making progress, but to go from one year ago today to now it's been phenomenal."

HE'S SMARTER THAN THE AVERAGE SHAY-BEAR

New York Jet receiver Wayne Chrebet had another good day, even if the audience wasn't quite sure of his name. The Cincinnati press box announcer pronounced his name "Shay-BEAR" the first time he caught the ball in a 31-14 victory over the Bengals. The announcer got a lot of practice at it and eventually got it right. Chrebet (Kri-BETT) had six receptions for 68 yards, all in the first half. Four of them were third-down catches, giving him 10 for the season.

HEY, NOT ALL OF THESE GUYS ARE ANIMALS

Green Bay wide receiver Don Beebe was knocked unconscious in the second quarter against Detroit, but doctors said he was not seriously injured despite being hospitalized as a precaution.

Beebe was injured when he was sandwiched by Lion defenders Stephen Boyd and Mark Carrier while trying to catch a slant pass from Brett Favre.

Beebe was motionless for several minutes, but regained consciousness on the field, and was able to move all of his limbs.

Lion tight end Pete Metzelaars and quarterback Frank Reich, longtime teammates of Beebe's in Buffalo, both stood nearby while he was being attended to on the field.

"I was saying a prayer for him on the sidelines, but then Frank and I couldn't take it any more, so we went out on the field to see how he was," Metzelaars said. "We might not be teammates anymore, but friendship is a lot more important that football in a situation like this."

FILL IN YOUR OWN ANTIHISTAMINE JOKE HERE

Baltimore's Bam Morris, returning from his second substance-abuse suspension, said he was "kind of hyped-up and tired at the same time," during Sunday's game against Baltimore.

JUST LIKE WE PLANNED IT IN PRACTICE

The Jets tried a fake field goal in the second quarter, snapping the ball directly to kicker John Hall. He found no one open and was tackled for a loss, but a holding penalty on Termain Mack gave the Jets a first down.

BEARS ARE SO CUTE WHEN THEY'RE SLEEPING

The Chicago Bear defense, once known as the "Monsters of the Midway," has become the laughingstock of the NFL.

The winless Bears have been outscored, 155-61, this season.

I'D LIKE TO SOLVE THE PUZZLE: 'UNDESERVING'

Kicker Rolf Benirschke, who hosted "Wheel of Fortune" for a while after his NFL career ended, was inducted into the San Diego Chargers' Hall of Fame at halftime.

--Compiled by Houston Mitchell

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

THE PLAYMAKERS

RUSHING *--*

Player, Team No. Yds. TD NAPOLEON KAUFMAN, Raiders 26 162 1 ADRIAN MURRELL, Jets 40 156 1 BARRY SANDERS, Lions 28 139 0 ROBERT SMITH, Vikings 22 125 1 TERRY ALLEN, Redskins 36 122 0

*--*

PASSING *--*

Player, Team Att. Comp. Yds. TD STAN HUMPHRIES, Chargers 26 17 358 3 KENT GRAHAM, Cardinals 52 31 339 1 TY DETMER, Eagles 45 28 298 2 BRETT FAVRE, Packers 43 22 295 1 ELVIS GRBAC, Chiefs 38 24 274 0 STEVE McNAIR, Oilers 43 22 266 2 TONY BANKS, Rams 49 24 255 2 WARREN MOON, Seahawks 26 19 252 2 GUS FREROTTE, Redskins 24 16 244 3 KORDELL STEWART, Steelers 34 16 244 1 JOHN ELWAY, Broncos 32 18 243 3 JEFF GEORGE, Raiders 30 17 219 4

*--*

RECEIVING *--*

Player, Team No. Yds. TD ROBERT BROOKS, Packers 9 164 0 TONY MARTIN, Chargers 4 155 3 ROB MOORE, Cardinals 8 147 1 JAKE REED, Vikings 6 134 1 IRVING FRYAR, Eagles 9 120 1 AMP LEE, Rams 10 109 1

*--*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

In a Rush With 139 yards rushing Sunday, Barry Sanders moved into fifth place on the all-time list. A look: *--*

Player Years Yards Walter Payton 13 16,726 Eric Dickerson 11 13,259 Tony Dorsett 12 12,739 Jim Brown 9 12,312 Barry Sanders 9 12,191 Franco Harris 13 12,120

*--*

In a Rush

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