Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Today, 6:18 P.m., Chs. 2, 7 Players To Watch

Super Bowl

January 26, 2003|By Ken Murray


Raiders run offense vs. Bucs run defense -- Buccaneers

The Raiders use RB Charlie Garner in a Marshall Faulk role in this offense. Garner had 273 touches this season, including 91 catches, and had almost as many receiving yards (941) as rushing yards (962). In the traditional sense, the Raiders eschew the run, but in a real sense, those short passes set up third-and-shorts for QB Rich Gannon. Though the Raiders don't emphasize the run, they had more yards and a better per-carry average (4.3 to 3.8) than the Bucs with the same number of rushes (414). Garner is a breakaway threat whenever he has the ball.

Key matchup: Raiders RG Frank Middleton vs. Bucs DT Warren Sapp. If the Raiders do try to run inside, they'll have to get Sapp blocked.

Stat to remember: 5.3 yards. Garner's rushing average this season.

Raiders pass offense vs. Bucs pass defense -- Raiders

Strength on strength, No. 1 passing game vs. the No. 1 pass defense. Oakland's receivers are a lot better than Philadelphia's, however, and the Bucs aren't going to shut down the Raiders' passing game the way they did the Eagles'. They can curtail it a bit if they cause confusion and disrupt Gannon's rhythm. But eventually, Gannon is going to find Jerry Rice, Tim Brown or Jerry Porter for a big play. With the best line in the NFL, Oakland isn't going to let DE Simeon Rice get to Gannon, even if it means a double team. Rice goes against LT Barry Sims. The Bucs are a cover-two team, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has mixed in a fair amount of man-to-man with more blitzes this season.

Key matchup: Raiders WR Jerry Porter vs. Bucs CB Ronde Barber. Porter is Oakland's big-play threat and Barber is Tampa's best cover man.

Stat to remember: 31. Bucs' league-leading interception total.

Bucs run offense vs. Raiders run defense -- Raiders

The only way the Bucs will have success running the ball is if QB Brad Johnson is able to make big plays in the passing game. The Bucs were 28th in the league in rushing average (3.8 per carry) and the Raiders were fourth in run-defense average (also 3.8). That doesn't look promising for Tampa. But like Oakland, the Bucs use the short pass as a run. Michael Pittman was a poor-man's Charlie Garner for the Bucs with 59 catches. Tampa's offensive line averages just 304 pounds to the Raiders' defensive line of 295.

Key matchup: Bucs C Jeff Christy vs. Raiders DT Sam Adams. The Bucs can't get outside and Christy is their anchor in the middle.

Stat to remember: 6. Bucs' rushing touchdowns this season.

Bucs pass offense vs. Raiders pass defense -- Buccaneers

Johnson's pass protection has been markedly better the second half of the season. In his past eight games, or since the offensive line began to jell, Johnson has thrown for 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He is a smart quarterback who can take a pounding, but his lack of mobility makes him vulnerable. The Raiders' best pass rusher is defensive tackle Rod Coleman, who replaces Adams on passing downs. Coleman had 11 sacks in the regular season. The Bucs' receivers aren't very fast, but both Oakland cornerbacks, Charles Woodson and Tory James, suffered broken fibulas this season. WR Keyshawn Johnson needs a big game.

Key matchup: Raiders FS Rod Woodson vs. Bucs QB Brad Johnson. Woodson may have lost a step, but he makes up for it with anticipation.

Stat to remember: 8. Times Johnson has been sacked in his past eight games.

Special teams -- Buccaneers

If the game comes down to a field goal, either the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski or the Bucs' Martin Gramatica is capable of hitting from long distance. The Bucs' Tom Tupa has the punting edge over Shane Leckler, primarily because the Raiders' coverage teams are terrible. They were last in the league covering kickoffs and next-to-last covering punts. Oakland's return teams are bad, too.

Key matchup: Stecker vs. Raiders' kick coverage team. Stecker broke a 67-yarder this season and that would mean field position.

Intangibles -- Raiders

The Bucs were sluggish after flying from Philadelphia to Tampa and on to San Diego in a matter of hours last week. It took awhile to get their legs back. The Raiders had a short flight down the coast after playing at home and should be rested. They appear to be motivated to make a statement to Bucs coach Jon Gruden, their coach the previous four years, but Gruden knows the Raiders' offensive personnel as well as anyone. Also spurring on the Raiders is the knowledge that salary cap implications will force roster changes next season. It could be the last stand for many of the them.

Coaching -- Buccaneers

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