Pittman's delivery, timing perfect in big show

Low profile all season, running back breaks out with 124 yards, key gains

Notebook

Buccaneers 48

Raiders 21

Super Bowl Xxxviii

January 27, 2003|By Brent Jones and Jamison Hensley | Brent Jones and Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- He is as anonymous as any starting running back in the NFL, yet, with his team in need of something extra, Michael Pittman gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a gift he had not provided all season.

Pittman replaced the popular Warrick Dunn, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons, this season and had his first 100-yard game as a Buccaneer yesterday, helping propel his team to its first championship in a 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

That Pittman, who grew up in San Diego, had such success on the Raiders' rush defense was as surprising as Tampa Bay's dominance. Pittman, who rushed for 124 yards on 29 carries, had been an afterthought this postseason, being replaced much of the time in crucial situations by fullback Mike Alstott.

Alstott still got his carries (10) and scored the game's first touchdown on a 2-yard run that gave the Bucs a 13-3 lead. But it was Pittman who did the bulk of the damage on that drive and all game.

After the Bucs' Karl Williams returned Shane Lechler's punt 25 yards to Oakland's 27, Pittman ran for 25 of his yards over the next two plays. The latter was a 19-yard scamper in which Pittman ran through the teeth of the Raiders' defense, made a hard cut 7 yards into it and carried cornerback Charles Woodson for a few extra yards.

"Coming in front of my hometown and playing a game like this, it's a dream come true," said Pittman, who signed a free-agent contract with the Bucs last offseason.

There was one sequence when the running back out of Fresno State carried on three straight plays -- first for 5 yards, then for 3, then for 9 -- as Tampa Bay's offensive line kept pushing back Oakland.

By halftime, Tampa Bay's lead was 20-3 and Pittman continued to churn out the yards.

His 24-yard run in the fourth quarter after the Raiders had closed to 34-15 put him over the 100-yard mark.

Pittman rushed for a team-leading 718 yards but just one touchdown this season. He was brought in to be the featured back but ended up not having the breakout season he predicted and the Bucs expected. But yesterday he provided the X-factor when his team needed it most.

"I never got down on myself at all but at the same time, I wanted it to get better," Pittman said. "It was a growing process with the offense. I just kept believing and pounding the rock."

Give me the ring

Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson converted a number of third-down chances and finished with six catches for 69 yards.

He was, however, unhappy with comments made by former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe and made a point to bring that up in his post-game news conference.

"Shannon Sharpe said he didn't want to see me get a ring the other night," Johnson said. "Nobody gave me my ring, I earned mine."

Productive defense

The Bucs' defense nearly matched its offense point-for-point.

Tampa Bay returned three Rich Gannon interceptions for touchdowns and finished just six points behind the offense's production.

"I didn't know that," safety John Lynch said. "We came in and we were very confident. We had respect for the Raiders. They have a great offense. They have Hall of Famers all over the field. But we've been doing this all year."

Familiar 3

The Raiders' only first-half points -- a 40-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski -- came in familiar fashion: off a turnover. Oakland needed only to drive 14 yards after Woodson picked off Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson.

The Raiders scored 30 points off turnovers in the playoffs.

Not much work

Oakland receiver Jerry Rice, who owns 10 Super Bowl records, was nonexistent for most of the game.

Only one of Gannon's 17 first-half passes was thrown in the direction of the NFL's all-time leading receiver. Rice finished with five catches for 77 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown. With that touchdown, Rice, 40, became the oldest player to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.

He wore a microphone for ABC during the game, but took it off as the rout began.

Off balance

The league's top-ranked offense was one-sided.

Raiders running back Charlie Garner ran seven times for 10 yards, the second-lowest total of the season. The longest run was 4 yards.

"We came in with a balanced game plan," Gannon said. "But when you have 19 yards [rushing as a team], that's not going to get it done."

That 19 yards was the third-lowest output on the ground in a Super Bowl game.

Grabbing his chance

Bucs receiver Keenan McCardell had just two catches, but both were in the end zone. McCardell's first touchdown came from 5 yards and with 34 seconds left in the first half to give the Bucs a 20-3 halftime lead.

The second touchdown capped an 89-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock on Tampa Bay's first drive of the second half.

"Brad [Johnson] gave me a chance to step up and make a play," McCardell said. "He saw me, I made a move, and it was a touchdown."

Adams tied up

On Tampa Bay's first touchdown drive, the Bucs ran directly at former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams to take a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter.

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