Bucs cash in

Gruden hiring pays off as 34 straight points give Tampa Bay first crown

Gannon intercepted 5 times

Three returned for TDs

No. 1 defense dominates No. 1 offense until fourth

January 27, 2003|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO - Jon Gruden bobbed and weaved all week, dodging questions about his Oakland Raiders past and the high tariff the Tampa Bay Buccaneers paid to get him.

Last night, he finally answered Al Davis and his critics. Yes, he was worth it.

Worth every penny of the $8 million and each of the four draft picks the Bucs surrendered to Davis, Oakland's managing general partner, last February.

Gruden's underdog Bucs stung the Raiders for 34 straight points, then withstood a late Oakland charge to win the 37th Super Bowl, 48-21, at Qualcomm Stadium.

Tampa's swarming defense anticipated every Raiders' move in cruising to a 34-3 third-quarter lead. The Bucs took running back Charlie Garner out of the Oakland of fense, took away quarterback Rich Gannon's passing pocket, and then took away his passing lanes.

The Bucs (15-4) handily won the matchup of the NFL's No. 1 defense against the No. 1 offense, dismantling the of fense that Gruden built.

Averaging 389.9 yards per game in total offense this season, the Raiders (13-6) had a paltry 62 yards in the first half, second fewest ever for the opening half in a Super Bowl.

The Bucs intercepted Gannon a Super Bowl-record five times, returning three for touchdowns, and were never seriously threatened once they established an early lead.

Just as Bucs safety Dexter Jackson was announced as the Most Valuable Player for his two first-half interceptions, Bucs nickel back Dwight Smith returned his second interception for a touchdown with two seconds left in the game.

Linebacker Derrick Brooks, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, also returned an interception 45 yards for a touch down in the fourth quarter.

The Bucs were never a legitimate Super Bowl threat until Gruden arrived last winter, despite four playoff teams in six years under Tony Dungy. 'We were waiting for the right man and the right man came - Jon Gruden." Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer said of the youngest coach (39) to win a Super Bowl.

Gruden was complimentary of Dungy's job once again last night, just as he has been throughout the postseason.

"It was a sensitive issue." Gruden said. "Tony Dungy did a great job before I got here. [But] this is Tampa Bay's night. We're Super Bowl champions."

Oakland squeezed a 40-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal out of an opening-series turnover by Tampa Bay quar terback Brad Johnson for a 3-0 lead.

The next time the Raiders scored, they were down 34-3.

At that, it took a replay reversal to award Jerry Porter a 39-yard touchdown pass from Gannon with 2:14 left in the third quarter.

The Raiders would score off a blocked punt and on a 48-yard strike to Jerry Rice in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late.

After taking a 20-3 halftime lead, the Bucs put the game away with two touchdowns in the span of 43 seconds of the third quarter.

The first capped an 89-yard scoring drive that included a 33-yard pass to Joe Jurevicius. The 14th play in the drive was an 8-yard scoring pass to Keenan McCardell, who took a short pass over the middle, shook off would-be tackler Anthony Dorsett and walked into the end zone. That made it 27-3.

Moments later, Smith took a pass right out of Rice's hands and rumbled 44 yards to the end zone for a 34-3 lead.

Johnson completed 18 of 34 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, outplaying Gannon, who hit 24 of 44 for 272 yards.

"We've got a combination of great guys that are playing at a classic level." defensive end Simeon Rice said. "You've got to tip your hat to these guys."

The day started badly for the Raiders when they lost Barret Robbins, their Pro Bowl center. Robbins was un accounted for after Friday night's team meeting and didn't show up until Saturday night. Coach Bill Callahan at first indicated Robbins would play, but not start.

Callahan changed his mind yesterday morning, and Robbins was declared inactive for the game. Various reports said Robbins was receiving treatment for an undisclosed problem in a San Diego hospital.

Robbins was seen by a Sun reporter on Saturday in Tijuana, Mexico.

Six-year veteran Adam Treu, who started 14 games a year ago, replaced Robbins.

The Raiders' No. 1 offense couldn't handle Tampa Bay's speed defense with or without Robbins, though.

Defensive end Rice went in side and around Raiders left tackle Barry Sims for a pair of first-half sacks, and safety Jackson intercepted Gannon twice as the Bucs built a commanding 20-3 halftime lead.

It wasn't the NFL's best passing offense that took control of the game early, but the Bucs' own version of the West Coast offense. Johnson threw passes on six of the Bucs" first seven plays, eight of the first 11 and 13 of the first 19.

Johnson kept throwing even after getting intercepted on the game's third play. Hit by Regan Upshaw as he threw, the pop fly fluttered to corner back Charles Woodson.

The Raiders reached the Tampa Bay 16, but a third- down sack by Rice snuffed the drive. Oakland settled for a 40-yard Janikowski field goal.

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