Making presence known, Pittman gives timely gift

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


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 Oak land Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

That Pittman had such success on the Raiders' rush defense was as surprising as the dominant way in which Tampa Bay won. Pittman, who rushed for 124 yards on 29 carries, had been an after thought in the Bucs" offense this postseason, 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 throughout the 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.

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 the Oakland defenders.

By halftime, Tampa Bay's lead was 20-3 and Pittman, a dedicated weightlifter with biceps that measure 19 1/2 inches, continued to churn out the yards.

His 24-yard run in the fourth quarter after the Raiders had closed within 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 he provided the X-factor when his team needed it most.

Robbins sent home

Oakland Raiders All-Pro center Barret Robbins was sent home before the Super Bowl for unspecified violations.

"He's not going to play." Raiders spokesman Craig Long said before the game. 'He's been sent home."

Long declined to comment on why, but various Web sites reported that Robbins missed Saturday's walk-through and showed up late for the team's final meeting Saturday night. A Sun reporter saw Robbins leaving Tijuana, Mexico, on Saturday when team events were occurring.

The Associated Press and other news organizations re ported that Robbins was hospitalized yesterday. Two sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Robbins was expected to spend the night in a hospital after he left the team for nearly 24 hours during the weekend.

Robbins, who had what the team called a "chemical imbalance' during the 1996 season, was hospitalized in the San Diego area, the sources close to Robbins said.

The Raiders declared Robbins inactive one hour before the game. Adam Treu started in Robbins" place. The six- year veteran had not started this season, but he did start the final 14 games last season when Robbins suffered a sea son-ending knee injury.

Robbins was nicknamed 'The Jerk' by his teammates for his surly disposition. But he was an integral part in making the line calls during games.

In the first half, quarterback Rich Gannon was sacked twice, hit six times and knocked down five times. But the pressure came off the edges rather than up the mid dle against Treu.

Familiar 3

The only points for the Raiders in the first half - a 40-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski - came in familiar fashion, scoring off a turnover. Oakland only needed to drive 14 yards after Woodson picked off Tampa Bay quarterback Brad John son.

Through the first half of the Super Bowl, the Raiders had scored 30 points off turnovers in the playoffs.

Not much work

Oakland receiver Jerry Rice, who owns 10 Super Bowl records, was nonexistent in the first half.

Of Gannon's 17 passes, only one was thrown in the direction of the NFL's all-time leading receiver. Rice had nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown in Oakland's first two playoff games.

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

Adams tied up

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

Pittman went through the middle untouched for a 19-yard run because Adams was sealed off. Two plays later, Alstott scored on a 2-yard run through the same hole as Adams was driven off the line of scrimmage.

Special play

The Raiders got their first big play on special teams from Tim Johnson, who began his career as a Raven.

Johnson blocked a punt that was run in for a touchdown by teammate Eric Johnson just 44 seconds into the fourth quarter. Tim Johnson was cut by the Ravens after the first game of the 2001 season.

Feeling unlucky

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