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Guest analysis

John Madden

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2003

This one is going to be so interesting because you talk about the Tampa Bay defense being the best in football. And then you have the Raiders with the best offense in football. So, is Oakland going to be able to do what they've been doing before? And that's darn near pass the ball on every down.

Defenses try to make teams one-dimensional, but the Raiders almost make themselves one-dimensional. Heck, they don't even try to run the football. They just want to throw it and they do that very well. They did try to get some balance during the season, but that caused 'em more trouble than anything. And so, they just figured, the heck with balance, we'll just be a passing team.

Now, how do the Bucs handle that? Every defensive philosophy has always been: stop the run, make the team one-dimensional and then go after the passer. One of the strengths of their defense, and one of the reasons they have the No. 1 defense, is that their front four can "get there" to the quarterback without having to blitz. And that's a big thing.

And by getting there, it's not always a sack. It means getting close to the passer. Oakland's a rhythm-passing team, and Rich Gannon's a rhythm-passing quarterback. So, for the Bucs, that means getting to a position, or getting pressure or getting a push to throw Gannon out of that rhythm. Those are the kinds of things that you want to do to him. And those are things that the Tampa Bay defense can do, mainly with Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice. You don't have to bring linebackers and defensive backs, which they will also do sometimes. They will blitz, but that's not a big part of what they do. And, it doesn't have to be a big part of what they do because they can put pressure on Gannon with their front four.

For years they always say defense wins championships, and here we have Tampa, the No. 1 defense, and the Raiders, the top offense. Who do you pick? It's philosophical. If you really believe in defense, really believe defense wins championships, you have to say Tampa Bay. And if you believe that's an old-fashioned idea, which I kind of tend to believe now, that a good offense is better than a good defense, you have to go with Oakland.

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