Super Bowl XXXVII
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2003
TALK OF THE TOWN
Five topics suitable for inane debate on talk radio:
THE LONE METROPOLIS: Of the 15 largest markets in the nation, Tampa Bay is the only one to never have won a major sports championship. No Super Bowl, no NBA title, no Stanley Cup, no World Series title. This is as close as it has gotten for Tampa Bay. A championship may not define a community, but it can unite it. This may be your day, Tampa Bay.
DEFENSE FOR THE AGES: For six seasons, Tampa Bay's defense has been the class of the NFL. That's a nice, but largely meaningless honor. A victory today, and the defense will be remembered as one of the greatest in history.
THE CHUCKY FACTOR: Like the Eagles were last week, the Raiders are a more balanced team than Tampa Bay. Oakland has a great offense and a good defense. The Bucs have a great defense and a mediocre offense. So how can Tampa Bay prevail? The same way it did in Philadelphia. Behind a Jon Gruden game plan. If he can coax three long drives out of his offense and avoid turnovers, the Bucs defense will do the rest.
FLAG DAY: Between trash talkers and cheap shots, the Raiders have a tendency to incite emotions in games. They also have a tendency to play undisciplined. The Raiders have had six games with more than 100 yards in penalties, including last week against the Titans. If the Bucs keep their cool and play with poise, they could have a huge advantage with the referee.
RUNNING THE SHOW: Gruden has been rightfully praised this week. The Glazers deserve kudos too. But not enough has been said about general manager Rich McKay who, time and again, has proved to be one of the NFL's most astute executives.
5. Poor maids constantly are getting poked by syringes when cleaning up the linebackers' room.
4. Al Davis acts like he owns the NFL. (Even though a circuit judge said that ruling still is under appeal.)
3. Keyshawn Johnson? No modesty. Tim Brown? False modesty.
2. Sebastian Janikowski always is hogging the beer bong.
1. Mutant fans.
5. A controlled passing game. The Raiders have been susceptible to teams that can run. Oakland is 10-0 when holding teams under 100 yards rushing and 1-5 when opponents gain more than 100 yards. By running the ball, you take time off the clock, which keeps Rich Gannon off the field. We all know the Bucs have trouble running. Instead, they must rely on Brad Johnson to keep the clock moving by completing 65-70 percent of his passes.
4. Protect the end zone. The Raiders are going to move the ball. That is inevitable. It is important for the Bucs to clamp down in the red zone when the field is shortened. Turn touchdowns into field goals.
3. Alert PETA. Do you know what those people will do when they see Davis in a leather jacket? Just duck, baby.
2. Turn Simeon Rice loose. Oakland's offensive line is too big to effectively challenge up the middle. Alternate Rice between left and right end and let him chase Gannon from the outside.
1. Bring a VCR. Someone needs to show guard Frank Middleton the videotapes of the Bucs against the Rams in the 1999 playoffs and the Eagles in 2000 to remind Mr. Big Mouth he was part of an offensive line that could not produce a touchdown in consecutive postseason games.
26:20 -- Average time of possession for Oakland in its five losses. The Raiders averaged 34:16 in their 11 victories.
27.7 -- Average points for the Bucs in Brad Johnson's past seven starts. The Bucs averaged 20.6 in Johnson's first eight starts.
90.4 -- Martin Gramatica's field-goal percentage (19-of-21) since the bye week in mid November.
322 -- Average weight of Oakland's five, tubby offensive linemen. (Which doesn't make me feel so badly about lying about my weight.)
9,632 -- Days Bucs fans have been waiting. That's how long it has been since Tampa Bay's first regular-season game against the Houston Oilers in 1976.
Sixty minutes to make history.