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Rice: Raider failures decided Super Bowl

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 1, 2003

HONOLULU -- Jerry Rice has a list of NFL receiving records that would stretch from Oahu to Oakland.

But there is something he would like to wipe clean from his resume: Super Bowl XXXVII loser.

After arriving at the Pro Bowl, Rice and Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon said the Raiders' play had more to do with them losing the championship than the Bucs did.

"The taste that I have right now, it's very nasty. Very nasty," Rice said. "But along with losing, you've got to show good sportsmanship, you've got to give respect where respect is due. I take my hat off to them. They deserve to be world champions and we've just got to get ready for next year."

However, though Rice did not catch a pass until the third quarter Sunday, he stopped short of ranking the Bucs defense among the best in history.

"It's hard to rate a defense like that when you don't play your best game," he said. "Now if it were one of those situations where we came out and played our best, then it's a whole different scenario. You've got to give them credit where credit is due. They don't play that many (defensive schemes.) They have one or two and I think teams really get caught up in their speed. Because if you've got (Simeon) Rice, you've got (Warren) Sapp, you've got all that power and quickness coming, a quarterback knows he doesn't have that much time.

"The thing about that defense is once they get up on you, it's almost like they pretty much unleash the hounds. ... They did what it took to win the game. We came out flat for some reason. It's unfortunate."

The Bucs intercepted Gannon a Super Bowl-record five times and returned three for touchdowns in a 48-21 victory. But Gannon, the league MVP, said though he had his worst game of the season, the team was at fault for the defeat.

"There's no way to sugarcoat what happened to us," Gannon said. "It was a very frustrating and difficult night for all of us. I felt bad. But what can you do? In this business, sometimes you're dealt that kind of hand. But all you can do is try to be positive and upbeat about it.

"We've all been through it and that's the one thing in this business. There's only one team, one organization when it's all said and done that can say they're world champions. Everybody else is second place. Unfortunately, for us, it wasn't our night that night. The good thing about it was, collectively, as a team, we all accepted responsibility for it. You win together, you lose together. That's the way it works. We didn't have our best stuff and we faced a very, very good Tampa Bay team and a very tough Tampa Bay defense that was very tough to move the ball against."

Rice, who completed his 18th season, said he hoped the Raiders learn from the disappointment.

"If you're a competitor and you really love the game, (you don't) completely get rid of it," he said. "It stays with you. If you can brush something aside like losing the Super Bowl just like that, you're playing the wrong game. Because when we start minicamp or as a kid growing up, we dream about playing in a Super Bowl. You make it to the pros and go to minicamp, the talk is about making it to the big dance. We got there and it's going to take a while to heal, but overall, it's going to make us a better football team. Guys have got to look at it that way.

"And when you get into that situation again, you know it's do or die. You can't get caught up in the distractions, in all the different activities going on around you and stuff like that. You've got to remain focused and know the reason why you're there and that's to play the Super Bowl."

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