By MARC TOPKIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 15, 2001
Gannon hobbled and humbled by Raven defense
OAKLAND -- It was a day of insults and injury for Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon.
Gannon played with a sore left shoulder after being sacked on Oakland's first offensive series, then left temporarily after being crunched by 340-pound defensive tackle Tony Siragusa after an incomplete pass early in the second quarter.
When he was on the field, Baltimore's defense rendered him pretty much useless anyway.
Gannon completed 11 of 21 passes to his players for 80 yards, and two to the Ravens to kill what little success the Raiders were having. He also fumbled once.
"It was just very frustrating," said Gannon, who played nothing like the MVP candidate the Raiders said he was.
Gannon missed the final 11 minutes of the first half. He returned to start the second but was replaced by Bobby Hoying midway through the fourth quarter.
"I just felt like I wasn't helping our football team at that point," he said.
Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis was asked if the Ravens got more confidence when Gannon left the game. "Not to BS, but it didn't matter what quarterback was in the game," Lewis said.
If that wasn't enough of a zinger, teammate Shannon Sharpe quickly chimed in: "You have to realize he wasn't putting up (Joe) Montana-like numbers when he was in there."
MARQUEE MATCHUP: A Ravens-Giants Super Bowl might not be what the sports world (and the TV folks) were looking forward to, but that's too bad, Sharpe said.
"Deal with it, America," he said. "That's what y'all are going to be covering the next two weeks. The Giants and the Ravens. Not the Raiders, not Tennessee, not the Broncos, not Minnesota, not St. Louis. All those high-powered offenses, you know what they're going to be doing? Watching old Baltimore score 12 points a game in the playoffs."
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?: The Raiders truly were expecting to win. Naturally, They were devastated by the loss. "It's the lowest I've ever felt as an athlete," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "To get this far. ... We might as well have been 3-13 to come out here and do this."
HOMECOMING: Having been born in Bartow and schooled in Lakeland, Lewis is looking forward to coming home for the Super Bowl. "Twenty minutes from my hometown, that's unbelievable," he said.
"He's using that '20 minutes' to get some extra Super Bowl tickets," Sharpe said. "It ain't happening. I'm five minutes from Tampa."
HOMECOMING II: The Ravens have two offensive linemen from north Pinellas County. Center Jeff Mitchell is from Countryside High (and the University of Florida) and reserve guard Kipp Vickers is from Tarpon Springs High (and the University of Miami).
RALLYING CRY: The Ravens have made it something of a rallying cry that the media has made them underdogs at each step. "The thing that nobody picked us, that's kind of fun," Baltimore coach Brian Billick said. "I keep trying to remind you all that you don't know what you're talking about, but no one believes me."
PARTY ANIMALS: Raiders fans got an early start on preparing for the game. More than 2,000 cars, trucks and mobile homes were lined up in the streets surrounding the stadium by about 5 p.m. ... Friday.
NO-GO: Raiders running back Napoleon Kaufman was not sufficiently recovered from his right knee injury and was inactive.
NO CHARM: Third down was a problem for the Raiders, who went 2-for-14. "They gave us lots of miscellaneous looks," coach Jon Gruden said. "You had to guess with them a little bit, call some plays to prepare for a possible blitz."
TAKE THAT: Sharpe wasn't shy about antagonizing Oakland's rabid fans during the week, and he couldn't resist a jab when he scored the game's only touchdown in front of the Black Hole rooting section.
MISCELLANY: It must have been a busy weekend for top entertainers. The Raiders had Connie Stevens sing the national anthem and Run-DMC provide halftime entertainment. ... This was the Raiders' record 13th AFC Championship Game appearance. They are 4-9.