|Paper Champions No More|
After years of suffering, including an 0-26 start as a franchise in the mid-70s, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII with a dominating defensive performance against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
The Buccaneers defense held the Raiders to just 19 yards on the ground, and they picked off quarterback Rich Gannon five times, including three that were returned for scores, as they knocked off Oakland, 48-21, for their first Super Bowl championship.
The game started on a good note for the Raiders when Charles Woodson intercepted a Brad Johnson pass at the Buccaneers' 48-yard line after a hit on Johnson caused his pass to come up short and hang in the air long enough for Woodson to adjust to it before running it back to the Bucs' 36. Oakland moved the ball to the Tampa Bay 16-yard line in five plays, but Gannon was sacked for a six-yard loss on third-and-seven and the Raiders were forced to settle for a 40-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, it looked like things were only going to get worse for the Bucs when it was ruled on the field that Aaron Stecker had fumbled the return, but the play was overturned when the replay clearly showed he was down long before the ball came loose. After an eight-play drive stalled at the Oakland 13-yard line, Martin Gramatica tied the game with a 31-yard field goal.
The Raiders failed to capitalize on good field position the rest of the first quarter, as the Buccaneers' defense took control of the game, holding Oakland to just 62 total yards in the first half. Dexter Jackson picked off two first-half passes, the first leading to a 43-yard field goal and a 6-3 lead.
Midway through the second quarter, Karl Williams put the Bucs in scoring position with a 25-yard punt return that put the ball at the Raiders' 27. Four plays later Mike Alstott punched the ball into the endzone with a two-yard run up the middle. The Buccaneers closed out the first half with a ten-play drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell, giving Tampa Bay a 20-3 lead.
After holding the Raiders to a three-and-out to start the second half, the Bucs drove 89 yards in 14 plays for another score, this one on an 8-yard pass from Johnson to McCardell. And then they really broke things open when nickel back Dwight Smith intercepted a Gannon pass on the second play of the Raiders' next drive and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown, making the score 34-3 in favor of the Bucs.
The Raiders tried to mount a comeback, and pulled to within 13 points in the fourth quarter, but Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks sealed the game for the Bucs with a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown. Dwight Smith capped off the scoring with his second defensive score, this one on a 50-yard interception return.
Dexter Jackson earned Super Bowl MVP honors with two of Tampa Bay's five interceptions. He was only the eighth defensive player to win the award in the 37-year history of the Super Bowl.