SAN DIEGO—The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are so fast, they got ahead of themselves Sunday while dismantling the Oakland Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.
It took them less than three quarters to start celebrating after they built a 34-3 lead by intercepting NFL MVP Rich Gannon three times.
Just when it became 34-21 and the celebration started to look a bit hasty, the league's defensive player of the year, Derrick Brooks, quickly ended the modest Raiders uprising with a 44-yard interception for a touchdown, providing a fitting exclamation point for a defense that ranks with the great Bears defenses of the '80s.
With two seconds left, nickel back Dwight Smith returned his second interception for his second touchdown, making the final score more accurately reflect the domination.
Domination is the favorite word of Raiders 73-year-old owner Al Davis, but now it belongs to the youngest coach in the league, Jon Gruden, the coach Davis discovered then sold to Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer last year for a king's ransom.
"I want to thank coach Gruden," Glazer said. "He came from heaven and he took us to heaven."
Defying an NFL record-breaking season of offense, the Bucs preserved defensive football for another year, making the No. 1 offense in the league look old, fat, slow and confused, and turning the 39-year-old Gruden into the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl.
Gannon had thrown only 11 interceptions all season and postseason while completing the most passes in league history, but he had never seen the likes of Tampa Bay's defense. The Bucs' five interceptions were a Super Bowl record. Safety Dexter Jackson got the first two, setting the tone and winning an MVP trophy that should have been divided 11 ways.
Defensive end Simeon Rice had two sacks. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp pushed the pocket. Brooks had no trouble containing the Raiders' No. 1 weapon, runner-receiver Charlie Garner. Cornerback Ronde Barber handled receiver Jerry Porter. All-time great receiver Jerry Rice was shut out until the third quarter.
But to label the Bucs' victory solely a defensive effort would be as inaccurate as Gannon's passes. The offense molded by wonderboy Gruden and directed by forgotten quarterback Brad Johnson wore out Oakland's defense with touchdown drives of 77 and 89 yards that ended with passes to Keenan McCardell, one of Gruden's additions this season.
In his 12th NFL season and second with his third team, Johnson overcame an interception on his third play to complete 18-of-34 passes for 215 yards. He became the fourth quarterback in a row to rise from rejection to win a Super Bowl, following Tom Brady, Trent Dilfer and Kurt Warner.
Michael Pittman, an average running back signed by Gruden from Arizona this season, gained 124 yards on 29 carries as Gruden pounded the Raiders and kept the ball away from Gannonmercifully, it turned out. The Bucs controlled the ball for 37 minutes 14 seconds.
Gruden downplayed his advantage in knowing the tendencies of his student, Oakland coach Bill Callahan, and his former players. But the Bucs played as if they were standing in both huddles.
Jackson pointed out his second interception came after he saw Gannon pump one way and throw the other. "Films show that's what he loves to do," Jackson said.
Gruden correctly called defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's defense "not goodgreat," as it validated the careers of perennial All-Pros Sapp, Brooks and safety John Lynch.
"We knew Gannon couldn't pump if our D-line was all over him," Lynch said. "You saw it from the start with Simeon."
Gruden again paid tribute to his predecessor, Tony Dungy, who brought the Bucs to respectability from an NFL laughingstock. Dungy was fired by the Glazer family after last season. Gruden cost them two No. 1 draft choices, two No. 2 draft choices and $8 million after Bill Parcells turned them down and Steve Mariucci showed no interest.
"I stayed away from the defense," Gruden said. "Tony Dungy did a great job and I reaped the benefits."
Callahan got the Raiders into the Super Bowl by opening up Gruden's offense, but Gruden pointed out that a pass-first offense is like raw meat to his defenders and Kiffin, who came to Tampa with Dungy in 1996.