So it’s all over. The Super Bowl, the being called “under-achievers” and the debate that a better defense beats a better offense … or is it?
The fact is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Oakland Raiders 48-21 Sunday. Yes, Tampa picked off the league MVP, Rich Gannon, five times, three returned for touchdowns, and, yes, Tampa’s coach Jon Gruden was Oakland’s coach last season.
Last season, the rubber-faced Gruden helped the Raiders reach the AFC Championship, which they lost in the controversial game.
Then after four seasons with Oakland, owner Al Davis made a deal to give Gruden to the Bucs for two first-round draft picks, two second-round draft picks and $8 million. The deal went sour for good old Al.
The Bucs knew everything the Raiders were going to do.
“Every play they’ve run, we’ve run in practice,” said a miked-up John Lynch on the Buccaneers sideline.
After all, Gruden made the Raiders. Why can’t he break them as well.
Combined with an already potent defense and Gruden’s vast knowledge of gears that powered Oakland’s powerful offense, Bucs’ owner Malcolm Glazer had all he needed to silence the Raiders.
Gruden tried to play down the fact of his knowledge of the Raiders.
“That was all overrated,” Gruden said. “I stayed away from the defense. That’s a credit to our players. We’ve got a great defensive club.”
Gruden stayed away from the defense because he was busy operating the scout team offense as quarterback, as a Rich Gannon impersonator.
“Jon Gruden was Gannon. Nobody can be like Gannon like Gruden can,” the Bucs’ defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. “He taught Gannon. He was in Gannon’s head.”
With confidence that they could defend anything the Raiders did, the Bucs let their offense take time off the clock.
Tampa’s quick defensive backs raided Gannon’s air space, intercepting five passes, while the Bucs’ front line looted the backfield, robbing Raider Charlie Garner of any big carries. Garner only had 10 yards on seven carries.
The lack of carries is what I feel, combined with Gruden, helped do in the Raiders. Oakland only had 11 rushing attempts, while Tampa rushed 42 times for 150 yards.
Michael Pittman was the biggest offensive surprise for the Buccaneers. Pittman rushed for 124 yards, getting key first downs for Tampa.
With or without Gruden, the Bucs defense is good. With former Raider coach Gruden, they’re great.