(REUTERS) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t need much more; for most of the game, anyway. Coach Jon Gruden and his Bucs won the Super Bowl Sunday, routing Oakland 48-21 in the first matchup of the NFL’s best offense against its best defense.
The Tampa Bay defense won by a mile, shutting down the Raiders for three quarters and holding on as they made a belated comeback attempt.
Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson had two interceptions, as did Dwight Smith, who returned both of his picks for touchdowns, including a 50-yarder to finish off the scoring with two seconds left in the game. Derrick Brooks also returned an interception for a touchdown.
Simeon Rice had two of the Bucs’ five sacks as Tampa romped to a 20-3 halftime lead. He then scored two quick third-quarter touchdowns.
These touchdowns rendered futile a late comeback by the Raiders that included a touchdown on a blocked punt and 48-yard touchdown pass from league MVP Rich Gannon to Jerry Rice.
The Tampa Bay offense did its part, too, led by Michael Pittman, who ran for 124 yards on 29 carries.
Mike Alstott had a two-yard touchdown run, and Brad Johnson added two TD passes to Keenan McCardell, the second an 11-yarder after an 89-yard drive that ate up almost eight minutes of the third quarter.
Just 43 seconds later, Smith grabbed the ball away from Jerry Rice and took it to the end zone to make it 34-3.
Oakland owner Al Davis’ slogan ”Just win, baby!” wasn’t going to work this time.
How good was the Tampa Bay defense?
Oakland had just 62 total yards in the first half, the second-lowest total in Super Bowl history. The five interceptions of Gannon’s were the most he had in any game this season. He finished 24-for-44 for 272 yards and two touchdowns.
Credit the victory also to the 39-year-old Gruden, who left Oakland a year ago for Tampa Bay in what seemed at the time far too much in draft picks and cash — $8 million to be exact.
But Gruden’s knowledge of his old team worked out perfectly.
“Every play they’ve run, we’ve run in practice,” Tampa Bay safety John Lynch said.
Tampa Bay started badly but soon took control and led 20-3 at halftime on a two-yard touchdown run by Alstott and a five-yard touchdown pass to McCardell. The defense held the Raiders’ top-ranked offense to just three first downs at intermission.
But the Raiders struck the first blow.
On the opening series, Regan Upshaw hit Johnson as he threw toward an open McCardell, and Charles Woodson intercepted to give the Raiders the ball at the Tampa Bay 28. But Oakland got only one first down and had to settle for Sebastian Janikowski’s 40-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
The Bucs came right back to tie it on Martin Gramatica’s 31-yarder. Two 23-yard plays, a pass from Johnson to Joe Jurevicius and a sweep by Pittman set up the field goal.
Jackson’s first interception for Tampa Bay set up the next score: Gramatica’s 43-yard field goal early in the second quarter to give the Bucs a 6-3 lead.
Jackson got another interception on the Raiders’ next possession, returning it 23 yards to the Raiders’ 45. Tampa Bay couldn’t move, and Tom Tupa had to punt.
But the Tampa Bay defense held the Raiders to three downs and out, and the Bucs finally broke through to take a 13-3 lead.
First Karl Williams returned Shane Lechler’s punt 25 yards to the Oakland 27, and then Pittman had runs of six and 21 yards to give Tampa Bay a first down at the two. On the second play, Alstott went in for the game’s first touchdown with 6:24 left in the half.
The Bucs made it 20-3 at halftime on a 77-yard, 10-play drive, which was aided by three Oakland penalties and capped by a quick out to McCardell on first down from the five.