INSIDE THE BUCS
Bucs' offense quiets critics
Published: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 1:49 a.m.
SAN DIEGO-- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense showed Oakland how it's done.
Upstaging the Raiders' heralded No. 1 offense in the Super Bowl, Brad Johnson and Co. proved Sunday night that the Bucs' O is plenty potent, too.
Johnson threw for 215 yards and two scores, Keenan McCardell caught a pair of touchdown passes and Michael Pittman keyed an effective ground attack with a season-high 124 yards rushing to help the Bucs beat the Raiders 48-21.
Joe Jurevicius, who arrived in San Diego a day after his teammates so that he could spend time with his wife and ailing newborn son, also had another big day with four receptions for 78 yards.
The performance was especially sweet for coach Jon Gruden, who left the Raiders for the Bucs after last season to accept the challenge of building an offense to complement Tampa Bay's top-ranked defense.
Most of the attention leading up to the game focused on the first-ever matchup of the league's No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense in a Super Bowl. But the Bucs said all along that their offense shouldn't be overlooked.
Tampa Bay ranked 24th in offense, but improved steadily over the last half of the regular season. They really hit their stride in the playoffs, scoring nine touchdowns on the way to outscoring San Francisco, Philadelphia and Oakland 106-37.
A disappointment for much of the season, Pittman set up 10 points with runs of 23 and 19 yards and finished the first half with 75 yards on 12 carries - surprising production for someone who averaged 3.5 yards per carry during the regular season and just 2.3 per attempt in Tampa Bay's first two playoff games.
The Bucs ran for only 49 yards in the NFC championship game, gaining 1.5 yards per try. But the commitment to run, despite a lack of success, helped set up the play-action pass against the Eagles' aggressive defense.
Gruden did a masterful job of mixing the run and pass again Sunday. Even though Johnson wasn't particularly sharp throwing the ball, the Bucs outgained the Raiders 198-62 and had 14 first downs to Oakland's three in the first two quarters.
Pittman was one of the keys, setting up a field goal with his 23-yard run and racing straight up the gut of the Oakland defense for 19 yards to put the Bucs into position to go up 13-3 on Mike Alstott's 2-yard TD burst.
McCardell, Jurevicius and Keyshawn Johnson, who had six catches for 69 yards, were factors, too.
Keyshawn Johnson caught two passes for first downs on the 58-yard drive that led to Martin Gramatica's 31-yard field goal for a 6-3 lead. McCardell's 5-yard TD catch gave Tampa Bay a 17-point lead just before the half.
Jurevicius didn't arrive in San Diego until late Tuesday night. He missed practice two weeks ago after the premature birth of his son, but rejoined the Bucs in time to contribute a critical 71-yard reception in a 27-10 victory over the Eagles in the NFC title game.
His 33-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter led to Brad Johnson's second TD pass to McCardell.
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