It is the signature moment in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. January 26th, 2003 in San Diego, CA, the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII 48-21 over the Oakland Raiders.
After having been viewed as mostly a punch line franchise for their first 27 years of existence, the Bucs finally put together a tremendous regular season (12-4) and finished it off with an amazing playoff run.
Having destroyed Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens and the Steve Mariucci led-49ers 31-6 in the NFC Divisional playoff game at home, the Buccaneers traveled to play the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb Eagles at the old “Vet” in Philly for the NFC Championship.
The Eagles had been the Bucs nemisis, not only beating Tampa Bay in that regular season of 2002, but having knocked them out of the playoffs the previous two seasons, as well.
When, it was all said and done, the Buccaneers defense dominated that day. And, when Ronde Barber intercepted McNabb with about three minutes remaining, and raced 92 yards for the clinching TD in a 27-10 win, the Bucs had reservations for the NFL’s biggest game.
Seven days later (it was one of the last times the NFL has not taken two weeks off before the Super Bowl) the Buccaneers were on the field with their new coach, Jon Gruden, against his old team, the Raiders.
And after a shaky start, it was all Pewter and Red over the Silver and Black. Here’s a quick highlight montage’:
You may not remember that Bucs QB Brad Johnson threw an early interception to Charles Woodson and the Raiders kicked a field goal to lead 3-0.
What you likely remember was Bucs safety Dexter Jackson returned the favor X 2 and intercepted Raiders QB Rich Gannon twice in the first half. Jackson was later named Super Bowl MVP.
FB Mike Alstott scored the first Bucs TD in Super Bowl history, and Johnson later threw a five yard TD pass to WR Kennan McCardell and the game was 20-3 Tampa Bay at half time.
The Buccaneers came out strong to start the third quarter taking the opening kick and marching 89 yards in 14 plays and eventually, Johnson hooked up with McCardell, again, for a 27-3 lead.
Then, the clinching moment came for Tampa Bay’s illustrious defense, as DB Dwight Smith stepped in front of Gannon’s pass on the left sideline and raced 44 yards for a TD to make it 34-3.
The crowd of 60-70% Raiders fans in Sand Diego was stunned. And the Bucs, were ready to party.
Yes, the Raiders actually did make a game of it, as Gannon hit Jerry Porter on a 39 yard TD in the third quarter. They blocked a Tom Tupa punt for another TD, and when Gannon hit Hall of Famer, Jerry Rice from 48 yards out, it was now 34-21.
But the Raiders, would get no closer, and when, Bucs Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks picked Gannon for the fourth time and headed 44 yards to the end zone, the deal was done.
Dwight Smith added yet another pick six, his second of the game, in the final 30 seconds to finish the scoring and start the official celebration.
Gannon’s five interceptions was a dubious record and the Buccaneers remain the only Super Bowl winning team to score three defensive touchdowns in the game.
For players like Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch it was the culmination of coming a team in disarray in the mid-90’s and helping it eventually, become World Champions.
It’s the last time that a Florida team has made, much less won, the NFL’s biggest game, and it happened 15 years ago Friday, in San Diego.
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