The big difference is that Oakland has a coach in place and Tampa Bay does not. Whether he wants to be there or not, Gruden will not tank the 2002 season because the only thing that gets hurt is his reputation. He doesn't want the luster to fall off the star and a 7-9 campaign would definitely make him less appealing to the rest of the teams in the National Football League. Also, the price that Al Davis would extract from the Bucs would be exorbitant. Tampa Bay does not want to be giving up high draft picks in a year when, according to almost every draft expert and publication, an organization could get first round talent deep into the second round.
Finally, once the bar is set for what Davis will take from the Pewter Pirates for Gruden the Oakland owner will then shop his head coach around the league to see if a Jacksonville or Cincinnati would like to top the Bucs offer. As you can see, this is a scenario that's just not going to come together for the Buccaneers.
What do the Patriots have to do to win the Super Bowl?
On offense the Patriots have to control the football by whatever means possible. If they can do it on the ground with running backs J.R. Redmond and Antowain Smith or through the air with quarterbacks Tom Brady as well as Drew Bledsoe (yes, I believe you will see No. 11 sometime during the contest) finding Troy Brown plus Davis Patten the Pats need to play keep away. The Pats must have at least a six-minute advantage in time of possession to win the game and convert 75 per cent of their red zone opportunities. On defense New England, first and foremost, has to stop the running game.
The big stat here will be 70 yards and the Pats have to keep Marshall Faulk under 60 yards rushing. They Patriots defense also has to hit Kurt Warner early and often. The teams that have had success against the Rams, notably the Bucs and the Saints, have been able to get to Warner and knock him down in the first quarter. To do that New England must confuse the Rams wide receivers so Isaac Bruce and Company cannot get the feel of the rhythm passing game so look for cornerbacks Ty Law and Otis Smith to give the Rams receivers a myriad of different looks in pass coverage.
If the Patriots can disrupt "The Greatest Show on Turf" that could lead to turnovers and short field opportunities for the Pats offense. If New England can accomplish their three keys of ball control and eliminating the running game plus winning the turnover battle then the Patriots win 24-21.
What do the Rams have to do to win the Super Bowl?
Let's establish this fact right now. If both teams show up with their "A" game the Rams win and I think St. Louis knows this. On defense coordinator Lovie Smith will do everything in his power to confuse Tom Brady on his pre-snap reads. The Rams will line up in one defense and, on the snap of the football, move to another coverage scheme. Look for those defenses to protect the deep ball because St. Louis does not want to give up any big plays. They want to force the Patriots to go the length of the field in 10 plays or more because the propensity for error will be higher. The Rams want no plays over 30 yards so look for safeties Adam Archuleta and Kim Herring to spend a lot of time deep down the middle of the gridiron. On offense the Rams must be patient.
The have to go into Super Bowl XXXVI with the mentality that all we need to do is win the game 21-20. St. Louis must take what New England gives them. If they try and force the action it will lead to turnovers and the game will be much closer than it would be normally. If the defense calls for a run by Marshall Faulk, like it did the previous week against the Philadelphia Eagles, than give the pigskin to No. 28. If the defense dictates a short pass then hit tight end Ernie Conwell. This game will be the ultimate chess match pitting Mike Martz's offense against Bill Belichick's defense and the Rams head coach can't let this become a personal vendetta with the New England mentor.
The Rams offense did a great job of putting their pride in their back pocket against the Eagles and just doing what they needed to do to win the football game. That fact is even more evident this week. If St. Louis can effectively execute their three keys that are having their defense not allow any big plays and being patient on offense as well as not feeling this game has to be an offensive showcase then the Rams come out on top 34-17.
Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com
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