How was Tampa Bay's number one rated defense going to stack up against Oakland's number one rated offense led by NFL Most Valuable Player, quarterback Rich Gannon? That was the big question heading into Super Bowl XXXVII. The answer? Pretty damn well.
The Bucs offense did their part by putting 27 critical points on the board, but it was Tampa Bay's stifling defense that won Super Bowl XXXVII. Collectively, the defense is the Pewter Report Players of the Game for the Super Bowl.
The Bucs defense made Super Bowl history by collecting five interceptions from Gannon, returning three of those picks for touchdowns. Gannon only threw 11 interceptions in the previous 18 games, including two playoff games this year.
Cornerback Dwight Smith intercepted two passes and returned both for scores, which was a Super Bowl first. Smith's last interception TD came with less than 10 seconds left in the game. Before Smith's second pick, linebacker Derrick Brooks scored on an interception return, which pushed the Bucs' lead to 41-21 and sealed the victory.
Free safety Dexter Jackson, who was selected the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, jump-started the defense with two first half picks. Jackson became the third defensive back and the eighth defensive player to win the Super Bowl MVP.
The Bucs held the Raiders to just 19 yards rushing, the third fewest in Super Bowl history, and recorded five sacks, including two from end Simeon Rice.
Tampa Bay's defense will go down as one of the greatest of all-time, and will be compared with Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain from the 1970s, Chicago's 1985 defense and Baltimore's 2000 defense. Hats off to Monte Kiffin and his staff for a great job.
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