Top-ranked O vs. top-ranked D

"(Raiders offensive coordinator) Marc Trestman has added quite a dimension to our attack right now. We're continuing to look at different things. We're continuing to stretch the envelope." -- Raiders head coach Bill Callahan

 

The Super Bowl XXXVII headlines are related to Jon Gruden's connection to the Oakland Raiders.

            The outcome of Sunday's game, however, will have little to do with Gruden's roots to the Raiders.

            "Hopefully, I'm just a sidebar. Page 19, lower right column," Gruden quipped.

The matchup that is anything but a sidebar and has everyone clamoring is Oakland's No. 1 ranked offense that averages 389.8 yards per game and the Bucs top-ranked defense that permits only 252.8 yards on the ground. Tampa boasts the best defense the Raiders will face since the 2001 AFC Championship Game against Baltimore, which thumped the Raiders 16-3.

The knock on Gruden in that game was that he came out with too conservative a game plan against the Ravens. His predecessor, Bill Callahan, however, has been anything but predictable.

            Oakland might have an edge on the Bucs because it has a lot of weapons and the type of offense to exploit Tampa's two-deep zone scheme. Raider quarterback Rich Gannon has a bevy of weapons in his arsenal such as wide receivers Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Jerry Porter along with running back Charlie Garner and tight end Doug Jolley.

"(Raiders offensive coordinator) Marc Trestman has added quite a dimension to our attack right now," Oakland head coach Bill Callahan said. "We're continuing to look at different things. We're continuing to stretch the envelope."

The Raiders success will be hinged on the offensive line, which sometimes gives Gannon enough time to microwave some popcorn. If he has four or more seconds to throw, a receiver will break open at some point. The Bucs are one of few NFL clubs that can get pressure solely with its front four and no rely on the blitz. The Raiders may have a hard time getting yards after the catch because of Tampa's closing speed.

"Their athleticism is really the thing that sticks out," Callahan said. "You watch them run to the ball and instinctively react to runs and passes. The linebackers are like raptors. They are all over the place. Their quickness is really defining. The safeties and corners are well versed in what they're doing. With (defensive coordinator) Monte Kiffin being the architect of that scheme there's no question in my mind that they are very sound."

            The questions become – will the Bucs play more man coverage and blitz Gannon more? Why not because Gannon is more than happy to move the ball down the field in small chunks of yardage.

            Miami was the only team to beat Oakland in its last 10 games. The Dolphins won that contest 23-17 with a steady diet of pressure on Gannon and man-to-man defense that frustrated Oakland's receivers.

 

Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at vdad7@yahoo.com


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