- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

SAN DIEGO The Tampa Bay Buccaneers completed their long journey to the top of the NFL last night, upsetting the Oakland Raiders to capture their first championship.
Playing amid tight security and in perfect weather, the Bucs capped a weeklong celebration in this picturesque part of the country with a 48-21 victory in Super Bowl XXXVII at Qualcomm Stadium.
Tampa Bay was the NFL's rube for years, losing its first 26 games under coach John McKay in the mid-1970s and rarely rising above the league's worst teams. Now the Bucs are the best, thanks in large part to McKay's son, general manager Rich McKay, who was responsible for assembling this club's personnel.
"We were the laughingstock of the league in '93 when I got here," safety John Lynch said. "Now we're world champs I think that speaks for itself. For the guys in this locker room, this is something we'll enjoy forever."
The Bucs left no doubt about the adage, "Defense wins championships," squelching the favored Raiders in the first meeting of a No. 1 offense (Oakland) and No. 1 defense (Tampa Bay) in a Super Bowl. Top-ranked defenses now are 7-0 in the title game's history.
"We knew we were a better team," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "We went out and dominated them like we've dominated a lot of teams all year. I have a lot of respect for [Raiders star wide receiver] Jerry Rice and those guys, but I'm not sure if they deserved to be on the field with us tonight."
Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson wasn't particularly sharp, throwing an interception on Tampa Bay's first drive, but he clearly won the battle of ex-Redskins quarterbacks. Rich Gannon, the NFL MVP this season who played for Washington in 1993, threw a Super Bowl-record five interceptions.
Johnson led the Redskins to their last playoff appearance in 1999 but was not re-signed after the 2000 season, when he lost his starting job to Jeff George.
The victory also vindicated Tampa Bay's unusual trade for Jon Gruden. The current Tampa Bay coach and former Oakland coach (1998-2001) was obtained last winter for four draft picks two first-rounders and two second-rounders and $8 million. Gruden became the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl, at 39 years and 162 days old.
Bucs free safety Dexter Jackson, who had two interceptions in the first half, was named Super Bowl MVP.
Tampa Bay took control in the second quarter, scoring on a two-yard run by fullback Mike Alstott and 5-yard catch by wide receiver Keenan McCardell for a 20-3 lead at halftime. Oakland had just 62 yards in the first half without All-Pro center Barret Robbins, who was hospitalized here after the Raiders sent him home just hours before the game.
Robbins had been disciplined for violating team rules, but the Raiders were at the receiving end of the real punishment. Tampa Bay extended its lead to 24 points late in the third quarter on another touchdown by McCardell, and 43 seconds later cornerback Dwight Smith returned an interception 44 yards to make it 34-3.
Oakland eventually rallied to make it 34-21 with 6:06 to play, but linebacker Derrick Brooks and Smith tacked on Tampa Bay's second and third interception returns for touchdowns of the day.
"I thought our guys fought extremely hard to take it down to 13 points, a two-possession game," Raiders coach Bill Callahan said. "Time just ran out."
The weather, as it was all week, was impeccable. The sky was cloudless and the temperature was 81 degrees, a record for San Diego on the date and the second-highest in Super Bowl history. Only Super Bowl XVII in Los Angeles in 1983 was hotter at 84 degrees.
The city spent about $2 million on security, which was visible everywhere. Few complaints or problems were reported before the game, as spectators made their way through a half-hour line to be screened.
Although the game was not declared a "national security event," as last year's was in New Orleans, a variety of measures were in place.
Among them were "Operation Game Day," a screening for immigration violations that had been ongoing; a seven-mile no-fly zone; 52 cameras for blanket surveillance; and more than 4,000 local, state and national law officers. Also, a 60-acre fuel-tank complex close to Qualcomm was protected by the National Guard.
Spectators were allowed to enter Qualcomm's gates 4 hours before kickoff. Public parking was not allowed at the stadium, leaving the majority of lots for vending booths and a concert stage. D.J. Skribble spun records, and Styx performed before pregame festivities began.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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