The Box Score: Super Bowl Edition!

Hello, and welcome to The Box Score, brought to you by Pre-Game Show
Apologies are in order for last week’s column. I was unaware until after the fact that Greg Biekert is currently playing for Minnesota. Whoops. I’d like to apologize for that. The default rosters aren’t exactly accurate. You’ll find later on that – surprise, surprise, the same thing happened this time, only more than once this time.

In any event, NFL 2K3 was perfect again, boosting its playoff record to 6-0 (not counting the wild card round). Can it get to a perfect 7-0? We shall see.

For now, though, here are some predictions from the 411 staff.

Ron Gamble: Let’s see, we have a team from Florida that has never made it to the Super Bowl before, and a team from California (unless Al Davis took that deal to move the Raiders to Provo, Utah, last night. There’s a combination: Raider Nation and Osmond Country) whose last trip was almost 20 years ago, meeting in San Diego in Super Bowl XMLIV, or something like that. My Roman numeral skills are not very good.

I can’t imagine Paul Tagliabue is looking forward to the possibility of having to give the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Davis, and I can’t imagine Davis is looking forward to having to paste a fake smile on and shake hands with Tagliabue, either.

That being said, I don’t think either one of them has to worry about it. While the Raiders players know Jon Gruden, it’s more important that Jon Gruden knows the Raiders players, the Raiders offense, and the Raiders defense. He knows the team and their tendencies too well, and in the end, all the draft picks and money the Glazer family gave to Al Davis will be worth it. Tampa Bay Pirates 31, Oakland Pirates 20.

Chris Pankonin: Oakland 24 Tampa Bay 10
I’ve waited a long, long time to see my Raiders finally make it to the Super Bowl. Here’s to hoping they take Chucky to school and give Gannon, Rice, and Brown a well earned Super Bowl Ring.

Bebito Jackson: I think the Eagles are going to win. And it’s about time too. Hmm. What’s that? They lost? Great! Freaking Eagles keep choking every freaking year! I don’t know then… I guess whoever beat the Eagles. Why? Just because I’m too lazy to think of the team’s names.

Can you tell that I get REALLY into these football games? Yup.

Keith Chambers: Raiders 31, Bucs 27 – Frank Middleton, OL for the Raiders, said it best: “I am not ready to get shot in the head.” Bucs will take it next year, Gruden even said that they were supposed to be here next year. When a coach says that you just know something won’t click.

Ashish: Tampa Bay. Their defense is too tough…

Evocator Manes: Raiders by 20.

Ken Anderson: Oakland’s looking good this year, but ultimately, they’ll be no match for Tampa’s defense. Tampa Bay, 21-10.

Flea: TAMPA 457…RAIDERS -14

Of course, that is not possible, but neither is trying to fathom the Bucs winning. I have been a Bucs fan since they first started and even thinking the phrase TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS- SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS borders on insanity. I hope they win, but if they do, be prepared for The Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse to come and end the world as we know it. And if you have front row seats in hell like me, bring a jacket. GO BUCS!

Alex Lucard: Hmmm. I’m in England. the only Football we have here is the nancy boy sport better known as Soccer that involves drunken oafs with massive gambling debts or Spice Girl wives getting paid more than the entirity of Wales with their only fans being liquored up people living on the dole and lacking the ability to even whiz by themselves. How the hell can I make a prediction? Especially since my home team of Philly is out?

Hmmm. Tampa Bay used to have Ventura as their commentator and I’m the world’s biggest jesse mark. Meanwhile, Oakland starter jackets were really popular when I was hitting puberty and people were being killed for them.

I’ll go with prediction of ‘Alex will be trying to get his fiancee to Watch either Freakzoid or Newsradio while trying to explain why these shows are funny to Americans.’

Okay…Tampa Bay. Because my grandparents live there.

Thanks to everyone from 411 who submitted picks. Now, as for my prediction…
I’ll admit… Brad Johnson showed me a lot this week. Enough for me to go out on a limb and say that I think that in spite of perhaps the two best defenses in the NFL, this one is going to be a shootout. The Raiders get the edge here because they have guys who have been there before, but they’re going to need to score in the last two minutes to win it. Oakland 38, Tampa Bay 31

It’s gametime. Enjoy.

Super Bowl XXXVII – Oakland Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego
Time: Afternoon
Temperature: 70 degrees
Wind: Slight wind

Oakland won the coin toss and elected to receive. However, their run-dominated drive went nowhere and punted. Tampa Bay didn’t waste any time, throwing the ball downfield immediately. On their first offensive play, Brad Johnson threw a 25-yard pass to Keenan McCardell. From there, the Bucs tried to run with very little success. They settled for a 29-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica.

When the Raiders got the ball back, they again went to the run, only to be thwarted by Tampa’s impressive defense. In addition to not being able to move the ball, Oakland was also set back by an injury to running back Charlie Garner. Garner did not return until the second half. Once Oakland went to the air, though, they began to show some life. A 17-yard connection from Rich Gannon to Jerry Rice on 3rd and 10 got the Raiders going, and a 52-yard pass from Gannon to Jeremy Brigham put them inside the Tampa Bay 5. The drive culminated in a punishing four-yard touchdown run from Tyrone Wheatley on the first play of the second quarter. Oakland was now ahead, 7-3.

The Bucs were not intimidated by Oakland’s sudden offensive resurgence. Instead, it returned the favor, going 73 yards on just five plays. Ken Dilger caught a Brad Johnson pass for 23 yards and, on the next play, Keyshawn Johnson caught one for 40 yards. Keyshawn would later score on an 11-yard pass from Brad Johnson to put Tampa ahead by 3. Also, on this drive, running back Michael Pittman was injured, though he was hardly missed.

The half ended with Tampa Bay ahead of Oakland, 10-7. It had been an evenly played matchup to this point, with total yards being in the Buccaneers’ favor, 117-114. Tampa Bay received to open the second half, but was unable to get anything going and was forced to punt. Oakland started moving the ball, but Anthony Midget intercepted a Rich Gannon pass at the Oakland 48-yard line. From there, the Bucs moved the ball into field goal range, from where Gramatica kicked a 48-yarder. This gave Tampa a 6 point lead, 13-7.

Oakland, realizing that its backs were to the wall, started going to the air more often. However, this is where the Bucs’ D really began to clamp down. It batted down passes and punished receivers who dared to catch passes, often times hitting them so hard that they’d drop the ball. Gannon, as poised a veteran as you’ll find in the NFL, was able to find Jerry Rice for two big gains, both on 3rd and 10. This clutch receiving was enough to move the ball downfield on a very tough Buccaneer defense. From the 12-yard line, Tyrone Wheatley broke tackle after tackle until he wound up in the end zone. The extra point by Janikowski put the Raiders ahead, 14-13.

After exchanging three-and-outs, Tampa Bay got the ball back with three minutes left. It smartly drove the ball while taking time off the clock, so that if they scored, Oakland wouldn’t have any time left to do anything with the ball. Michael Pittman broke off a 37-yard run, and yet another big catch by Keyshawn Johnson put Tampa Bay in the red zone. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, it was not meant to be. Brad Johnson, looking for Keenan McCardell in the end zone, was picked off by Oakland’s Johnnie Harris with just 48 seconds left.

The game was not over, though, as Oakland received the ball at their own two-yard line, a result of a punishing tackle that sent Harris out of the end zone. However, Wheatley was able to run for a first down, putting his team in position to kneel on the ball, run out the clock, and call themselves Super Bowl Champions.

Oakland 14
Tampa Bay 13

Gannon (OAK) 8/19, 142 yards, 1 INT
B. Johnson (TB) 7/16, 142 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Wheatley (OAK) 10-51, 2 TD
Pittman (TB) 10-54

Rice (OAK) 4-71
K. Johnson (TB) 4-82, 1 TD

Tyrone Wheatley, Oakland Raiders Post-Game Show
This was one of the most even matchups you’ll ever see. The stats certainly reflect this:
Passing Yards: Oakland 142, Tampa Bay 142
Average Kick Return: Oakland 25, Tampa Bay 25
Average Starting Field Position: Oakland, Own 28, Tampa Bay, Own 30
Time of Possession: Oakland 9:55, Tampa Bay 10:05

The only significant differences in the post-game stats are the third-down numbers. Tampa Bay converted just 28 percent of its third-downs, going 2 for 7. The Raiders, on the other hand, were successful 62 percent of the time, converting 5 of its 8 opportunities. Simply put, Oakland came up with more big plays than its opponent.

It was fitting that both running backs were hurt early – they really did very little to help their teams, with the obvious exception of Tyrone Wheatley. He was used just the right way – when a few yards were needed to get into the end zone, Oakland called on Wheatley. Perhaps if Tampa used its bruising fullback, Mike Alstott, more often, they might have come out on top.

A note about the future of this column – obviously, with no more football, there will not be a Box Score for a while. Nobody gives a crap about the Pro Bowl, or any All-Star games for that matter, so those will not be done here. You’ll probably see this column back in time for the Final Four. In the meantime, I’ll be writing for 411 Games. Not sure what, but you’ll find it here. Read Lucard’s stuff… it’s really excellent.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the big game!