Gannon's MVP season ends in miseryPosted: Sunday January 26, 2003 10:53 PM
Updated: Monday January 27, 2003 12:15 AM
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Rich Gannon's MVP season ended with a most dreadful performance in the Super Bowl.
After one of the finest passing campaigns in NFL history, Gannon was under constant pressure from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an ugly first three quarters Sunday.
He wound up throwing a season-high five interceptions -- half of his regular-season total -- and three were returned for touchdowns.
By the time Gannon started completing some throws with regularity, it was too late for the Oakland Raiders, who lost 48-21 to the Bucs.
"We were absolutely terrible," Gannon said. "You've got to give them a lot of credit. We couldn't get anything going against a very good Tampa Bay defense. They're very quick, their secondary played very well, their whole defense played well."
The 37-year-old Gannon wound up 24-of-44 for 272 yards and two touchdowns -- certainly decent numbers.
But before throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Porter with 2:14 remaining in the third quarter, Gannon was 13-of-28 for 110 yards.
And there were those five interceptions.
"The turnovers killed us," Gannon said. "It was a long, long night for the Raiders. I made some bad decisions. I don't know how else to explain it. You just hate to have an exhibition like that in this kind of game.
"It hurts extremely bad."
Dwight Smith returned two picks for touchdowns -- the second 50 yards with 2 seconds left. The first was for 44 yards late in the third quarter, putting the Bucs ahead 34-3.
The Raiders scored the game's next three touchdowns and had the ball and a breath of hope, trailing 34-21, before Derrick Brooks picked Gannon off and ran 44 yards to cement the outcome with 1:18 to play.
"As our guys got tired late in the game, you saw what Rich can do to you without a pass rush," Bucs safety John Lynch said.
Dexter Jackson, the Super Bowl MVP, also had two interceptions in the first half, when the Bucs took command.
Gannon was sacked five times, not counting one by Simeon Rice on a two-point conversion, and knocked down on countless other occasions while the Bucs took what proved to be their insurmountable lead.
"They were a little faster today, they beat us to the punch," said Raiders tackle Barry Sims, who had the blocking assignment on Rice.
"He wasn't my nightmare, but he played very well," Sims said. "I told him that during the game."
Raiders offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy took his share of responsibility for Gannon's problems.
"They just generated pressure with their front four," Kennedy said. "I didn't get it done today."
Typical of Gannon's first-half performance, when he went 7-of-17 for 56 yards, was a series midway through the second quarter that started at the Oakland 11-yard line.
First, he barely got a pass away before being belted by the blitzing Ronde Barber. The ball fell incomplete.
Next, he was sacked by Rice for the second time.
Third, he was hurried into throwing an incompletion nowhere in the vicinity of an Oakland receiver.
Finally, the Raiders punted.
"When you give up some sacks early in the game, it really hurts you," Raiders coach Bill Callahan said. "From an offensive standpoint, it kind of hurts your confidence."
Gannon had the seventh-most passing yards in NFL history, throwing for 4,689 yards and 26 touchdowns.
He passed for 283 yards in leading the Raiders past the New York Jets 30-10 in the divisional playoff and threw for 286 yards and ran for 41 in their 41-24 triumph over Tennessee in the AFC Championship Game.
He passed for three TDs and ran for one in an MVP performance against the Titans on Jan. 19.
It was certainly a different story seven days later in the Super Bowl.
"You know what? I'm going to sit here with my head up," Gannon said. "Hopefully, we can regroup and come back next season."
Brooks said having former Raiders coach Jon Gruden as the Bucs' coach made a big difference where Gannon was concerned.
"He knows how Rich Gannon thinks," Brooks said. "I think that was a huge key for us."