Pittman's 124-yard game powers Bucs' ground attackPosted: Sunday January 26, 2003 10:47 PM
Updated: Monday January 27, 2003 3:24 AM
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Michael Pittman has a collection of more than 100 authentic game jerseys, including Walter Payton's No. 34, Ozzie Smith's No. 1 and Johnny Unitas' No. 19.
After Sunday's Super Bowl, somebody is going to be pursuing Pittman's No. 32.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent before this season to replace Warrick Dunn, who left the Bucs to sign with the Atlanta Falcons, Pittman had been a rather ordinary running back until the Super Bowl. His 124 yards on 29 carries helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
"The offensive line blocked great for me. I just ran through the holes," Pittman, a native of San Diego, said. "I just kept pounding and pounding and the running yards came."
Pittman came to the Bucs last March, a month after Jon Gruden took over as coach and was promptly named a starter.
He spent the first four years of his career with the Arizona Cardinals and ran for 100 yards in his first NFL start.
"It's a dream come true. That's the reason I left Arizona, because I didn't think we'd ever have a chance to win and get to the Super Bowl," he said. "That's why I came here, because I thought this team had the best chance to win the Super Bowl. It's the greatest feeling in the world. Look at that trophy over there. We're the world champions."
He was Tampa Bay's leading rusher this season with 718 yards.
But until Sunday's Super Bowl, he had not dominated games.
Pittman rushed for 28 yards in the first quarter, including a 23-yard dash that set up Martin Gramatica's 31-yard field goal that tied the score at 3. In the second quarter, Pittman had a 19-yard run that positioned the ball for Mike Alstott's 2-yard touchdown that made it 13-3.
There was one sequence when the running back out of Fresno State carried the ball on three straight plays -- first for 5 yards, then for 3, then for 9 -- as Tampa Bay's offensive line kept pushing back the Oakland defenders.
By halftime, Tampa Bay's lead was 20-3 and Pittman, a dedicated weightlifter with biceps that measure 191/2 inches, continued to churn out the yards.
He said it very important for the Bucs to run the ball "so we could set up the play-action pass, and we did that."
His 24-yard run in the fourth quarter after the Raiders had closed within 34-15 put him over the 100-yard mark and he finished with the season-high 124 in San Diego.
"I'm at a loss for words right now but it's big coming in my
hometown," he said, adding he was thinking about winning an
individual award. "I was trying to pull off the MVP but Dexter
Jackson played a great game."