Today is Jan. 26. On this date in 2003, the Buccaneers put years of misery behind them by dismantling the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.
The Buccaneers improved a lot last season, but they aren’t quite ready to contend for the Super Bowl year in and year out. However, with Super Bowl LI coming up, we can take a look back at the most memorable night in franchise history.
Just one week after Tampa Bay took down the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, it had one more obstacle to overcome. The Oakland Raiders, who owned one of the NFL’s top offenses, represented the Bucs’ final test.
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The two teams squared off in Super Bowl XXXVII at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The matchup pitted Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden against the team he was leading just the year before. The Raiders took a 3-0 lead early, but from there, it was all Bucs.
Martin Gramatica responded to Oakland’s field goal with two of his own, one from 31 yards out and the other from 43. Tampa Bay then took advantage of a short field, with Mike Alstott punching it into the end zone from two yards out. Right before halftime, Brad Johnson threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell to cap a 12-play drive. The Bucs took a 20-3 lead into the locker room, but they were just getting started.
The second half consisted of another McCardell touchdown catch and three pick sixes. Dwight Smith had two of them, while Derrick Brooks had the other, icing the game with his 44-yard return with just over a minute to go.
The final score was 48-21. The Bucs were Super Bowl champions. The victory was the final milestone in a 2002-2003 season that was full of them. Fittingly, the dominant Tampa Bay defense led the way, intercepting Rich Gannon five times. Dexter Jackson came up with two of those interceptions, which earned him MVP honors.
To this day, that 48-21 victory over the Raiders is the Bucs’ only Super Bowl victory. But, while the front office, coaching staff and players are working toward getting another one, this throwback is one that never gets old.