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Bucs are 'virtually' flawless

January 23, 2003

VIRTUAL SAN DIEGO (PS2) - It was billed as the Gruden Bowl, pitting Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden against his former team and the NFL's top offense of the Oakland Raiders against the top defense of the Buccaneers.

It took 19 seconds for all of that to change. It took 19 seconds for the Bucs' offense to steal the Super show.

Brad Johnson hit Keyshawn Johnson with an 80-yard touchdown pass on the very first play from scrimmage, and Tampa Bay's offense overwhelmed Oakland for 28 first-half points in a shockingly-easy 38-17 victory in Virtual Super Bowl XXXVII.

"That all I ever hear, is 'Keyshawn can't beat you deep, he can't make the big play, he can't this, he can't that,'" the receiver said. "At least the Madden programmers are smart. They get me the (darn) ball."

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The Buccaneers' offense came by air and by land. They came early and often, leaving the Raiders' defense confused, battered and broken.

"After a while, I started wondering if they could do anything wrong," Oakland coach Bill Callahan said. "It was one of those classic 'no way' games, as is, no way are we winning. Madden's infamous for them. I've never wanted to reach through the TV screen and push the reset button as badly in my life."

Brad Johnson threw for 279 yards - 183 in the first half alone - and three touchdowns, despite completing only 15 of 40 attempts. Keyshawn Johnson caught four passes for 113 yards, including the 80-yard TD, and the always-underrated Keenan McCardell added seven catches for 117 yards and two TDs.

Oakland's maligned defense couldn't stop Michael Pittman, either. The Bucs' tailback rushed eight times for 112 yards and a TD in the first half, breaking runs of 24, 19 and 19 yards on one drive alone before scoring from 12 yards out. He finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

"I just wish I could do that in real life," Pittman said. "Seems the guys at EA Sports still don't know how to put together a good rush defense. Oakland's stunk."

Not Tampa Bay's, which stuffed Oakland tailback Charlie Garner all game (10 yards on 14 carries) and routinely leveled Raiders receivers after short completions.

"It could be worse," said Jerry Rice, who caught seven passes for 117 yards and was roughed up after each one. "I could have been one of those hockey players on EA Sports NHL '94. You know, the ones who get checked and their head busts open and bleeds all over the ice? Those guys had it rough."

League MVP Rich Gannon threw for 247 yards, but the Bucs intercepted him four times - three by linebackers covering Garner out of the backfield.

"I started wondering what game I was playing in," Gannon said, bewildered. "In past Madden games, yeah, you could throw a pick to the safety if you were stupid, but your running back would always, and I mean always, be open in the flat. I'm longing for those Genesis days back, let me tell you. Heck, I'll take Tecmo Bowl at this point."

Nobody, not even Gannon himself, could remember wich team he played for in Tecmo Bowl.




Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for the Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at kauffman@herald-mail.com

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