One final Pick!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 26, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Tampa Bay 46, Oakland 10. Why the large score? This one goes back nearly two decades.

It was 1986, and the Chicago Bears defense, already considered to be perhaps the best the NFL had ever seen, charged into Super Bowl XX, ready to take on the league’s top-ranked offense. Led by quarterback Tony Eason and backs Craig James and Robert Weathers, New England brought the league’s top rushing offense to the big game. Though the oddsmakers gave a slim edge to the Midway Monsters, there was still the chance that the Patriots would find a way through the Bear defense that had carried Chicago to a 15-1 regular-season record (including a 20-7 defeat of New England).

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It didn’t happen.

The Bears defense turned Super Bowl XX into one of the biggest massacres in NFL history, completely shutting down the Patriot offense. Chicago allowed just seven yards to the NFL’s top rushing team, and only 123 yards overall (76 of which came on a drive near the end of the third quarter, when the Bears had already raced to a 44-3 lead), giving defensive end Richard Dent the Most Valuable player award. Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, and even William &uot;Refrigerator&uot; Perry led a Bear offense that dominated the Patriots for literally the entire game.

Will the situation repeat itself today? Possibly. The Oakland offense may have Rich Gannon, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and Jerry Porter, but the Tampa Bay defense already shut down two of the league’s best offenses in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Their offense has a natural leader in Brad Johnson, and he’s got Joe Jurevicius, Keyshawn Johnson (will he FINALLY live up to his potential today?) and Mike Alstott as targets. Oakland’s defense is above average, but it allowed subpar teams like St. Louis, San Diego and Kansas City to slip past in the regular season. To win today, the Raiders have to shut Johnson down early and remember that Jon Gruden ditched them for Tampa last season.