Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four....
Try three defensive touchdowns by interceptions - one more touchdown scored than the opposing team’s entire offense.
Try two interceptions returned by one player for touchdowns.
And last but not least, try 172 interception return yards.
For those not familiar with the scenario, the Bucs trounced the Raiders like a red-headed stepchild (trust me, I know the feeling) all the way to a 48-21 win. Tampa Bay picked off league MVP Rich Gannon five times and returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns.
Tampa hasn’t really been the poster boy for success in the NFL. Their .387 all-time win percentage - good for dead last all-time in the league among current teams - will tell you that.
But on January 26th, 2003 the Bucs were absolutely lights-out on one of biggest stages in the world.
It’s easy to forget that Tampa was the underdog coming into the game, despite destroying the 49ers and shutting down the Vet prior to facing off against the Raiders. Both San Francisco and the Eagles were top ten offenses in 2002 but nope, let’s not pay any attention to the details, here.
The Baltimore Ravens’ all-time great defense couldn’t even intercept Kerry freakin’ Collins five times and he sure as hell didn’t have two Hall of Fame receivers.
All five interceptions were acts of pure grace, intelligence, and highly-skilled athleticism that only most cheetahs and Tom Hardy possess. It gets even better when you add the fact that Tampa’s defense scored more touchdowns than Oakland’s entire offense.
The Bucs basically made Gannon look like Nathan Peterman.
I tried to be cool and make GIFs of every interception, but literally every video of Tampa’s victory is copyrighted by the NFL and can’t be used (wait, what?). So, we’ll just have to use our imaginations until you decide to click on the hyperlink.
The first pick was a complete team effort after Greg Spires and Simeon Rice forced an errant throw by a scrambling Gannon. Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson stepped in front of the intended receiver and made the interception look easy.
Jackson reminded Gannon he was in the game again early in the second quarter after making a beautiful read. Gannon’s pump-fake couldn’t have sold a heater to an eskimo, let alone throw Jackson off course.
Dwight Smith took it up a notch in third quarter. He made the third interception of the game and got the scoring rally going with another great read off Gannon.
Then came the play of the game. This highlight is my happy place. Defensive MVP Derrick Brooks made the fourth interception of the game and put the game on ice with this marvelous pick-six.
And then ol’ Dwighty boy just had to do Rich dirty one more time and send the Raiders into a 13-year playoff drought.
It was the perfect ending to one of the best defensive seasons in NFL history and the Bucs will go down as one of the top Super Bowl defenses of all-time based off their performance.
I’d say it’s about time for another performance and would be more than happy to bring back John Madden to call the game if that’s what it takes.