NFL Mismatches:
Super Bowl XXXVII

The Raiders might get the matchups they're looking for using the no-huddle offense, leaving the Bucs' secondary with little margin for error.

Updated: January 24, 2003, 2:08 PM ET
By by Ryan Early
In each week of the regular season, we previewed the biggest mismatch in each game that made an impact either through its exploitation or in changing a team's plans to try to compensate. For the postseason, we can concentrate more attention on each game and will highlight several mismatches for each contest. This year's Super Bowl features some great story lines, like Jon Gruden vs. his former team, and the league's best offense vs. its best defense. Too bad there was only one week to write about it all.

Buccaneers vs. Raiders
HC Jon Gruden vs. HC Bill Callahan
There's no question that Jon Gruden has an advantage in this matchup as he knows the strengths and weaknesses of a majority of the Raider players. He also knows the Raiders' coaching staff as he had to leave all of his assistants behind in Oakland when he was traded to the Bucs almost a year ago. While Bill Callahan certainly knows how his former long-term boss thinks, he'll still have had to spend plenty of time in the film room analyzing the Bucs players while Gruden was already at work devising schemes to take advantage of the Raiders' weaknesses (not that there are many.) You know both coaches were hard at work this week when they stayed behind an extra day to work on the game plan while the rest of the team traveled to San Diego. Then they both closed practice to avoid tipping off their opponents about the new plays that were being installed. Also, the Raiders have been playing less disciplined in the playoffs, mistakenly thinking that the referees would allow minor calls to slide. In their two playoff games, the Raiders were penalized 22 times for 197 yards, compared to 13 for 116 for the Bucs.

CB Ronde Barber vs. WR Jerry Porter
The physical Bucs cornerbacks will jam both Tim Brown and Jerry Rice at the line, preventing them from getting a clean release into their patterns. When the Raiders beat the Jets in Week 15, both Brown and Rice beat press coverage and combined for 156 yards. But just two weeks later against cornerbacks more in the Bucs' class, the Raiders lost to the Dolphins as their veteran receivers each finished with just three catches for 30 yards. The key to beating a Cover-2 scheme is to pressure the middle of the field, which the Raiders will do with TE Doug Jolley and third wide receiver Jerry Porter. Porter has really come on this season, catching 11 touchdowns, including the playoffs, though he dropped another score last week. He has the speed to get past the outside cornerback and get deep before the safety can slide over, and the Raiders use so much pre-snap motion that if the defense doesn't make the proper adjustment every time then Porter will get a big gain. The Bucs should counter that by putting their best cornerback, Ronde Barber, on him in man coverage. The Bucs have actually been playing much more man defense than normal recently and Barber had the game of his life last week in the NFC Championship Game. With four passes defensed, a sack, a forced fumble, we almost don't even have to mention the 97-yard interception return for a touchdown that sealed the win. While Barber's diminutive stature could pose a problem when leaping with the 6-2 Porter, there's little doubt that he will be right next to the Raiders' third-year receiver when the ball is in the air.

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