Johnson Ends With A Flourish
The Tampa Tribune, published 27 January 2003

The Super Bowl's winning quarterback remained as sturdy at his podium as he does in his pocket. In the aftermath of Sunday's game, when a reporter suggested to Brad Johnson his defense tells him how many points it will need each week for a victory, the NFC's top- rated passer took the offensive. Just like he has so efficiently the last three months.

``Listen to me, no one has ever told me how many points to score, all right?'' Johnson said. ``I've only said I need one more point than the other team. We've done that.''

Actually, they've done considerably more. Johnson's numbers during the season's second half have been well-documented. Sunday, he documented some more, going 18-for-34 for 215 yards while spraying the ball effectively among Keyshawn Johnson (six catches), Mike Alstott (five) and Joe Jurevicius (four).

``The offensive line did a nice job, but kudos to Brad Johnson tonight,'' Bucs general manager Rich McKay said. They got some free rushes on Brad early, but this is a guy who doesn't take sacks. He makes good decisions and gets rid of the ball quickly, and that's so important until we can establish an offensive rhythm.''

In one sense, Johnson has been establishing that rhythm since late October. Sunday's win was Johnson's eighth in his last nine starts. He finished the playoffs with 670 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in three games. ``You can't say enough about Brad,'' Keyshawn Johnson said. ``Brad didn't get credit from anybody all year long.''

``Offensively, we've held our own,'' Brad Johnson added. ``You look at what we did, especially the last half of the season, we averaged over 28 points a game. I'm not going to let anyone discredit this offense.''

For the second consecutive game, Johnson started off shaky, going 4-for-13 (for an 11.7 rating) in the first quarter. His second pass was intercepted by Charles Woodson after defensive end Regan Upshaw got a piece of his arm. ``We went through this [against] San Fran, went through this in Philly,'' he said. ``We just said, `Don't panic. Don't get caught up into one play.' ... We really got better as the game went on, especially in the second quarter.''

As Oakland's pressure on him waned and tailback Michael Pittman got untracked, Johnson heated up. His 5-yard TD pass to Keenan McCardell just before halftime capped a 77-yard drive and gave the Bucs a 20-3 lead. Another scoring toss to McCardell early in the third capped an 89-yard drive.

After Dwight Smith's 44-yard TD on an interception return two plays later, a rout was on, and Johnson's 13-year career had reached its pinnacle. ``It's an incredible feeling just to say for once in your life you're the best in the world,'' he said. ``It doesn't last very long, but for one moment, it's incredible.''