Brooks Closes The Deal
The Tampa Tribune, published 27 January 2003

Derrick Brooks failed to match Kenny Houston's NFL record of five interceptions returned for touchdowns in a season. That the NFL Defensive Player of the Year added his fifth in the Bucs' 48-21 victory against the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII was better than any old record.

``I'm just glad it came in the Super Bowl and a Super Bowl we deserved to win,'' said Brooks, whose interception and 44-yard return with 1:18 remaining thwarted the Raiders' rally.

Brooks' fifth interception/touchdown will not count in the record book, which only includes the regular season. But he was basking in Tampa Bay's victory while reflecting on how far the franchise has come since he was selected in the first round of the 1995 draft.

``I just want to thank God for the moment and realize that this is a very special feeling,'' the Pro Bowl outside linebacker said. ``We were able to set the momentum early and hold it throughout the whole game.''

One reason the Bucs defense was able to grab an early edge was the play of the Scout Team quarterback. Turns out Bucs coach Jon Gruden imitated Rich Gannon during Thursday's practice to help his No. 1 defense get to know the Raiders quarterback better. ``We were embarrassed because he completed a couple of passes against us,'' Brooks said.

More importantly, Gruden helped the Bucs defense get used to how Gannon called plays from under center. ``Some of the same words Coach used in practice, Gannon used in the game,'' Brooks said. ``We knew exactly what was coming.''

Raiders guard Frank Middleton realized the defense knew what was coming at times. ``We had a couple of keys. When they saw them, they checked to audibles,'' Middleton said. ``They knew what was coming. Advantage them.''

That edge started disappearing in the second half as Gannon connected on a pair of TD passes and the Raiders scored off a blocked punt. But Brooks interception stopped any thought of a last-minute miracle. ``We just kept telling each other to pound the rock,'' he said.

``This defense kept bringing it and bringing it. I was able to read the quarterback and pick that pass off. Coach [Monte Kiffin] is always talking about bringing out your closer. I kept seeing myself picking off a ball all night. I was close all night. I knew one time I was going to get it. Thank God I was able to get it on that last drive.''