OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Rich Gannon threw three touchdown passes, ran for another score and generally lived up to his own MVP standards Sunday night in carrying the Oakland Raiders to their first AFC championship in 19 years with a 41-24 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Next Sunday in San Diego, Oakland and its league-leading offense will face its former coach along with the NFL's top defense in Super Bowl XXXVII. It will be the Raiders' fifth Super Bowl appearance.
Gannon was able to outperform Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair in a shootout that revolved around three turnovers by the Titans -- two of them coming late in the first half and the other at the end of their second possession of the third quarter.
Those miscues led to 13 Oakland points, wiped out a Tennessee lead and led to the Raiders' ninth win in 10 games. Tennessee had overcome a 1-4 start to move within one victory of its second Super Bowl trip in four years.
"We have some unfinished business and hopefully we'll play our best game next week," Gannon said.
Gannon, named the league's MVP this season for completing 67 percent of his passes for 4,689 yards and 26 touchdowns, drove the Raiders to scores on their first two possessions Sunday night. He hit Jerry Porter with a three-yard throw at the end of a 69-yard march and then found Charlie Garner with a 12-yarder to finish off an 85-yard drive.
Nevertheless, the Titans owned a 17-14 lead and had the ball in the final moments of the first half -- having a chance to add to their lead and also in position to receive the opening kickoff in the second half.
But Tennessee running back Robert Holcombe fumbled the ball away at his own 16 with 1:28 to play in the half and two plays later Gannon threw his third scoring pass of the game, a one-yarder to Doug Jolley with 60 seconds left before intermission.
That gave Oakland the lead for good and when John Simon fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, Oakland was able to tack on a 43-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski to make it 24-17. The Raiders' lead would have been greater had not Porter dropped a pass in the end zone, leaving Oakland having to settle for the Janikowski field goal on the final play of the half.
The Titans added to their woes early in the second half when punter Craig Hentrich was unable to get off a kick before an overwhelming Oakland rush got to him. Tennessee turned the ball over at its own 19, leading to a Jankiowski field goal of 43 yards.
Tennessee was able to climb back within three points on McNair's second rushing touchdown of the night, but Gannon then drove the Raiders 66 yards in eight plays and scored himself by scrambling around right end on a two-yard run.
Zack Crockett added Oakland's final touchdown on a seven-yard run with 6:29 to play to end a 69-yard, 10-play march. Other than the final 30 seconds of the game, when Gannon went to a knee to kill the clock, Crockett's score came on one of just nine running plays called by the Raiders all night.
Gannon completed 29 of 41 passes for 286 yards without an interception and also led the Raiders in rushing with 42 yards on seven carries.
There will be a host of stories at next week's Super Bowl, but the biggest will be the meeting of the Raiders and their former coach -- Jon Gruden.
Tampa Bay sent four draft picks and $8 million to Oakland so that Gruden could be released from his contract following the 2001 season and come to the Buccaneers. That move paid off Sunday when Tampa Bay defeated Philadelphia in the NFC championship game.
Oakland star receiver and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown will get to play in the Super Bowl for the first time and Jerry Rice will have a chance to add to the Super Bowl records he already owns of most catches (28) and receiving yards (512).
"I've been watching other people go to the Super Bowl for 14 years," said Brown, who has been with the Raiders longer than any other current player. "I finally get to go. We are going to go down there and take care of business."
McNair completed 21 of 36 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown while Eddie George, playing despite a concussion suffered in the divisional round last week, carried 15 times for 67 yards.
Oakland's Bill Callahan became the first rookie coach to lead a team to the Super Bowl since San Francisco's George Seifert did so 13 seasons ago.
But in the first flush of victory, Callahan tried to steer clear of the meeting between himself and his former boss.
"We're just excited to be going," he said. "It will be challenging for our team."
Until the turnovers late in the first half, Tennessee appeared poised to pull off the day's second big upset.
"I don't think I have to say much about him Steve," Titans Coach Jeff Fisher said of his gritty quarterback. "He battled through injuries all year to get us to this point."
McNair took plenty of hard hits from the Raiders, who committed 14 penalties for 127 yards.