Digging Doug's big day
Doug Martin had a big day. You could tell by the smile the rookie out of Boise State wore as he left the field after setting franchise records for one game with 251 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. But he was hardly the only one who got a kick out of it.
In the Bucs' celebratory locker room, teammates buzzed about the league's third-leading rusher (behind the Vikings' Adrian Peterson and Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch) and his historic performance. Some actually attempted to put Martin's feats into words.
• WR Mike Williams: "On his (70-yard) run, he had just broken one, (the Raiders) went down and scored, and then he came right out and broke another one. So I'm blocking down the field, and I see Doug shoot out, and I'm trying to chase my man to block him. But Doug was gone. I told Vincent (Jackson), I was just laughing the whole way down the field."
• DT Gary Gibson: "That was like some high school stuff. It was amazing. Every time you looked up, he was in the end zone."
• LG Jeremy Zuttah: "We're so excited to see what he's going to grow into and become. He's going to keep building on this. And he makes our job easier. He gets a little crease, and he's just gone."
• DE Michael Bennett: "Pro Bowl. Period. Pro Bowl."
• QB Josh Freeman: "It's not only running the ball. There were a number of times where there might be blitzes coming and he just flat-out blew them up."
Jackson beats deep zone
The Raiders clearly heeded the big passing plays the Bucs had in recent weeks. They began the game playing a deep Cover 2 zone, designed to prevent the Bucs receivers from going deep.
But WR Vincent Jackson beat double coverage, making Tampa Bay's longest completion of the game with a 64-yard catch from Josh Freeman in the second quarter.
"It was just a double move," Jackson said. "It was third and (15). So whether we took a shot or complete it, we were backed up and we would have punted it. But Coach (Greg Schiano) believes in us, believes in Josh's arm. I gave the safety a good move, and both the safety and the corner bit on it. And Josh gave me a chance."
Jackson was called for taunting after the play but wasn't certain what he did to warrant the call.
No matter. Jackson made up for the indiscretion with a 20-yard touchdown reception three plays later, the Bucs' first score of the game.
The deep balls the Bucs have connected on in recent weeks actually loomed large Sunday, although the Bucs had fewer big plays in the passing game. Jackson explained why.
"They were trying to take away the deep balls, playing Cover 2 with the safeties real high," he said. "So you know what? In the second half, we tried to run the ball. And when we get them in that kind of a defense, it's a win for us. We block our guys, Doug (Martin) has a great day and it was awesome."
Freeman: My bad
The play could have changed the outcome. With the Bucs looking to put the game away, guarding a 35-24 lead, driving and at the Raiders 27 midway through the fourth quarter, QB Josh Freeman botched a handoff to LeGarrette Blount, putting it high into the running back's chest. Raiders DT Richard Seymour recovered.
Freeman took full blame.
"(The ball) was kind of slick," he said. "I thought I'd completely secured it, but it was a great job by LeGarrette almost getting it back. That's one thing we can't have. It brings the crowd back into it and gives them momentum."
The Raiders scored a touchdown with 3:51 left to cut it to 35-32, making things dicey until S Ahmad Black's interception and Doug Martin's last touchdown.
Freeman more than offset his one miscue. He finished with 247 yards on 18-of-30 passing and a quarterback rating of 108.6. It was Freeman's fourth consecutive game with a rating above 100.
Freeman threw two touchdowns and avoided an interception for the third straight game. That gives him 11 touchdowns and one interception over his past four games.
• One game after his team record of 25 consecutive field goals made ended, Connor Barth had two more misses. A 35-yarder in the first quarter was blocked, and a 54-yarder on the last play of the first half hooked wide left.
• Josh Freeman's 247 passing yards jumped him over Super Bowl winner Brad Johnson for fourth in Bucs history at 10,945. Freeman trails only Vinny Testaverde (14,820), Trent Dilfer (12,969) and Doug Williams (12,648).
• CB Leonard Johnson, a former Largo High star, recorded his second interception of the season in the third quarter.
• LB Levonte David's two tackles-for-loss give him a team-leading 11, two ahead of LB Mason Foster.
• DE Michael Bennett registered his team-leading sixth sack in the second quarter.
• Roscoe Parrish had punt returns of 20 and 26 yards.
• Tampa Bay held Oakland to 22 rushing yards (on just 11 carries) and knocked Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out of the game.
New line passes first test
The attrition along the Bucs' offensive line, which lost Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph (before the season) and Carl Nicks (last week) to season-ending injuries, has been significant. • But you wouldn't have known it Sunday. • After a few hiccups early that had QB Josh Freeman on the run, the makeshift line rebounded. • The Bucs opted for a starting lineup that included Ted Larsen at center and Jeremy Zuttah at left guard, where Nicks would have been. Zuttah's past success playing left guard led to the decision. And once he settled down, Zuttah made the decision appear wise. • "Any time you change positions, you have to get readjusted and get comfortable again," said Zuttah, who moved from center. "It takes time. But you just have to do it. There are a couple things I do well at guard, and we ran more of those plays in the second half." • The line's play was significant in the performance of RB Doug Martin, who rewrote the team record book. • "It's always hard when you lose a player, especially a Pro Bowl-caliber player (like Nicks)," Freeman said. "But (Larsen) at center and Zuttah at guard … we've won a lot of games with both of those playing. They know how to play and go out and get the job done. So there's no doubt in my mind."
Safety makes three big plays
Ahmad Black did a little of everything. If the safety wasn't making a tackle on a fake punt in the second quarter, he was recovering an onside kick in the fourth and making a game-clinching interception late. • It was an all-purpose kind of day for a player who is a key special teamer and a contributor on defense. • "Special teams is huge," the former Gator and Lakeland native said. "But I did that a lot in college. If you aren't playing special teams at Florida, then you aren't playing." • On the fake punt, P Shane Lechler passed to RB Taiwan Jones. But Black corralled Jones after a 6-yard gain, 7 shy of the first down. On the onside kick (after Oakland cut its deficit to 35-24) , Black saw something was amiss. • "They switched up some things. They had their fast guys over there and different guys over here. Something was up."
Secondary still a primary concern
The good news for the Bucs defense: It allowed just 22 rushing yards. The not-so-good news: the Raiders' 414 passing yards off Carson Palmer's 61 attempts.
It was not a pretty day in the secondary. CB E.J. Biggers was targeted throughout. Backup CB Myron Lewis played sparingly, and when rookie Leonard Johnson was shaken up, he promptly gave up a touchdown pass. Veteran Eric Wright was flagged for pass interference on a fourth down, preserving a Raiders drive capped by a late touchdown.
And with CB Aqib Talib now property of the Patriots after Thursday's trade, it's a lineup the Bucs are going to have to make the best of.
"There is no excuse," Biggers said. "We have to play until the clock says zero no matter how many times we have to cover. They're going to make plays. But we have to do our jobs and deny our man the ball. (The Raiders) made some plays. They have a great quarterback and some great players at receiver."
S Ronde Barber, in his 16th season, has seen it all. But even he said the 61 passes stressed a secondary with little depth.
"It's been a long time since I've been in a game with that many passes thrown," he said. "You just have to keep competing, and it's tough."
When a team throws that many passes, the opportunities for defensive plays are plenty. And the Bucs made enough to escape with a win. They intercepted Palmer three times, twice in the final three minutes.
And after struggling for much of the day, Biggers came away with the clincher with 1:43 left.
"This team, the coaches, they expect me to make plays when they come my way," Biggers said. "But at the end of the day, it's a team game and a team win. Guys are going to make plays if we keep fighting."
Johnson, undrafted out of Iowa State and a native of Clearwater, had his second straight strong performance. He got his second interception, jumping a route in the third quarter when the pass rush closed in and caused a hot throw by Palmer to WR Denarius Moore.