Most interesting comparison
Even before Sunday, there were whispers inside the halls of One Buc Place that rookie running back Doug Martin reminded some of another bowling ball who wore No. 22: Emmitt Smith.
Let's not get too carried away here. Smith is the leading rusher in NFL history. He was great for 226 games over 15 seasons. Martin has played eight games.
But, just for fun: Martin had his first 200-yard rushing game Sunday — his eighth game. It took Smith 53 games to get a 200-yard game. It took Walter Payton until his 34th game. Barry Sanders didn't get his until game No. 42.
Martin posted his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in his seventh and eighth games. Smith's first back-to-back 100-yard games didn't happen until games 17 and 18 of his career.
Back and forth
Martin actually was up to 265 yards rushing at one point, but he lost 14 yards on his final three carries as the Bucs were running out the clock. The 265 rushing yards would have placed him eighth on the NFL's all-time list. He finished with 251 and tied for 10th.
And don't think Martin rolled it up on a team that can't play defense. The Raiders came into the game ranked 11th in the NFL against the run.
The Bucs secondary came up with three interceptions, but we got another sneak peek at what life will be like without cornerback Aqib Talib. The Raiders clearly targeted cornerback E.J. Biggers, and the Raiders' Carson Palmer ended up passing for more than 400 yards — the fifth time in eight games the Bucs have allowed more than 300 yards through the air. Scary when you think that the second half of the season includes dates against Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan (twice).
Over the past four games, Josh Freeman's average has been 19-of-34 for 314 yards. In that span, he has 11 touchdowns and one interception. Sorta, kinda looks like a franchise QB, don't you think?
Three things that popped into my head
1. Imagine what kind of day Martin might have had if All-Pro guard Carl Nicks had played.
2. The presence of receiver Vincent Jackson alone has made every player on the Bucs offense — particularly Freeman, Martin and receiver Mike Williams — better.
3. The Bucs nearly blew Sunday's game because of a LeGarrette Blount fumble, but don't knock the running back. That turnover was Freeman's fault for placing the handoff too high.
Not to rain on the parade, but last season's Bucs were 4-4 at the halfway point, too. This 4-4 does seem a bit more sturdy.