Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Oakland Raiders news and notes

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."

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."

. 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.

   
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