Pewter Report's Dory LeBlanc examines five keys for a Buccaneers victory each week prior to the game. Following Tampa Bay's 42-32 win over the Raiders in Oakland, LeBlanc reviews her keys to victory and offers up her grades on each one.
Key 1. Make The Best Of A Bad Situation
Any team would feel the loss of All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, but the Bucs have a way of truly taking advantage of the next man up mentality as Jeremy Zuttah slid over to the left guard spot and ted Larsen started at center. Larsen played better than expected after taking the majority of his reps in practice at guard, but did have a false start in the second quarter on second down that backed the Bucs up and eventually led to Connor Barth’s missed 54 yard field goal.
Zuttah started off slow and was manhandled through much of the first quarter, letting a lot of pressure in on Freeman and not helping too much in the blocking game. The former Rutgers player seemed to remember he had more starts at LG than center and got back on track the rest of the game.
Despite the enormous amount of penalties on Tampa Bay (flagged 16 times), the only infraction by the O-Line was Larsen’s false start. Add that to Freeman being sacked once and the team rushing for 278 yards total, and you have to consider the offensive line’s performance a job well done.
Key 2. Keep Run DMC Quiet
Even before Darren McFadden’s injury that took him out of the game in the second quarter, he had seven carries for 17 yards. It may be somewhat unfair to give the Bucs an A+ for an injured player leaving the game, but the rest of the team rushed for five more yards, for a total of 22 rushing yards in the entire game.
Backup running back Mike Goodson, who was nursing a injured toe all week, left the game in the fourth quarter after having more production as a receiver (six receptions, 52 yards) than a runner (two carries, zero yards).
Taiwan Jones who did not carry the ball yet this season had one attempt for two yards and QB Palmer scrambled once picking up three yards.
Oakland only attempted to run the ball 11 times and there was a reason for it – the Bucs D was dominating the Raiders’ run game.
Key 3. Two Minute Warning
The Raiders took the ball back with just under two minutes left in the first half and after a brilliant one-handed grab by Darius Heyward-Bey, Bucs undrafted rookie Leonard Johnson saved a touchdown to Rod Streater by knocking the ball away in the end zone. Palmer attempted a pass from the shotgun to Streater on the left side which fell incomplete, but on the following play Streater beat E.J. Biggers in coverage on the right for a 25-yard TD reception as Palmer threw from the shotgun again.
Key 4. Maximize the Investments
On the first snap of the second quarter, Freeman threw a 64-yard bomb to his favorite target, Vincent Jackson. Unfortunately, the premier free agent receiver was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting and brought the ball back 15 yards. After a few Martin runs, Freeman tagged up with Jackson again for a 20-yard TD to put the Bucs on the board.
Freeman hooked up twice with Mike Williams in the second possession of the third quarter, the first a 37-yarder and then a 4-yard TD pass to put Tampa Bay on top 21-10.
Jackson was covered like a blanket for much of the game, forcing Freeman to look to his above-average No. 2 Williams. Each of Tampa Bay’s “Big Three” WRs, the third being Tiquan Underwood, caught half of their targets for a total of seven receptions for 164 yards and two scores, but when your rookie running back is having his way with the opposing team’s defense, there really isn’t a need to throw the ball constantly.
Without watching the game film to understand why, the biggest disappointment in the passing game was Dallas Clark’s two catches out of five targets for 22 yards. The first catch resulted in a first down, but the second reception for 12 yards brought up second-and-three as FB Erik Lorig’s false start penalty pushed the Bucs back to first-and-15 situation.
Overall, it wasn’t the best game for the receiving corps, but smart playcalling by Mike Sullivan had blocking tight end Nate Byham catch two passes for 15 yards – his first receptions since the 2010 season.
It will be said dozens of times over the next week, but when Doug Martin can run for a franchise-record 251 yards and four touchdowns, you don’t need to throw very much.
Key 5. Turn Oakland Negatives into Buccaneer Positives
Most people thought it was completely possible that there could be 16 penalties by one team in this contest; just no one thought it would be Tampa Bay.
Raiders QB Carson Palmer threw for a season-high 414 yards and four touchdowns, but also had three interceptions – two of which turned into Martin TD runs and the third resulted in Freeman taking a knee to end the game.
Oakland fumbled twice, but Jones recovered his own fumble and the ball ended up out of bounds on Marcel Reece’s fumble.
If Tampa Bay didn’t score two touchdowns off of Palmer interceptions, this grade would be much lower.
FINAL SCORE: 42-32
Reynolds: 26-23 Buccaneers
Cook: 20-16 Raiders
LeBlanc: 24-17 Buccaneers