Bucs C Joe Hawley - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Jacquizz Rodgers’ overall effort and a Peyton Barber’s late 44-yard touchdown run will get the bulk of credit when it comes to the Bucs 250-yard day on the ground, and they deserve every bit that comes their way – but the offensive line may have been just as good.
Against the league’s 32nd ranked run-defense in San Fran – which was surrendering an average of 174 before Sunday’s game – the Bucs five-man front didn’t let up for a second. Rodgers, for the most part, was just running through the lanes that opened in front of him.
“We had a lot of confidence in our O-line, a lot of confidence in our tight ends, so the running game is not just the back,” coach Dirk Koetter said after the game. “There are a lot of people involved and it was no secret. You guys all pointed out over the course of the week that the 49ers had been giving up a lot of yards rushing. We’d be foolish if we didn’t try to run the ball.”
The strategy was clear from the first series, as Tampa Bay kept in on the ground for the first seven offensive plays. While a missed fourth-down conversion and an ill-advised interception ruined the opening two drives, the Bucs stuck to the game plan and eventually broke free.
After safety Bradley McDougald’s interception got the offense the ball back, Rodgers burst up the middle for 45 yards and it set Tampa Bay off for 179 yards rushing in the second half. Former Buc great and current Fox commentator Ronde Barber called the right side of the offensive line – Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith – “dominating” during the third quarter. Rodgers, favoring that side throughout the afternoon, would agree.
So would Koetter. With three different starting running backs this season, his offensive line has paved the way for the NFL’s 11th ranked run-team, averaging 115 yards on the ground through seven weeks.
“Obviously to rush it like we did today, those guys are doing a good job,” Koetter said. “You don’t rush for 250 or whatever it was if you’re not blocking somebody.”
Up next is Oakland, which is giving up 128 rushing yards on average (ranked 28th). Though the Raiders turned in their most complete defensive performance against the Jaguars on Sunday, holding the backfield to 72 yards, it should be noted that Jacksonville ran just twice in the second half while chasing points in the eventual 33-16 loss.
For Tampa Bay next week, against a better offense, it’s crucial to avoid getting behind the eight ball again to be able to keep the ball on the ground.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
If you rewatch the game or the highlight tape on Barber’s 43 yard TD run, you will notice Ali Marpet blocking two 49ers out of the play. Pretty good performance. The entire offensive line has been playing well this year.
I wonder if JR Sweezy will ever break into this lineup,
I wonder if the guy ever suits up for the red and pewter. I don’t think he will this year and will have to show his worth next off-season.
The way Pamp is playing I think Sweezy wouldn’t be able to unseat him this year. Let’s face it, Pamp has more experience at LG then Sweezy! So Maybe next year if he’s healthy, Sweey could go back to playing RG, and move Marpet to center. Would be a formidable interior line.
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