Doug Martin carries the load and Charles Sims is the dangerous change-of-pace back known for his pass-catching prowess.
Those are the week-to-week roles Bucs fans can expect from the team’s dynamic duo in the offensive backfield, but last Sunday showed the capabilities of Martin the receiver.
The fifth-year back picked up a somewhat pedestrian 62 yards on 18 carries in Atlanta but that was only a portion of his productivity. Martin tied with wideout Mike Evans for the team-lead in receptions by securing all five passes thrown his way for an additional 34 yards.
Three times in his career has Martin caught five or more passes, including both Carolina games in 2015. Last year was also Martin’s first in a Dirk Koetter-engineered offense. He finished with 33 receptions for 271 yards and a touchdown.
Asked Wednesday if he expects to see the trend continue, Martin told reporters he doesn’t see why not.
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Martin said. “When a quarterback [has to scramble] the running back is your best friend. He realizes that and we love those. Running backs, we love space. So hopefully we get some more of those.”
Combined with Sims’ three catches for 32 yards, the Bucs running back tandem hauled in all eight of its targets for 66 yards. That also includes the electric 23-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Sims before halftime that put Tampa Bay on top for good.
That touchdown and the joint effort shows again what a Martin-Sims backfield can produce in this offense, even when the individual numbers don’t jump off the page.
“Chuck is a great running back,” Martin said. “He’s good catching the ball out of the backfield and that play right there definitely fired us up right before the half. It was in the two-minute drill and Chuck is capable of making plays like that and we’re glad to have him on our team.”
“It’s just not missing a beat, whoever’s in the game,” Sims said from the locker room. “Just picking up where the other guy left off.”
Atlanta made it an early defensive goal to slow down the Tampa Bay ground attack and did a fairly decent job of doing so. The Bucs averaged 3.2 yards per carry as a team after rushing for 90 yards and no touchdowns on 28 rushing attempts.
Despite the average statistics, the Bucs remained committed to the run throughout the game and Martin took four carries seven yards or longer, including a 17-yard pickup in the second half.
The Bucs stuck to the run last year and it paid off. Their 135.1-yard rushing average propelled Tampa Bay to No. 5 in the league in total yardage. That’s where Martin wants to get back to, starting Sunday in Arizona.
“It was a solid game,” he said of Week 1. “Going forward we’re going to do a lot better in the run game. It all works together. Play action opens up the passes, which it definitely did during this past game. I can’t wait to see what this offense can do.”