This is why we love football. Nevermind how frustrating or gut wrenching a victory or defeat can be. It's the opportunity to see something you've never seen before. For Buccaneer fans, Doug Martin gave them that opportunity. Then the Bucs' pass defense nearly gave them a heart attack.
It was all in an amazing Sunday afternoon of football in the Road Warrior like scene at the place they call "The Black Hole".
But what did we learn from this crazy contest?
1. Doug is Boss. That was the breaking news headline Sander put up after yesterday's game and truer words were never spoken. Tell me Buc fans - do you realize what you witnessed yesterday? No running back in the history of the NFL has had 3 rushing touchdowns of 45 yds or more in a single game. Not Jim Brown. Not Sweetness. Not Barry Sanders or Gayle Sayers. Not Emmitt. Not AP. No one has done what Doug Martin did on Sunday.
2. The offensive line is going to be okay. It looked a little shaky in the first quarter without All-Pro guard Carl Nicks as Freeman got sacked and Zuttah got beat for a blocked field goal (I believe Nicks would typically be there). Once they settled down, the running lanes were opening for Martin and they did an adequate job protecting Freeman. Freeman wasn't enjoying the bountiful time he had with Nicks in there but Josh still had some time to make plays down field.
3. Speaking of Freeman, kudos to him for helping out his teammates by using his legs more than we've seen him all season. The Raiders were attacking Zuttah and Larsen with multiple blitzes. Freeman was able to break containment and gain some good yardage. Freeman also managed the game well and had his first game this season without a "WTF throw" or a worm burner. Free was pin-point accurate on the bomb to V-Jax and both his touchdown passes.
4. The Raiders, like the Vikings the previous week, tried to minimize the impact of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams by playing a lot of Tampa Two and Cover Two. When you run cover two - it takes a man out of the box and as we have seen - if you don't have 8 or 9 guys on the line of scrimmage to stop Doug Martin, he's going to hurt you bad. So defenses have to pick their poison. Either you play up in the box, slow down Martin but let Freeman beat you deep or you play cover two and let Martin tear you apart. Needless to say, its a lose-lose situation for opposing defenses thus far.
5. Let's pause for a moment to consider just want this offense has accomplished in the past four games. They are averaging 36 points and 476.7 yds per game over the last four contests (in which they are 3-1). Folks - these are Saints and Packers type numbers.
6. One thing the Bucs defense has proven is no lead is safe with this team. Up 18 points with 13:51 left to play, you should feel good about your chances. Instead, the Bucs found themselves scrambling for their lives at the end of the ballgame, clinging with slipping fingernails to a 3 point lead. If you didn't get a "Giants Game" vibe from this fourth quarter, you weren't paying attention.
Would Aquib Talib made a difference? Perhaps - but he wouldn't have played in this game anyway because he's a knucklehead and still had a game left on his suspension. Not to mention, the Bucs defense was on the field an awful lot in the second half thanks to Martin's runs and then the penalties/comedy of the end of the fourth quarter on offense.
Still, the Bucs secondary s-u-c-k sucks. If that doesn't tell Bill Belichick a lot about Aquib Talib - nothing will.
7. What is odd about the Bucs defense is for about a half - they can play lights out football. It's almost as if they run out of gas toward the end of the game. Must be the gauntlet.
8. One member of the secondary I am encouraged about is Largo native Leonard Johnson. Johnson played another solid game and frankly may push for more playing time over EJ Biggers (or opposite him if Eric Wright is indeed suspended for his Adderall usage). Johnson had another pick and was solid most of the day in coverage. He did get beat a few times - but when the opponent throws 61 times - some times your going to eat the bear, sometimes the bear will eat you.
8b. Myron Lewis - give back your jersey, playbook and helmet immediately.
9. I think we learned Carson Palmer has to be a frustrating quarterback for the Raider fans to watch. He did absolutely nothing for three quarters (with the exception of a touchdown in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half). Then he simply exploded in the fourth quarter, leading a furious Raiders comeback with 22 points in the final stanza. With momentum on their side and the football with plenty of time left to either tie or take the lead - Palmer tossed up a lollipop to Bucs FS Ahmad Black that stripped the Raiders of their momentum and set up Doug Martin's franchise record 4 rushing touchdown of the game - essentially salting it away.
10. How about Lavonte David? Lost in the Dynamite Doug performance and Carson Palmer doing his best Eli impersonation at the end was David again being all over the football field. The Bucs rookie finished with 16 tackles (14 solo, 2 assists) on a Sunday where defense certainly wasn't the story.