The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a productive, consistent and multi-dimensional running game for the first time since...well, since James Wilder in 1985. That was the last time the Bucs had any running back go over 1,400 yards rushing, or any player go over 1,800 yards from scrimmage. Doug Martin racked up 1,454 rushing yards and 1,926 yards from scrimmage last season. Martin's 2012 season was by all measures a historic year for Tampa Bay Buccaneers running backs.
Surely such a powerful running game helped Josh Freeman to post his own productive if inconsistent numbers?
Actually, it turns out, the answer may be exactly the opposite. According to Pro Football Focus, Doug Martin faced eight men in the box on just 16.3% of his carries, a number that ranks 27th in the NFL and well below the league average of 23.25%. The league leader was Frank Gore, who faced eight men in the box on a ridiculous 42.25% of all carries.
As much as Doug Martin was a consistent and sustaining element for the Bucs, it looks like he profited more from Freeman and the Buccaneers' passing game than the other way around. The Bucs' deep passing game apparently forced safeties back to limit their long gains -- something that, it should be noted, didn't even work all that well anyway.
People often claim that a quarterback is better with a good running game, but that relationship goes both ways.
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