The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a winnable game against the Indianapolis Colts after leading 12-6 at the half. The first-half lead was built on the back of Doug Martin, who rushed for 90 yards on just 12 carries. It was surprising, then, that he only ran the ball twice for five yards in the second half.
Obviously, much has been made of Martin's failure to get carries in the second half. Lovie Smith himself said yesterday on the Buccaneers Radio Network that he "would have run Doug more," per JoeBucsFan. That's a curious response, given that the Bucs' failure to run him wasn't due to any real decision by the Bucs but a logical result of game circumstances.
To see why, we only need to look at the sequence of plays in the second half. The Bucs ran the ball on the very first play of the second half, but saw that nullified by a very iffy holding penalty on Vincent Jackson. The result was first-and-20, a situation where running the ball for five yards isn't likely to do much. An incomplete pass to Martin gave them 2nd-and-20, and another down where they weren't going to pass. Third down failed and the Bucs had to pass. Officially, that goes down as zero carries on the drive -- but not for a lack of trying.
On their second drive, the Bucs again came out running the ball on first down for two yards. But Winston got sacked and lost ten yards on second down, setting up a third-and-18 failure again to Doug Martin and another punt. It wasn't until the Bucs' third drive that they really got a chance to run the ball, but they went to Charles Sims instead of the Dougernaut. That's standard operating procedure for the Bucs, though: every couple of drives, Sims gets to be the regular back. The drive stalled in field goal range when Winston missed Evans deep and the receiver then dropped a sure touchdown on a three-down series where the Bucs didn't run the ball, perhaps the only time they could have run the ball more. But even there they had the Colts defense beat, and poor execution was the only thing standing in the way of a touchdown.
On their third drive of the half, the Bucs started out with a big pass to Vincent Jackson and a Doug Martin run, but a sack on a second-down play produced third-and-long and another sack. Once they got the ball back there was only 5:53 left in the game and the Bucs needed to score two touchdowns quickly to have a chance of winning the game. At that point, Martin wasn't going to get any carries regardless of what happened.
In all, Martin got three carries in the second half, one of them nullified by penalty. That's not much compared to the 13 (one nullified) he got in the first half, but the discrepancy was more the result of circumstance than any oversight on the Bucs' part. Sometimes, games just go a certain way. Giving Martin one or two more carries likely wouldn't have done much, given the consistent run blitzes the Colts were sending, and there was never a realistic opportunity for more than five carries in the half.
The Bucs ultimately lost because their secondary couldn't stop Matt Hasselbeck's quick passing game, and pass protection couldn't handle the relentless pressure the Colts were sending Jameis Winston's way. Martin's absence looks bad, but it was more a consequence of the team's second-half struggles than a cause.