By Max Luckan
In a battle of two of the more physical teams in the NFL, the offensive definitely showed up on Sunday for both sides. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly edged the Oakland Raiders 42-32 in a game that was fairly close for the most part. The Raiders made a late push to tie the game, but came up just short after converting a two-point conversion that cut the lead to 35-32 with 3:51 left. The game was wild, thrilling, and full of penalties. Doug Martin was the key component for the Bucs and Carson Palmer played extremely well for the Raiders after struggling early. An E.J. Biggers interception late sealed the deal.
Head coach Greg Schiano is a rookie head coach. But he certainly understands the game of football, and has acclimated well to the NFL, although he’s had some controversial calls. In this week’s game against the Raiders, the coaching was adequate. Although the Bucs didn’t end up needing many timeouts in the second half, Schiano burned two early in the third quarter, which could have proved to be crucial in a close game.
The game plan was well-executed. The Bucs wanted to run the football and they did so successfully. Quarterback Josh Freeman was able to take a few shots downfield and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan dialed up the right calls at the right times. On defense, Bill Sheridan blitzed when he needed to and Raiders’ QB Carson Palmer was under heavy duress at times.
The discipline was lacking at times and that was evident with the multitude of penalties that the Bucs racked up. Overall, the coaching staff didn’t make any glaring errors and the end result was a big win.
Poor clock management at the end of the game resulted in two straight delay-of-game penalties, which is absolutely unacceptable in a close game. The coaching staff should have called a timeout, but instead let the play clock hit zero twice. Grade: B+
A 64-yard completion to receiver Vincent Jackson. A 37-yard completion to receiver Mike Williams. And for good measure, a 70-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Doug Martin. The Bucs offense was superb against a banged up Raiders’ defense on Sunday.
As was the case in last Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, Martin was the highlight of the show again, rushing for 251 yards and four touchdowns. No, that’s not a typo.
The Bucs didn’t need to heavily rely on Josh Freeman and the passing game because Martin carried the offense. Literally. Martin ran over the Raiders’ defense all game long, and he has really improved over the last couple of weeks for the Bucs.
Meanwhile, Freeman quietly threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns, but the highlight was the rookie Martin.
The offense was clicking on all cylinders even without left guard Carl Nicks, who was lost for the season. Jeremy Zuttah played well in Nicks’ place and Ted Larsen filled in nicely at the center position. Grade: A+
Even though DE Michael Bennett was shaken up twice in the first half, he played well and put constant pressure on QB Carson Palmer throughout the game. DE Da’Quan Bowers, who was more involved on Sunday, also was a disruptive force and forced Palmer to make some rash decisions.
Rookie LB Lavonte David practically lived in the Raiders’ backfield on Sunday. David made a few tackles for losses, and didn’t make any glaring mistakes in pass coverage. But the secondary was, again, inconsistent. For the Raiders’ first touchdown, cornerback E.J. Biggers was torched by Rod Streater on a perfectly thrown ball by Carson Palmer.
But LB Quincy Black and rookie CB Leonard Johnson, who had an interception, also stepped up on Sunday for the Bucs. Black made a few key stops and Johnson defended well most of the game. Moreover, the Bucs didn’t allow the big runs, which has been a reoccurring theme this season for their defense. Grade: B+
The Bucs had a few questionable moments on special teams against the Raiders, and a few good moments as well. Kicker Connor Barth had a field goal attempt blocked early in the first quarter, missed a 54-yarder at the end of the first half, and Adam Hayward was called for a roughing-the-kicker penalty, which resulted in a Raiders’ first down earlier in the first half.
Punt returner Roscoe Parrish had a couple solid returns and the punt coverage was excellent. In the first half, wide receiver Arrelious Benn was able to pin the Raiders at their own six-yard line.
All in all, the few mistakes on special teams didn’t lead to anything significant for the Raiders, but the few miscues probably won’t make Greg Schiano very happy. In the kicking game, the Bucs missed a few opportunities for points. Grade: C-
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Max Luckan is a freelance writer covering all things Tampa. Hia work can be found on Examiner.com.