The calendar flipped to November but that didn't slow down Doug Martin or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL's hottest offensive player and team in the month of October. Martin ran for four touchdowns and a Buccaneer-record 251 yards to pace a 515-yard Buccaneer attack in a thrilling 42-32 road victory over the Oakland Raiders.
The onset of November signals the beginning of the playoff stretch, and the Buccaneers are now well-positioned to make noise in it with a 4-4 record, including three wins in the last four weeks. Tampa Bay is riding into that race on an offense that, for the first time in franchise history, has racked up at least 28 points for four straight games. Half of the 500-yard games in Buccaneer annals have come in the last three weeks.
QB Josh Freeman turned in another day of precision passing to lead that attack, topping a 100 passer rating for the fourth straight game. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 247 yards and had two touchdown passes against no interceptions, putting up a passer rating of 108.6 and also running for 22 yards. Over the last four weeks, Freeman has tossed 11 scoring passes and just one pick, and he has topped a 100 passer rating in each of those games. Freeman gave the Bucs their first touchdown by throwing a 20-yard TD pass to Vincent Jackson just a few plays after he and Jackson hooked up on a 64-yarder in the first quarter.
It was Martin who put up the most jaw-dropping numbers, however. Despite losing 14 yards on a trio of run-out-the-clock sweeps that had no chance of gaining yardage on the last drive, Martin tied for the 10th-highest single-game rushing yardage total in NFL history. He also became the first Buccaneer ever to score four rushing touchdowns in one game, and the first Buc in 27 years with four TDs of any kind on one day. TE Jimmie Giles previously had the only four-touchdown game in franchise annals when he caught four scoring passes at Miami on October 20, 1985.
Martin, the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month in October, is now just the second player in NFL history with 250 -rushing yards and four touchdowns in one game, joining Mike Anderson, who accomplished that feat for Denver on Dec. 3, 2000. Martin is the first player in league history with touchdown runs of 45 , 65 and 70 yards in a single game.
The Bucs trailed 10-7 at halftime but scored on the opening possession of the second half when Martin broke off a 45-yard touchdown jaunt. The Oakland offense continued to respond throughout the half but couldn't top Martin's exploits, as the rookie followed with two more touchdown runs of 67 and 70 yards.
The Buccaneers needed every bit of Martin's points, because the Raiders were able to rally to within three points late in the fourth quarter behind Carson Palmer's enormous day. However, second-year S Ahmad Black picked off Palmer's 59th pass of the day and returned it to the Raider 22 to set up Martin's fourth touchdown.
E.J. Biggers also picked off Palmer on Oakland's last drive and rookie CB Leonard Johnson had a momentum-changing interception in the third quarter, but Palmer still completed 39 of 61 passes for 414 yards and four touchdowns. He followed his 13-yard scoring pass to FB Marcel Reece in the fourth quarter with a two-point conversion lob to WR Juron Criner that brought Oakland to within three points with four minutes to play. That scoring drive came after the Bucs' only miscue on offense on the day, a botched handoff between Freeman and RB LeGarrette Blount that resulted in a fumble recovered by the Raiders.
Tampa Bay's defense bottled up explosive Raiders RB Darren McFadden early, and the Raiders went almost exclusively to the pass after losing both McFadden and backup Mike Goodson to injuries. McFadden had just 17 yards on seven carries and Tampa Bay's defense held an opponent to fewer than 25 rushing yards for the second time this season. Oakland had 22 yards on 11 carries, just slightly better than Carolina's 10 yards on 13 carries in Week One.
Rookie LB Lavonte David led the Buccaneers' defense with 16 tackles, including two stops for loss. Johnson, who picked off a pass for the second straight week, added six tackles and two passes defensed. DE's Da'Quan Bowers and Michael Bennett had the Bucs' two sacks of Palmer, although the Oakland quarterback absorbed a lot more punishment than that during the afternoon.
The Buccaneers' defense started fast again, forcing a three-and-out to open the game. Palmer threw on all three downs but completed just one for two yards to McFadden. Tampa Bay's first possession started with a 13-yard scramble by Freeman out of an empty backfield shotgun snap but the drive stalled after that and nearly ended in disaster. DE Andre Carter got behind Freeman on third-and-six and swatted the ball from his hand, but the Bucs were able to recover the loose ball and salvage a punt.
Two strong pass-rushes by Bennett helped the Bucs' defense force a second straight three-and-out, but a 58-yard Shane Lechler punt and a penalty on the return moved the ball all the way back to the Bucs' 10.
However, Tampa Bay used that as the starting point for what looked like it would be the game's first scoring drive. The march was helped by roughing-the-passer and horse-collar penalties on Oakland, both after successful offensive plays, and extended by a very sharp third-and-three pass to WR Mike Williams at the Oakland 20. Four plays later, K Connor Barth attempted a 35-yard field goal but it was blocked by DE Lamarr Houston, who also picked up the ball and returned it all the way to the Tampa Bay 44.
That proved to be a huge swing in momentum, as Oakland used that great starting spot to drive for the game's first points. Goodson's 11-yard catch over the middle got the ball to the 10, but the Bucs' defense held there, with Ronde Barber's near-sack of Palmer on second down the key play. Sebastian Janikowski started the scoring with a 29-yard field goal just before the end of the first quarter.
The Bucs' ensuing drive appeared to be in trouble when it fell into a third-and-15 at the 15, but Freeman had all the time in the world to wait for a deep pass to develop to Jackson, and it ended in a 64-yard game. Tampa Bay did lose 10 of those yards on a taunting penalty after the play, but two runs by Martin got it back to the Oakland 20 for a first down. On the next play, Freeman looked to Jackson again, dropping a perfect 20-yard TD pass into the back right corner of the end zone between two defenders.
Tampa Bay's defense appeared to force a punt from the Oakland 40 on the next drive, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty on Adam Hayward gave the Raiders 15 yards and new life. Moments later, a holding penalty on T Willie Smith erased a 47-yard touchdown pass and the Bucs were able to force another punt from midfield. As it turned out, it wasn't a punt but a fake, with Lechler throwing complete to RB Taiwan Jones on the right sideline. The Bucs converged too quickly, however, tackling Jones nine yards shy of a first down.
The Bucs didn't make anything out of that good field position, and eventually punted down to the Raider six. Bennett's sack kept Oakland from mounting a drive and a 20-yard return on the ensuing punt by Roscoe Parrish gave the Bucs' excellent field position. However, Tampa Bay's next drive also stalled, and the Raiders had one more shot from their own 29 with 1:42 left in the half. Unfortunately, they were able to make something out of it, starting with a 46-yard catch down the right sideline by Heyward-Bey. Two straight near interceptions made it third-and-10 but Palmer lobbed one down the right sideline again, this time to Rod Streater, and Streater hauled it in as he crossed the goal line for a 25-yard go-ahead score.
The Bucs had 1:14 left in the half to try to tie it, but they came up a bit short. Freeman's scrambling 22-yard strike to Williams on third-and-nine got the ball to the Oakland 38 and forced the Bucs to use their last time out. After a throwaway drained the clock to 16 seconds, the Bucs got it to the 36 on a Martin screen but Barth left his 54-yard field goal short.
However, by deferring after winning the coin toss, the Bucs got the ball first to start the second half, and made the most of it. A dazzling sideline catch by Dallas Clark and Freeman's third-down-converting pass to RB D.J. Ware near midfield set up Martin's big play. The rookie back started left, broke one tackle near the line of scrimmage to break free, outran one defender and then stiff-armed away the last potential tackler to complete his season-long 45-yard TD run.
That score put the Bucs on top, 14-10, early in the third period, and they got the ball back at their own 40 after a three-and-out by the defense and another nice punt return for 26 yards by Parrish. Moments later, Freeman converted a third-and-five with a 37-yard sideline pass to Williams, with Williams once again plucking the ball out of the air over a well-placed defender. An encroachment penalty on Houston on third-and-three from the 11 gave the Bucs a first-and-goal at the six, and two plays later an unhurried Freeman threw a perfect out pass to Williams for a four-yard touchdown.
The Raiders mounted an extended drive to follow that score, working underneath on a variety of screens and quick slants to get into Buccaneer territory. However, the Bucs blitzed on first down from their own 38 and Palmer was hurried into a back-foot throw that Johnson intercepted with a dive in front of intended receiver Denarius Moore.
That proved to be an incredible swing of momentum thanks to the team's other red-hot rookie. Two plays into the ensuing drive, Martin followed an outstanding block by RG Jamon Meredith and broke out into the clear to the left sideline. He juked out one final Raider defender inside the five to complete the 67-yard score.
The Raiders followed with a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended in four-yard Palmer TD pass to TE Brandon Myers. However, the Bucs needed only a few seconds to respond. On the second play of the ensuing possession, Martin broke free again, this time blasting through the middle and then out-running the rest of the Raider defenders for a 70-yard score. That marked the third time in the game that he had set a career-long run.
Using the clock to their advantage, the Bucs' played back on defense and the Raiders drove downfield again with a collection of underneath passes. A pass-interference call on E.J. Biggers made it first-and-goal at the one and Palmer found Myers again for a one-yard score to make it 35-24 with 10 minutes to play.
The Raiders tried an onside kick after that score but Ahmad Black leaped high to recover it for Tampa Bay. However, Oakland got the ball back quickly when, a few plays later, Freeman and Blount mishandled a handoff and Oakland recovered the fumble at their 35. The Bucs appeared to stop that drive at their own 37 when a blitz forced a fourth-down throwaway by Palmer, but Eric Wright was flagged downfield for pass interference, producing a new set of downs. The Raiders eventually scored on Reece's 13-yard scoring catch, then pulled within a field goal with a successful two-point conversion. DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim hit Palmer as he threw but the Raider QB was able to get off a desperation lob that was caught by Criner in the middle of the end zone.
Needing to get a first down to drain the clock, the Bucs instead fell into a third-and-12 and then incurred two straight delay-of-game penalties, pushing the ball back to the nine. After an underneath pass to Tiquan Underwood, the Bucs punted from their own 21 and CB Myron Lewis' strong coverage kept the Raiders at their own 38.
Palmer started up again at the Raiders' 38 but his second pass of the possession was intercepted deep downfield by Black, who ran it back to the Oakland 22. It took Martin three runs from there to get it into the end zone. Biggers' interception on the second play of the next drive ended Oakland's last chance.
- The Buccaneers deactivated the following seven players for Sunday's game: RB Michael Smith, CB Danny Gorrer, DB Keith Tandy, LB Jacob Cutrera, LB Najee Goode, G Roger Allen and WR Chris Owusu.
- Oakland's seven game-day inactives were QB Terrelle Pryor, CB Shawntae Spencer, LB Keenan Clayton, T Khalif Barnes, OL Lucas Nix, DE Jack Crawford and DT Christo Bilukidi. Spencer and Barnes were out due to injury.
- DE Lamarr Houston's block of Connor Barth's 35-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter was the first blocked field goal against the Buccaneers since 2010. Seattle's Craig Terrill also blocked Barth on Dec. 26, 2010.
- WR Vincent Jackson's 64-yard catch in the second quarter was Tampa Bay's sixth completion this year of 60 or more yards. That is already the highest number of 60 -yard receptions in a single season in team history, with seven games to go. The previous high was five, in 2003.
- RB Doug Martin's 45-yard scoring burst in the third quarter gave him a rushing TD in three straight games. He is the first Buccaneer to accomplish that since Earnest Graham set a franchise record with six straight contests with a rushing touchdown from Nov. 4 to Dec. 16, 2007.
- QB Josh Freeman threw for 247 yards against Oakland on Sunday and in the process moved into fourth place on the team's all-time list in that category. Freeman now has 10,945 passing yards as a Buccaneer, surpassing Brad Johnson's 10,940.