Martin, Bucs outlast Raiders for wild 42-32 victory
Roy Cummings, The Tampa Tribune, published 5 November 2012|
It was a little more than an hour east of here, in the backyards and sandlots of Stockton, Calif., where Doug Martin first got the idea he might be able to play a little football.
The way Martin tells the story, no one could beat him in a game of tag. He naturally figured if he could dominate in a game of tag, he just might be able to dominate in a game of football, too.
Looks like he was right.
With more than 60 of the family members and friends he used to run away from in tag cheering him on from a mezzanine box, Martin ran for 251 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Buccaneers to a 42-32 victory against the Raiders at the O.co Coliseum.
"Just about everybody was here," Martin said. "My mom was here, of course, and a whole bunch of family members and friends. Even some of my teammates from high school were here.
I'm just glad I could put on a good show for them."
It wasn't just a good show. It was a jaw-dropping, record-setting show. Martin's 251 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns and 272 yards from scrimmage all set Buccaneers single-game records.
Martin, the 31st overall pick in the April draft out of Boise State, also joined former Denver Broncos running back Mike Anderson as the only players in NFL history to rush for at least 250 yards and score four touchdowns in a game. He scored on runs of 70, 67, 45 and 1 yards, becoming the first back since at least 1940 to score three touchdown runs or at least 45 yards, according to STATS LLC.
"I really have to take a step back here and just look at it all," Martin said of running into the Bucs and NFL record books. "It's just surreal right now. I mean, I'm just trying to do my job out there."
The job Martin did in vaulting himself into third place on the NFL's list of leading ground gainers this season — and taking over first place among all rookie rushers — almost wasn't enough to secure the victory.
After Martin broke the game open and gave the Bucs a 35-17 lead with his 67-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and 70-yard touchdown run early in the fourth, the Raiders mounted a massive comeback, fueled in part by a fumbled handoff from Josh Freeman to LeGarrette Blount in the fourth quarter, the Raiders quickly closed to within 35-32.
On back-to-back Oakland possessions, though, rookie safety Ahmad Black and cornerback E.J. Biggers picked off Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer to help seal a victory that all but erased the Bucs disappointing 1-3 start.
At 4-4, Tampa Bay is a long shot to win the NFC South title, but its recent resurgence has put it back into the conversation about NFC wild-card contenders, even if coach Greg Schiano would rather avoid such talk. "We keep talking about being 1-0 (after each game), and if we can just keep doing that we're going to be in something," Schiano said.
"We're not naive to the fact that if you win enough games you get into the tournament. That's everybody's goal. But we break it down into 16 smaller goals, and that's what we've done a good job of here so far."
Count Martin among those who have done a good job in that regard. After producing 214 total yards in a nationally televised game at Minnesota last week that helped him earn NFL offensive rookie of the month honors, there was some concern among the Bucs that he might get a little complacent.
Martin, though, proved he can tack one good game on top of another, even if it requires making a minor fundamental adjustment along the way.
After watching him run eight times for 31 yards in the first half, Schiano told Martin he was dropping his head as he ran through the hole, which was robbing him of the balance he needed to turn short runs into breakout gains.
Martin made the necessary adjustment at the half, and the game quickly changed as he ran for 61 yards and a touchdown on his next three carries before breaking off the 67- and 70-yard TD runs.
"I was getting to the line stumbling on a few runs and then coach told me, ‘Just keep your head up,' " Martin said. "After that, I did what he said and it helped me keep my balance and then, it was off to the races."
Martin eclipsed James Wilder's single-game Tampa Bay records of 219 rushing yards and 239 total yards, both set against Minnesota on Nov. 6, 1983. With Martin setting the pace, the Bucs offense raced into the record books as well Sunday, becoming the first team in franchise history to score more than 28 points in four consecutive games.
"It's huge to have an offense like that," veteran defensive back Ronde Barber said. "We have forever been the kind of team that just stuck around and stuck around in games. But now we're taking control of games, we're scoring a lot of points and that's big. It's fun to be on this team and it's fun to watch a guy like Doug Martin have the kind of games he's been having here lately.
"We knew as soon as he got here that we had something special with him, so all the praise he's going to get after this is deserved. The kind of stuff he did today and last week, that stuff gives you a winning edge."