After earning comeback victories against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Carson Palmer and the Raiders offense was unable to produce the same results against Tampa Bay’s defense.
Down 28-10 at the end of the third quarter, Palmer was able to find his tight end Brandon Myers for a four-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 28-17. The reception marked Myers’ first career NFL touchdown.
But the Buccaneers quickly fired back in a way that became popular throughout the game. Rookie running back and Oakland-born running back Doug Martin rushed up the middle for a 70-yard touchdown run. Martin finished with a career-high 251 yards and four touchdowns on just 25 carries. Martin had touchdown runs of 45 yards, 67 yards, 70 yards and one yard.
Raiders defensive end Dave Tollefson attributes the Raiders difficulties stopping the rush to execution.
“Sometimes it isn’t scheme or even effort, it’s just a matter of getting something done, getting it finished,” Tollefson said after the game.
Even after Martin’s third touchdown of the day Palmer and the offense refused to quit as they countered with a seven-play, 80-yard drive finishing up with another touchdown pass to Myers.
Oakland was still down 35-24 and needed a big stop on defense after a failed onside-kick attempt that gave the ball to Tampa Bay on the Raiders 44-yard line. The stop was provided by veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour as he dove on to a fumbled handoff between quarterback Josh Freeman and backup running back LeGarrette Blount. The fumble recovery gave the Raiders new hope as they took over on their own 35 yard line with 7:43 remaining.
Palmer, as he did against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, led the offense down the field as he orchestrated a 13-play drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass to fullback Marcel Reece. Reece hauled in eight receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown after only catching 10 balls through the entire first seven games.
Rookie wide receiver Juron Criner came down with the important two-point conversion following Reece’s touchdown. Palmer used his lower-body strength to fight off a sack and get the ball to the back of the endzone to Criner, bringing the Buccaneers lead to just a field goal.
With just under three minutes remaining, the Raiders defense once again came up big when they were called upon and forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to Palmer with a chance to tie or win the game.
After being patient and taking what the defense gave him, Palmer pressed and looked for the deep ball to rookie Rod Streater two plays in a row. The first ball fell incomplete, but the second ball found Tampa Bay Buccaneer Ahmad Black who returned the ball 34 yards to Oakland’s 22-yard line. Palmer appeared to be under pressure and was forced to get the ball off quickly, a result of a porous offensive line that was once again less than stellar.
“I think it was a combination of a few things. Carson had to get rid of the ball a littler quicker than he watned to,” Allen commented after the game. “I’m not sure exactly what happened on the route, but we’ll really have to look at the tape, but I do know Carson got rid of the ball a littler quicker than he wanted to.”
Oakland’s inability to stop the run comes after they were allowing just 102 yards per game cominginto the contest. The Raiders defense were able to contain Martin for the first half, limiting him to just 31 yards, meaning 220 of Martin’s 251 yards came in the second half. Allen attributes the poor rush defense to a combination of problems.
“We didn’t tackle well. I thought they did a good job of blocking. I thought the runner did a great job of running,” Allen said. “I think we had an opportunity to make a few plays and missed some tackles, and when you miss tackles on that guy he takes them for big gains. That’s exactly what happened.”
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Pat Lee had two big missed tackles on Martin that led to long touchdowns. McClain was able to fill the hole as he was assigned to do but completely whiffed on the tackle as Martin ran right by him for his first touchdown. Martin also escaped a tackle from Lee that led to Martin’s 70-yard touchdown.
The Raiders were once again unable to run the ball, especially after the loss of Darren McFadden to an ankle injury in the first half. Though x-rays were negative, McFadden did not return to the field and his status for next week is uncertain.
“He’s got an ankle. I’m not sure the extent to it. The x-rays were negative but we’ll have to obviously take a look at it and see where he’s at,” Allen said.
The loss of McFadden as well as being behind most of the game forced Palmer to throw the ball 61 times, the second most in Raiders franchise history behind Rich Gannon’s 64 pass attempts in 2002 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Palmer finished 39/61 for 414 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
“When we’re down two tailbacks at one point and have Marcel [Reece], a fullback, in there playing. They’ve got a good pass rush, a good front four that [does] a lot of movement,” Palmer said of the negative aspects of becoming one-dimensional. “They’re very good players up there and they can kind of pin their ears back and get after you a little bit.”
Amongst McFadden, Oakland also lost running back Mike Goodson (ankle), safety Matt Giordano (hamstring), and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant during the game. Bryant was taken to a local hospital prior to the second half as a precautionary measure for an irregular heartbeat.
Next week doesn’t get any easier as the Raiders head east to take on Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens.