Ultimately, the Oakland Raiders simply could not stop Doug Martin. The Boise State rookie and Northern California native rushed for a Tampa Bay record 251 yards, and the Buccaneers held off the Raiders 42-32 to move to 4-4. The disheartening loss drops Oakland to 3-5 as the schedule picks up in November.
There was a lot of red ink all over the place for the Raiders, but the run defense was by far the biggest culprit. Tampa Bay rushed 32 times for 278 yards, an average of 8.7 yards per rush. Martin's four touchdowns were also a team record, and the Bucs gained a total of 515 yards against what seemed to be an improving defensive unit.
But somehow, some way, in spite of only accumulating 22 yards on the ground themselves, the Raiders charged back from two 18-point, fourth-quarter deficits to have a chance to win this game. Carson Palmer was largely brilliant, passing for 414 yards and four touchdowns on 39-of-61 passing. With 2:42 to play, the Raiders had the ball on their 38 with plenty of time to at least kick a tying field goal.
Instead, their bad play that had marred much of the first three quarters returned. A deep incompletion was followed by what looked like a miscommunication between Palmer and wide receiver Denarius Moore resulting in the fatal interception by Ahmad Black. Martin's fourth touchdown settled the score.
Keep History on Their Side
Entering the game, the Raiders were a perfect five-for-five against Tampa Bay at home all time, including four-of-four at the Oakland Coliseum. Well, so much for that.
No Matter Who Does It, Run the Ball
11 carries and 22 yards. Not going to get it done. I figured the Raiders would have tough sledding against a very good Tampa run defense, but when you only rush 11 times, it creates an imbalance. To Palmer's credit, he nearly pulled the Raiders out of this fire anyway, but expecting to beat a solid team with only 22 yards is just not feasible. At the same time, when you're getting next to nothing, it only puts the down-and-distance situation at a disadvantage. It ultimately was a catch-22 the Raiders weren't able to overcome.
Take Advantage of Tampa's Missing Pieces
Carl who? Missing All-Pro Carl Nicks, the Bucs ran at will on the Raiders front seven and largely kept Josh Freeman clean as a whistle—just a laughably bad job by the Raiders against an interior trio for Tampa Bay that all began the year as reserves.
On the defensive side, the now former Buccaneer corner Aqib Talib and Eric Wright weren't much of a factor. One, because Wright actually played despite facing a suspension. He wasn't very effective in stopping Darrius Heyward-Bey, Derek Hagan or Moore. Talib's replacement, Leonard Johnson, was probably the best of the bunch in the secondary for Tampa Bay. So Palmer statistically had a great day, but it wasn't because he was feasting on lesser players.
Play the Game Right, Fundamentally Speaking
Wrong. Three turnovers and nine penalties. And you can't even fault the referees—Tampa Bay was flagged 14 times for well over 100 yards. It was a fiercely fought but frightfully flawed game. But for the Raiders, sometimes, mistakes don't always involve penalties and turnovers. The inability to adjust to basically three power-running plays doomed the Raiders and probably cast aside any real postseason aspirations in 2012.
Another Last Call for Carson Palmer
This one had a chance to be even more accurate than I thought. After scoring 22 points in just over 12 minutes, Palmer and the Raiders had the ball in their hands to go win. Up to that point, he was absolutely sensational. His touchdown pass to Rod Streater was a thing of beauty. The accuracy, in the face of the Bucs pass rush, was remarkable.
Despite his gaudy numbers, Palmer couldn't make the plays when the game was on the line. To be fair, that's like blaming Michael Jordan for losing to the Celtics the night he scored 63 in the NBA playoffs. Without Palmer, the Raiders lose by 21-30 points. However, Palmer will be the first to tell you the quarterback gets the blame in losses, even if we all know that often shouldn't be the case. He was phenomenal, but Oakland needed once-in-a-lifetime play today.
Now 3-5, the Raiders have a daunting cross-country trip to Baltimore to face the bully Ravens next Sunday afternoon. To beat them, the Raiders will have to make their own history—much like Tampa Bay did Sunday—as they are winless all time against the Ravens on the road. Now trailing the Broncos by two full games, another loss probably ends any chance of a division title.