At one point in Sunday’s game, rookie running back Doug Martin was threatening the all-time single-game rushing record of 296 yards held by Adrian Peterson. After being kept relatively quiet by a Raiders defense capable of some quality play on their day, Martin was sitting on just 47 rushing yards early in the third quarter before exploding for touchdowns of 45, 67, and 70 yards over the next fifteen minutes of football.
That extra 182 yards put him within touching distance of the record early in the fourth, but a turnover on a botched exchange between Josh Freeman and Martin’s backup LeGarrette Blount turned the ball over and he finished the day settling for ‘just’ 251 on his 25 carries.
So how did the Oakland defense that had played relatively well over the first half of the game capitulate so completely in the third quarter? We’re going to take a look at his three big touchdown runs and analyze exactly what went wrong for the Raiders, and what went so right for the rookie runner sporting the worst nickname in the history of humanity: ‘Muscle Hamster’.
45 Yards – Tampa Bay @ Oakland | 3rd Q, 12:18
On 1st-and-10 Martin breaks a run off LG, taking it to pay dirt to give the Bucs the lead at 14-10.
This is the first of Martin’s three big runs in the game. It is the first time the Raiders’ defense really lost contain of the runner and it started the collapse for Oakland in the second half. As you will see from the image below, the Raiders make it easy for Tampa Bay with their defensive alignment on this particular play.
Their defensive end to that side of the ball, Andre Carter, is aligned wide to the right, well outside of the left tackle, but the nearest defender inside of him is the defensive tackle shaded to the center’s left shoulder. Oakland has given the Bucs a massive gap between those two defensive linemen to exploit before the ball has even been snapped. As it happens, this is exactly the point of attack the Buccaneers are going to target, and they have the play designed perfectly to pick up the linbackers whose job it is to fill that abnormally large hole on the defensive line.
At the snap LT Donald Penn takes Carter upfield from his wide alignment and LG Jeremy Zuttah down blocks DRT Desmond Bryant to open up a huge gap. The linebackers to that side for the Raiders need to crash down and fill that space, but the Bucs have accounted for both of them in the play design. They pull their RG across to lead through the hole and he drives No. 56 Miles Burris clear once he makes contact.
MLB Rolando McClain is the only other player standing between Martin and a big run, and the Bucs have the lead block of FB Erik Lorig coming to pick him up, but Lorig actually misses him entirely as he drives through the hole and ends up simply plowing into the back of the pulling right guard. As it happens, Tampa Bay caught a break because McClain seems entirely unaware of who has the ball and runs right by Martin in the hole looking in another direction entirely. Oakland had a chance to stuff this run at the line of scrimmage when Lorig missed his assignment, but McClain blew his as well.
At this point, Martin is 15 yards down field before he has to do anything, then he makes a hard cut to his left to leave FS Matt Giordano flat-footed, finally stiff-arming Tyvon Branch to the ground inside the 10-yard line. The majority of the hard work on this run play was done at the line of scrimmage, with Martin having a 15-yard run created for him by a combination of strong blocking and inept defending up front, but as with most big runs, the difference between a big-time first down and breaking one to the house is what the runner can do once he finds himself at the third level of the defense. In this case, Martin rendered the attempts of both safeties useless and finished the run off all by himself.
67 Yards – Tampa Bay @ Oakland | 3rd Q, 2:27
On 2nd-and-9 Martin runs around left end 67 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 28-10.
Martin’s second big run of the day. This was the play that put Tampa Bay firmly in the driving seat, even if they then did conspire to let the Raiders come back into it late and threaten the comeback. On this play the Raiders are under shifted up front, with the defensive line aligned all the way to the weak side of the formation. This again leaves the linebackers and defensive backs to try and compensate on the strong side of the formation, which is exactly where the Bucs are running. Penn this time seals the DRE in, allowing the two tight ends and full back to take on the linebackers and defensive backs, along with help from the pulling RG.
The linebackers are taken out by the combination of the tight ends and pulling guard, and Lorig does a fine job sealing Branch to the outside, giving Martin a clean hole with the exception of Pat Lee, the corner to that side, being left as the unblocked fill defender.
Lee has a chance to make the play with Martin just a yard past the line of scrimmage, but he just can’t make it happen, and from that point on the ‘Muscle Hamster’ is off to the races with only Giordano having any chance of preventing the touchdown. As it happens he is able to simply cut inside the free safety at the 5-yard line, putting Giordano to the ground without even really touching him, and sending him out of the game with an injury in the process.
Again this run is a combination of impressive blocking up front from the Bucs and Martin making things happen. Tampa Bay blocks well within the scheme, with every man taking care of his assignment well on this play, but despite all that, the Raiders had a chance to stuff this run for little gain with an unblocked defender in the hole. But when that unblocked defender is a corner, you always run the risk of a blown tackle, and Martin barely slows down as he cuts and pushes off Lee as if he wasn’t there. Once that tackle is broken Martin is able to simply outrun the pursuit and make it 60 yards downfield before he has to do anything else, cutting inside for the touchdown. Though the Raiders didn’t excel on defense on this play, they should have had it covered, but a one-on-one between Lee and Martin went against them.
70 Yards – Tampa Bay @ Oakland | 4th Q, 14:03
On 1st-and-10 immediately following a Raiders touchdown, Martin breaks off a 70-yard touchdown to restore a 18-point lead.
Oakland had just scored a touchdown to reduce the deficit to 11 points, but on the first play of the next drive, Martin sticks a dagger through their hearts and pushes the margin back out to 18. This play is nice execution from the Tampa Bay blocking, but of these three plays this one perhaps owes the most to Martin’s effort, because he still has a lot of work to do to take advantage.
It is a designed cutback run to the left side of the formation, and once Penn cuts down DRT Richard Seymour, it opens up the lane for Martin to knife back into. DRE Matt Shaughnessy doesn’t have the speed to catch him once he has to run around the block of Penn on Seymour and that breaks Martin to the second level of the defense, where yet again the Bucs have effectively neutralized the Oakland linebackers. Both linebackers are swallowed up by offensive linemen getting to the second level, and Branch has taken himself out of the play by shooting up to fill the hole at the wrong side of the line before Martin’s cutback.
Once again Martin finds himself through to the third level of the defense in a flash and again the Raiders only have one player that can stand between him and the long touchdown. Unfortunately, Michael Mitchell, in at safety after Giordano injured himself, takes a terrible angle of attack and can only dive forlornly at Martin’s feet as he scampers past into a footrace to paydirt. He is being chased down by a combination of Lee, Branch and Michael Huff, with Lee the first player to get there at about the 25-yard line, but instead of attemtping a tackle he tries to tomahawk chop the ball out instead. Martin feels the heat coming and breaks back to his left, allowing Lee’s diving lunge to take out the other two chasing defenders and end Oakland’s chances of stopping the touchdown.
Once again we find the perfect trifecta of excellent execution from the Tampa Bay blocking, a fantastic mix of speed, cutting and explosion from Martin, and at least one inept piece of defending from the Raiders in the angle of Mitchell, and — depending on how harsh you feel — the diving attempt from Lee when simply bringing him down was the better option.
Each of these runs demonstrates how many things need to happen for even a well-blocked run to go the distance. No matter how well executed initially, the only way it is going all the way is if the runner can then make things happen at the third level and break away from the defenders supposed to be the last line of defense. On all three occasions Martin was able to evade those defenders and finish the runs, gouging the Raiders each time for a touchdown.