After Friday’s practice, Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer said he knew the Tampa Bay Bucs would be a tough opponent.
“This is a team a lot like us in that they started off slow, have got some momentum and they’re hot,” he told reporters.
Much hotter, it turns out, than the Raiders.
In a battle of two 3-4 teams Sunday at O.co Coliseum, the Tampa Bay offense tore apart what had been an improving Oakland defense in a 42-32 victory.
Though the Raiders rallied in the fourth quarter to make a game of it, scoring 24 points, they were no match for an explosive Bucs offense and their own crucial mistakes, including three interceptions thrown by Palmer.
Since coming out of their bye week, the Raiders’ defense had been much improved, playing well against a high-powered Falcons offense and then shutting down the Jaguars and Chiefs in consecutive victories.
But Tampa Bay proved it was a much better-quality team than the Raiders’ past two opponents.
Rookie running back Doug Martin of Boise State – a powerful 5-foot-9 package of speed nicknamed the Muscle Hamster – rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns in an unstoppable performance in the second half. At halftime, Martin had just 31 yards on the ground and no TDs, but in the second half he broke loose for touchdown runs of 45, 67, 70 and 1 yards.
The 251 yards rushing and four TDs in a game are Bucs franchise records. The total marked the second-most rusing yards ever given up by a Raiders defense (behind the 266 by Shaun Alexander of Seattle in 2001).
Meanwhile, quarterback Josh Freeman completed 18-of-30 throws for 247 yards and two TDs, including a 20-yarder to Vincent Jackson in the second quarter that wiped out an early 3-0 lead for the Raiders.
Oakland came back on Palmer’s 25-yard TD pass to Rod Streater just before the half for a 10-7 lead, but the third quarter was all Tampa Bay, with two long Martin TD runs sandwiched around a Freeman scoring pass to Mike Williams as the Raiders were outscored 21-0.
Oakland fought back in the fourth quarter on three Palmer TD passes – two to tight end Brandon Myers – but, with the Raiders back within three points with about 2:30 to play, Palmer was picked off deep in Oakland territory and the Bucs were able to put away the game on one last TD run by Martin.
In addition to the loss that drops Oakland to 3-5, trailing both San Diego and Denver now in the AFC West, the Raiders lost running back Darren McFadden to a leg injury in the first half, and he never was able to return. X-rays on McFadden’s leg after the game were negative, according to Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group, but his availability for next Sunday’s game at the Baltimore Ravens is uncertain.
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly also had to leave the game in the first half – possibly a factor in the collapse of Oakland’s run defense in the second half.