Stepping away from the flaming ruin that is NaNoWriMo 2012 so far…
If last week’s Thursday night game had the potential to be a letdown, this one had it even more. A longer week leading up to the game, a trip out west to a place where the Bucs have never won, perhaps a bit of overconfidence after beating the Vikings; this had all the earmarks of a classic egg-laying in the making. And while LeGarrette Blount and the defense did their best late in the game to lay that egg, the Bucs made the plays they had to in order not to waste the monstrous day had by Doug Martin.
As I watched him break off his third long touchdown run of the game, I couldn’t help but giggle in disbelieving delight. Each of his first three scoring jaunts was longer than the last one, and each showcased just why Martin is so damn good. He accelerated through his holes. He had the strength to break tackles and stiff-arm. He had the moves to juke one Raiders player into a leg injury. All behind a patchwork offensive line missing two Pro Bowlers.
Martin was just electric, which makes the decision to put Blount in for that one late series baffling, especially considering he promptly fumbled and put the Raiders right back in the game. Martin’s already supplanted Blount as the #1 guy; his fumble today might place Blount’s position as the #2 guy in jeopardy.
As for the defense, with the shambles the secondary has become, I’m not surprised Carson Palmer lit them up. It’s something the Bucs are simply going to have to deal with for the rest of the season. They finally have an offense that can outscore people, but it’s really going to put a lot of pressure on the defensive line and linebackers to get pressure, or else we’ll see more days like Palmer had, even if it was in defeat.
Some optimistic fans are talking playoffs, but I think it’s way too early for that. The Bucs have beaten one team with a winning record, a Vikings team that, between last week and their loss today, is being revealed as a bit of a fraud. They still have the Falcons twice, and I shudder to think what Matt Ryan will do to that secondary. Am I happy they’ve matched their win total for all of last season by the midpoint of this one? Yes. I’m just not ready to put them in the playoffs just yet. It’s too much too soon, and honestly, I’d rather enjoy the turnaround they’re having without than cast a shadow on it by getting up playoff hopes that might be dashed. Now, if it’s late December and the Bucs are still hanging around, I might let myself go a bit. But for now, I’ll just enjoy not being the total laughingstock the team was last year.