Break It Down: Doug Martin’s tale of two halves
Doug Martin had all of 31 yards rushing on eight carries in the first half of Tampa Bay’s Week 9 game against Oakland. His longest run over the opening two quarters: 13 yards. His shortest carry set the Buccaneers back seven yards.
For 30 minutes of game action, the Raiders did what they needed to against Martin and his teammates — Oakland took a 10-7 lead to the break.
And then, Martin went off.
As part of a 35-point second half by the Buccaneers, Martin took carries to the house from 45, 67 and 70 yards. On his 17 rushing attempts after halftime, he totaled 220 yards, giving him 251 for the game.
What happened? How did the Raiders go from slowing down Martin to watching him run wild like he never had before in his short NFL career?
It only happened because of a perfect storm of improved run blocking from the Bucs, atrocious tackling and safety play from the Raiders and Martin flashing the skills that made him a first-round pick. We take a closer look in this week’s “Break It Down”.
Before trying to figure out what happened in the second half, let’s glance at how Oakland got the job done early. Martin had just 10 yards on five carries in the first quarter, and a shot from one of those rushes — a short, 2-yard gain, provides some idea why:
The Raiders had great numbers at the line there, despite playing with one very deep safety, as they did for most of the game. There are seven X’d defenders in that picture, at least two of which have come off their blocks. Martin, as the Raiders later found out, does not need huge openings to make something happen, but he had nothing in front of him here.
Notice also Tyvon Branch (red arrow) closing off the backside, taking away Martin’s ability to bounce outside the tackle box.
Martin’s worst carry of the day came just before the first half’s two-minute warning. He took a handoff from Josh Freeman, tried to stretch his run to the left and wound up being dropped for a loss of seven.
The orange line in the snapshot below is the line of scrimmage. When Martin received the ball, two Raiders’ linemen had pushed several yards into the backfield, including Lamarr Houston (red arrow), who came unblocked off the left edge to make the tackle.
As on that first play we highlighted, there’s no push at all from Tampa Bay’s front — in this case, eight Raiders defenders are within three yards of the line of scrimmage, and not one of them is being driven back by a blocker.
To say that things changed in the second half is a massive understatement.
Martin’s first carry in the third quarter went for 10 yards and, frankly, Oakland is fortunate it did not gain more. As they did throughout the game, the Raiders brought eight defenders on the play — leaving just two cornerbacks and a deep safety back, in case of a play-action pass.
As opposed to Martin’s first-half carries, though, the Bucs managed to seal off Oakland’s defenders here. Again, Tampa Bay opted to forgo blocking on the right side of the line, this time allowing Tommie Kelly free entry into the backfield as Houston dropped into a short zone.
But unlike the second-quarter run that resulted in a seven-yard loss, the Buccaneers created a gap for Martin to the outside.
His next carry, on the drive’s very next play, was more of the same.
Oakland stacked seven in the box on that play, dropping into a Cover-2 defense. Tampa Bay did not necessarily dominate up front after Freeman handed off to Martin, but every Buccaneers run blocker locked up an Oakland defender, leaving the smallest of openings for Marting to squeeze through for six yards.
Those two runs set the stage for Martin’s first touchdown: a 45-yarder up the gut. Again, the blocking was nothing sensational — there were no Raiders defenders getting pancaked to the ground, and the hole Martin scooted into was little bigger than on his previous carry.
But the Raiders were no longer getting that push up front that allowed them to get into the backfield early, nor were they beating Tampa Bay’s linemen cleanly. That’s all it took for Martin.
Which brings us to what happened Sunday once Martin cleared the Raiders’ front seven. In short, the ensuing incidents became a combination of terrific athleticism from Martin and downright miserable defense from Oakland.
Once Martin made it through the line on that first TD run, both Branch and Matt Giordano were waiting for him. This should have been a play that resulted in about an 8-to-12-yard gain. Instead, Giordano took a terrible angle to Martin, who cut to the sideline and then won a footrace to the end zone.
The similarities between Martin’s first TD run and his last two are numerous.
Here’s No. 2. Think back to Martin’s initial second-half run, where the Buccaneers basically allowed Oakland’s D-line to push into the backfield to Freeman’s right because of a run play designed to head the other direction.
Same thing here. The Raiders had a little push, but all it did was take defenders out of the play. As a result, Martin had a hole to pop through, with only Michael Huff between him and a huge gain.
Huff missed the tackle, sending Martin free into the secondary. With Oakland again in a one-deep safety look, a footrace was then on between Martin and Giordano.
Giordano appeared to have the edge; Martin simply outran him.
Finally, that third touchdown — Martin’s longest of the day at 70 yards (he later added a 1-yard TD to put Oakland away late).
Upon first glance, the Raiders appear to have restored some defensive positioning. The line of scrimmage for the play was the 30, and at least five Raiders defenders are at or beyond that line.
Donald Penn (No. 70, on the ground), though, managed to provide just enough of a block to knock two Oakland defenders off-balance. The other Buccaneers’ linemen took care of the rest, sealing off five defenders and opening a huge cutback lane for Martin.
But again, this is a play that should have resulted in a decent game … and nothing more.
Even once Martin cleared the line, there are three Raiders defenders that appear to be in position to clamp down on him.
Martin turned on the after-burners and Oakland’s safety again took too shallow an angle to the football, allowing the speedy running back space to slide to his right and hit open field.
And one more time, even as Oakland’s defenders seemed ready to track him down, Martin left them in his wake.
A slight variation in any one element — Tampa Bay’s blocking, Oakland’s tackling or Martin’s vision and speed — would have severely limited what Martin accomplished in the second half.
Instead, once Oakland stopped winning easily at the line of scrimmage, Tampa Bay took control. A lesser back might not have been able to turn those small holes and one-on-one sprints into touchdowns, but Martin is a unique talent.
The Raiders had chance after chance to repeat their first-half success on defense. Martin made sure they didn’t.