By Live Adam
Being in Tampa for the game was fantastic. A quick recognition to the Bucs fans who were seated near me and were (for the most part) very civil (as was I) throughout the twists and turns during the game.
The game itself I think was telling about the direction the Raiders are heading. There were still inconsistencies and some bad plays, but they hung in there and pulled out a road victory against a team fighting for a playoff spot. If the Raiders can start 2009 well, we’ll all be pointing to these Houston and Tampa Bay games as the starting point, if not the Denver game earlier.
The Raiders played a great first quarter. While neither team managed to do much on offense, the Raiders were consistently winning the field position battle, pinning Tampa deep in their own zone. The fact that the Raiders outfought the Bucs in the first 15 minutes had a significant impact on the momentum and outcome of the game.
In the second quarter the Raiders drove the ball well. Their first score was completely the result of great play by Michael Bush and the O-line. Unfortunately, the Bucs answered right back with a strong drive, highlighted by the broken play to Clayton then the great run by Cadillac Williams. Thankfully, the Raiders methodically drove the ball down the field, capped by a beautiful throw and catch from Russell to Schilens. Russell just barely got the ball out in time, and Schilens beat Rhonde Barber inside on the slant. The really impressive thing was that it all occurred within 2 minutes before the half. Fantastic developments.
Third quarter the Bucs got some of the momentum back, holding us while scoring the tying TD on a big Clayton catch. Initially it looked like Justin Miller was the one who had gotten beat, but the replay showed that he played it correctly, bumping at the line, and it was the safety (not sure who) that did not cover the play correctly. If we had lost, I would have been mad, but whatever.
The fourth quarter was really entertaining, if not completely unnerving. On the Raiders’ first possession Russell basically threw two INTs, one of which was called back by a penalty. The one that counted was pretty bad, and at the game I couldn’t tell if he overthrew Miller or underthrew the receiver on the outside (highlights confirm that he overthrew Miller, a tough throw to begin with.) Once Williams broke off his second TD run and put the Bucs up 10, I was thoroughly depressed. It didn’t last long though, as the Raiders marched down the field again and scored, capped by one of Russell’s prettiest passes of the day and a fantastic route run by Johnnie Lee Higgins (in, buttonhook, out). Not only that, but I was dying laughing when he went into the Robot (went along fantastic with the other two last week).
Next came the 4th and 4 play, where I thought for sure the Bucs were trying to make the Raiders jump then call a TO for a FG attempt, but instead Clayton dropped Garcia’s pass. Next play from scrimmage – ECSTACY as Michael Bush broke off a 67 yard run for a TD to put the Raiders up for good. Go onto NFL.com and look at the replay of that run, Robert Gallery puts on two massive blocks, including the one that lets Bush cut back inside just a bit and take it to the house. Fantastic.
Then, on the last drive, more hairpulling on my part, mostly because that on 4th & Goal the Raiders couldn’t decide what to do in the 40 seconds allotted to them, forcing a FG rather than the dagger TD (I blame both Cable and Russell). There was still a sliver of hope for the Bucs, but Greyson Gunheim broke through a double team to put the nail in the coffin for the Bucs.
Now that the season is over there is much to talk about in regards to player and coaching personnel, but for now let’s bask in the glory of playing spoiler even for a little bit.
I look forward to discussing free agency, the draft, and coaches with all of you in the near future.