Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin embarrassed the Oakland Raiders last week in front of their home crowd. The rookie rushed for 251 yards on the day and found the end zone four times.
This week, the Raiders will fly across the country for their third of five visits to the east coast this season. As they face one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL on Sunday, the Raiders are determined to not let Ray Rice duplicate Martin’s performance.
“We’ll find that out on Sunday,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen replied when asked if he’s been able to correct the issues with the run defense. “We have to tackle better. We’ve got our work cut out for us, not only against Ray Rice, but against the whole Baltimore team.”
Rice doesn’t mind knowing that the Raiders’ primary goal will be stopping the run on Sunday.
“No, I wouldn’t say that it would make it harder,” he said. “You look at the film and you look at what happened, a lot of it came down to just tackling. They were in the right positions and the guy just bursts through.”
Facing a defense that allowed 278 rushing yards in the previous week, Rice’s excitement level does increase.
“Obviously, you look at it, and you do start getting excited when you see it happening,” Rice said. “Anybody [that] goes for over 200 yards, you have to figure out [that] there is a problem there. The problem that I saw on film was tackling. The guys were in position. I guess his height helped him out.”
Martin is listed at 5’-9” and 223 pounds, similar to Rice’s 5’-8”, 212 pound frame. One of Martin’s biggest attributes is similar to Rice – a low center of gravity.
“I said maybe he size helped him a little bit, too,” said Rice about Martin. “To see him get out in the open field with guys and making guys miss – a little center of gravity was pretty exciting to see from a rookie running back.”
In his only career game against the Raiders, Rice rushed for 70 yards on 14 carries. That day (Week 17 of the 2009 season), the Ravens had a great day on the ground as Willis McGahee added 167 yards and three touchdowns.
Rice has come a long way since 2009. Given Oakland’s struggles against Martin, chances are he’ll have a great opportunity to eclipse his best game of this season where he had 150 all-purpose yards against the New England Patriots.