Aqib Talib's departure has opened the way for some young defensive backs to step up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On a sun-splashed afternoon filled with churning emotions, Leonard Johnson and Ahmad Black declared themselves ready for the challenge.
Three days after Tampa Bay dealt Talib to New England, Black and Johnson took turns making big plays in the secondary as the Bucs outlasted the Raiders 42-32.
"We called on those guys to get their opportunities and they proved today they're more than willing and talented enough to capitalize,'' Bucs safety Ronde Barber said.
With the Raiders trailing by only three points after scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns, it was Black who asserted himself by intercepting a Carson Palmer pass at midfield, returning the pick 34 yards to set up Doug Martin's clinching 1-yard scoring run.
Earlier, Black forced a fumble off a fake Oakland punt that went awry as the former Gator standout finished with five tackles.
Johnson, an undrafted free agent who played at Largo High, also contributed with one of Tampa Bay's three interceptions, adding six tackles and two passes defended.
"When Palmer throws it that much (61 times), you can't take any plays off,'' Johnson said. "We had to be on our toes all day. I jumped the route, our defensive line was in Palmer's face and I undercut the play.''
Rookie Lavonte David also joined in the youth movement, finishing with 16 stops, including two tackles for losses.
"It feels good,'' said David, a second-round draft pick out of Nebraska who calls Tampa Bay's defensive signals. "We've got half the season behind us and we're getting better. Palmer's a great quarterback who makes good reads. He's seen it all and he was able to get them back in the game, but in the end, everyone contributed on defense.''
For a few frantic moments, it appeared the Bucs might suffer the same type of defensive meltdown that occurred in the Meadowlands, where the Giants scored 25 fourth-quarter points to win 41-34 in Week 2.
"We didn't get nervous,'' David said of Palmer's late aerial assault. "We just had to calm down and somebody had to make a play.''
Tampa Bay's rushing defense was typically stout, even before Raiders back Darren McFadden left the game with an ankle injury. Oakland averaged 2.0 yards on 11 attempts.
"We were effective throwing the football,'' Raiders coach Dennis Allen said, "but obviously when you put the ball in the air that many times, sometimes things can go bad.''
Tampa Bay's aggressive defense has made it a habit of ensuring that things go bad for opponents striving for ball security.
After forcing 24 turnovers all of last season, the Bucs have already registered 17 takeaways at the halfway point.
"Our defense was great in the first half, especially stopping the run,'' Barber said. "Once we had that big lead, they went into a two-minute offense the rest of the way. At that point, you want the clock to keep moving, tick, tick, tick.''
In the end, it was a time for Tampa Bay's youngsters to announce themselves as playmakers.