PLAYER OF THE GAME
It's not easy being a backup in this league. You seldom play and when you do, you're expected to play as well as or better than the starter. Few players ever meet the standard, but Raiders RB Michael Bush did. Bush, who had run the ball just 68 times prior to Sunday, stepped in for an injured Justin Fargas late in the first quarter and turned in the best game by a Raiders back all season.
The latest in what has become a long line of backs to strafe the Bucs for big yards and big plays, Bush ran 27 times for 177 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner on a 67-yard run in the fourth quarter. Bush also caught one pass for 6 yards and helped the Raiders seal the game with a late field goal by running the ball on nine consecutive plays.
We've probably seen the last of Cadillac Williams for a while. If so, he gave Bucs fans something new to remember him by. Before going down late in the fourth quarter with what is believed to be a left patellar tendon injury, Williams looked like the Cadillac of old, running 12 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns. He also looked like the Cadillac the Bucs have always envisioned, catching a team-leading five passes for 37 yards.
Thanks to Williams, the Bucs were a little more efficient in the red zone than they have been, scoring two touchdowns in three tries. Williams kept the Bucs in a game the Raiders repeatedly threatened to run away with. He probably has another long rehabilitation ahead of him, but his play Sunday was an indication he can still be special.
The Bucs were up 24-21 and had the ball at the Raiders 33 with 7:22 to play in the fourth quarter when Bucs coach Jon Gruden decided to get bold. Instead of trying for a 51-yard field goal, deemed outside the range of PK Matt Bryant, Gruden decided to go for it on fourth-and-4. QB Jeff Garcia's target on the play was WR Michael Clayton, but as Clayton streaked across the line of scrimmage Garcia's throw sailed a little high and slipped off his hands.
Asked about his decision later Gruden said, "We didn't think a field goal was a percentage play there, given the situation. We thought we had a pretty good play called there. I don't regret that. When things don't work out, you'll be second guessed."
The Bucs were up 24-14 when the Raiders decided to dig into their bag of tricks. On a first-and-10 play from their 45, they pitched the ball back to RB Michael Bush, who tucked the ball under his arm as if to run. Then, he looked downfield toward WR Todd Watkins. Watkins had run past safety Will Allen on his go route, but when Bush's wobbly pass came up a little short, Watkins had to slow up.
When he did, Allen ran right into him, earning a pass interference penalty that gave the Raiders new life at the Bucs 12. One play later, Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell connected with Johnny Lee Higgins on a 12-yard touchdown pass that cut the Bucs lead to 24-21 and began the Raiders comeback.
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
This year's Bucs offense was arguably the most potent in team history, finishing with a team-record 5,456 total yards. Their 361 points were the second-most and their 38 touchdowns third-most in team history. ... The Bucs have missed the playoffs four times in seven seasons under Gruden, who is 3-2 in the playoffs as Bucs coach. ... QB Jeff Garcia's 64.9 completion percentage was the second-best in team history and his 1.60 interception percentage the third-best.
RB Cadillac Williams suffered what is believed to be a torn left patellar tendon injury in the fourth quarter. He recently came back from a 13-month absence due to a right patellar tendon injury. ... LB Derrick Brooks suffered a right hamstring strain late in Sunday's game. Brooks came into the game nursing sore ribs and a sore left hamstring.
Coming off the worst collapse in franchise history, it may be time for the Bucs to blow everything up and start over again. The Bucs under GM Bruce Allen and Coach Jon Gruden have proved at times to be a competitive team, but have never been very entertaining or consistent. Since 2002, they have not looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender. At the very least, this team appears to be in need of a major personnel overhaul.
Most of the Bucs best players are older players in their 30s and many of them showed signs down the stretch this year of wearing down and wearing out. Unless this team makes some drastic changes, mediocre seasons like the one the Bucs just completed will continue to pile up.