A run defense that had failed them over the final four weeks of the season was the death blow for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, as the Oakland Raiders ended the Bucs season in stunning fashion with a 31-24 victory at Raymond James Stadium that will end the Tampa Bay Stadium at 9-7.
The Buccaneers, known as a team built on its defense, allowed the Raiders to run for 192 yards, 177 for Michael Bush, who snapped off a 67-yard run and two big scores for Oakland to bring them back from a 24-14 deficit with 11:27 left in the game. JaMarcus Russell threw a 12-yard TD to Johnnie Lee Higgins to make it 24-21, then Bush ran 67 yards for a score to make it 28-24 with 7:03 left.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 25-yard field goal to make it 31-24 with 1:09 to go, and on the Bucs last chance they got to the Raiders 45, but then Jeff Garcia was sacked and the final seconds ran out on the Buccaneers last ditch effort as well as on their hopes of the post season.
The Bucs seemed just fine as they outgained Oakland 168-21 in the third quarter and got a TD from Garcia to Michael Clayton to tie the game at 14, then had a Matt Bryant field goal and Carnell Williams 8-yard TD to make it 24-14 with 11:27 left. It was all downhill from there.
Garcia was 17-for-33 for 257 yards with a TD, a pick and a QB rating of 74.9. Williams rushed for 78 yards on 12 carries and two TD’s, but left the game with a left knee injury after a 28-yard run. It was just yet another cruel blow to a season that was shattered after a 9-3 start.
The question now will be what will be the fallout of the late season losses? Will the team entertain the thought of a new head coach? How about the QB spot, which has been a big question mark. And now with Williams and former first-string back Earnest Graham both hurt, will either be ready to go at the start of 2009?
All these questions will have plenty of time to be answered as the team will have a long offseason to think about it after the December collapse that cost them a shot at a second straight NFC South title and the postseason.