- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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What it means: Don’t look now, but the Bucs are suddenly 4-4 and somewhat in playoff contention and you can see this is a team that’s very much on the upswing. Oakland and Minnesota may not be dominant teams, but the Bucs went up to Minnesota in a short week and won in a hostile environment. Then, they flew cross-country and got a win at Oakland, even if the Bucs came very close to squandering what was a 28-10 lead before Oakland rallied in the fourth quarter.. When you’re a young team like the Bucs, showing you can win on the road, even if it's not particularly pretty, is a very positive sign. The Bucs already have won as many games as they did all last season.
Changing perceptions: Early in the season, critics were saying rookie running back Doug Martin didn’t have the ability to make big plays. That changed in the past few weeks and the trend continued Sunday as Martin had touchdown runs of 45, 67 and 70 yards. Martin’s starting to look like a legitimate offensive rookie of the year candidate. He finished with 22 carries for 265 yards and four touchdowns.
High praise: I was listening to the Oakland radio broadcast for the first few minutes of the game as I drove to the Georgia Dome and the announcers had high praise for Tampa Bay receiver Mike Williams. They said he’s the best in the NFL at working the sideline and compared him to past greats Fred Biletnikoff and Cris Carter in that department.
Missing Nicks? The Bucs had to put All-Pro guard Carl Nicks on injured reserve last week. That’s a huge loss, but the Bucs got through their first game without Nicks fairly well as Martin had a second straight with more than 100 rushing yards.
Unsung hero: With Oakland putting together a lengthy drive in the third quarter, undrafted rookie defensive back Leonard Johnson put an end to it by intercepting Carson Palmer. Johnson now has an interception in two straight games. If Johnson didn't come up with that interception, Oakland might have started its rally earlier and the result could have been different.
What’s next: The Buccaneers are at home against the San Diego Chargers next Sunday.