One thing has become obvious in Tampa Bay’s two-game losing streak: Rookie running back Doug Martin is the key to the Buccaneers’ offense.
The Bucs have averaged just 60.5 yards rushing in losses to Atlanta and Denver. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that's the lowest average in the league the past two weeks. Prior to those two games, the Bucs had been averaging 128.9 rushing yards per game.
You can also see how important Martin is to Tampa Bay’s offense by looking at what he’s done in their six victories compared to what he’s done in their six losses.
In the games Tampa Bay has won, Martin has averaged 5.4 yards per rush between the tackles and 3.1 yards before contact. He’s also had five rushes between the tackles that went for more than 20 yards.
In the losses, Martin has averaged 3.6 yards when running between the tackles and 1.6 yards before contact with only one rush that went for more than 20 yards.
There’s been a lot of talk that Martin might be hitting the “rookie wall." That’s possible, but I don’t think that’s the real reason for his recent decline in production. In the Atlanta game, I think the Falcons played the run very well. In the Denver game, the Bucs fell behind in the third quarter and had to abandon the running game.
I think we’ll get a better read on if Martin is hitting a wall when the Bucs host the struggling Eagles on Sunday.