Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 9/10/12
It was a swift and decisive run for daylight late Sunday afternoon, a moment worth noting in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ground game. And no, the breakaway run wasnt the 15-yard rumble by rookie first-round draft pick Doug Martin to help ice a 16-10 win over Carolina the final touch in a banner debut that cemented his position as starting tailback. The dash in question was executed by last years starter, LeGarrette Blount, who was the first player to run off the field and into the tunnel to the locker room and the first Buc dressed and out the door minutes later before reporters were allowed inside for post-game interviews. Blount wasnt available for the media Monday, either, following a game in which he carried the ball only three times for eight yards and was, for all intents and purposes, a non-factor. Blount did show flashes of his old, free-wheeling style when he caught a flair pass from Josh Freeman and hurdled safety Charles Godfrey for a two-yard gain. But on the next play, he carried the ball off tackle for a one-yard gain and appeared momentarily injured, perhaps with a leg issue. He came out and never returned, though the Bucs reported no injuries during or after the game. And he was certainly moving well on his departure from Raymond James Stadium. All of that left some questions about Blounts status on Monday, but Bucs head coach Greg Schiano didnt shed much light on the situation in his post-game press briefing, following his successful regular-season debut at the Tampa Bay helm. Well, LeGarrette could have gone back in the game, so lets make that clear, he told reporters at One Buc Place. I dont know if were all certain on whats ailing LeGarrette. He came out of the game, and we thought it was his leg. Now were not sure. So were just keeping a close eye on him to make sure that its nothing more serious. I think hes OK. But Ill let you know Wednesday thats probably when well know best. Tomorrow theyre off, but hell be around and well get a good feel on if theres anything more to it or not. While its not clear if Blount is hurt physically, he may be nursing some hurt feelings after playing a diminished role. He remained on the sidelines in the second half when newly acquired tailback D.J. Ware, listed behind Blount on the depth chart, saw action on third-down carries and looked good in the process. He carried the ball twice for 14 yards, with a long gain of eight yards. Blount was locked in a battle with Martin for the starting job throughout camp, before the former Boise State star the 31st overall pick of the draft became the frontrunner several weeks ago. And by the looks of things Sunday, the chiseled, 5-9, 233-pounder whom Schiano likens to Ray Rice could see the lions share of rushing responsibilities going forward. Martin carried the ball 24 times and amassed 95 yards, much of it gained after being hit initially. Whats more, he caught four passes for another 23 yards. Thats certainly not something that would have made Blount feel very good, whether hes injured or not. Schiano acknowledged that it was a heavy load for Martin 28 touches in all but also said he was up to the task if the situation requires it. I think its a feel thing, game to game, Schiano said. I think there are a couple of things that come into play, what kind of flow hes in. He is a very good receiver, so were going to throw him the football. The 28 touches, thats a lot of touches. Now has it been done? Sure. Has it been done by rookies? It has been done by rookies. So its not unheard of. But well go one game at a time, and then you just have to keep an eye on him as the season rolls on, (asking ourselves) Hows he holding up? Hes a finely conditioned athlete. Hes very muscular. He works out a lot, which is going to help him I think handle some of the load. But at the end of the day, thats a tall order. So well see. Schiano was especially pleased with Martins yards after contact showing, given the prowess of the hard-hitting Panther linebackers. I thought we did a pretty good job of blocking the front, but some of those linebackers put some wallops on him, he said. He won some and he lost some. He ran a few of them over, too, though. So that was good to see. Schiano enjoyed seeing a number of performances Sunday as he gets set to prepare for a road game Sunday against the New York Giants. High on the list was the play of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the teams first-round pick from 2010 who missed much of the past two seasons with torn biceps. But McCoy led the charge against Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, keeping the No. 1 overall pick from last season on the run and under pressure. Newton threw one touchdown pass, but he was sacked three times (once by McCoy) and picked off twice a far cry from the quarterback who accounted for eight touchdowns in wins of 38-19 and 48-16 last season over Tampa Bay. For a defense that surrendered an NFL-worst and franchise-high 494 points last year, McCoy showed the kind of difference he can make when healthy. I think Gerald is real instrumental, in that hes a disruptive force, Schiano said. Even when he doesnt make the play, hes got such good get-off and penetration ability that he makes plays bubble. He makes plays redirect. I thought (tackle) Roy (Miller) did that at times as well. I thought Roy did a good job at the nose making plays redirect. So many times in defensive football, its (about) dictating daylight. If you can dictate the daylight and direct the ball back where you want it to be, then you have your troops there. Also getting high marks: rookie safety Mark Barron, who made a handful of big plays, and rookie linebacker Lavonte David, who learned on the eve of the game that hed be wearing the transmitter helmet and calling the defensive plays. I think Mark did a good job. His first NFL game, and I thought he did a real good job in his preparation, which allowed him to go out there and play, Schiano said. I just think hes going to get better and better and better as it gets more comfortable. Hes going to play faster. And I thought he played pretty fast yesterday. As for weakside linebacker David, Schiano said: I think it worked out well. I think it was more a strategic thing on who was going to be out there at what times. Lavonte did it all spring and parts of camp, and we felt like he was ready to handle it. Mason (Foster) really does a good job with it. I think its good that there are a few guys comfortable doing it. The Buc offense didnt get much going in the second half after taking 13-0 lead into halftime. Freeman was 12 of 14 for 122 yards in the first half but only 2 of 10 for 11 yards in the second half as the Panthers defense re-adjusted. Schiano didnt attribute the lack of production to pulling in the reins and getting conservative. I dont think it was overly conservative, he said. Some of the things that happened in the second half didnt happen in the first half. We didnt get sacked in the first half. We didnt get pressure. We didnt have a penalty on a 30-yard reception. We didnt help ourselves early in the second half and were backed up in our own territory. But while the passing game went largely silent, Martin helped things moving with 14 second-half carries for 67 yards, including that 15-yard burst with 2:22 on the clock that allowed the Bucs to run out the clock. Followed soon after by Blounts run out of the stadium, leaving for the moment some unanswered questions.
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