Martin is back, and is expected to get the start. But I don’t see Barber just fading into oblivion here either.
In fact, the next best thing to solid pass protection is a solid running game.
For the first time in a long time, the Bucs had a front line who was opening gaps, maintaining blocks, and even getting to the second level to aid in Barber’s 100+ yard rushing game. The first by any Tampa running back this year.
Now, with the same line coming back even more improved as Joe Hawley returns to play center, the team once again has a line which has shown it can at least control the line of scrimmage and get a push.
Detroit is coming into this contest with some injuries on their defensive front, including a bum ankle on defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. He’ll likely play, because his team is in the hunt for a playoff spot, but I doubt he’d be out there if the Lions were eliminated.
Still, this provides an opportunity, and like a prize fighter looking at a long bout against a formidable opponent; body blows are going to be very valuable.
This game shouldn’t be won on a single 80-yard bomb to a certain former Philadelphia and Washington D.C. favorite. It’s likely to be won by the team who can persevere the longest, and land the biggest shot in the final round.
Taking the wind out of the Lions defense by pounding them with Martin and Barber will give the passing a game a tired defense to work against in the late stages when a big pass could do more than just put points on the board.