Freeman wasn't perfect, but he sure was gutty
Martin Fennelly, The Tampa Tribune, published 13 September 2010

Thumb's up. It wasn't his aching thumb or anything else. He just missed his target.

Bucs rookie receiver Mike Williams trotted back to the huddle in the fourth quarter. He had been wide open and he probably would have had his second NFL touchdown in his first NFL game and the Bucs would have had a fourth-quarter lead. Just before halftime, Williams made a sensational bat, spin and catch for his first NFL score.

But there was no chance this time. The ball sailed far and long over Williams' head. The crowd groaned. Josh Freeman waited for Williams in the huddle. "My bad, man," Freeman said. "But he came right back," Bucs center Jeff Faine said.

Two plays later, on third-and-10, Freeman hit Micheal Spurlock for 33 yards and what proved to be the winning touchdown in the Bucs' season-opening 17-14 comeback win over the Browns.

It was a splendidly thrown ball, just out of the reach of Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden, just over Spurlock's shoulder, into his arms and the end zone. "It was perfect," Spurlock said. "I thought it was shot out of the JUGS (gun) it was so perfect."

It was anything but a perfect afternoon for Freeman, who threw for 182 yards, but showed some rust from that thumb injury. It had to hurt, though he wouldn't say how much. Before the winning TD, Freeman missed on three of four throws, including the one to Williams.

It also wasn't perfect for inexperienced receivers who are trying to make their marks in the NFL. They struggled to find themselves at times as Freeman tried to find them. But when it counted, they did it for the one play that made the difference.

It was a game the Bucs couldn't lose. The Bucs defense won it, really. Veterans like Ronde Barber and Barrett Ruud turned the tide, and though it took forever, Freeman and his crew finally caught a wave. Mark it down as a comeback win. Don't think that doesn't matter. "It showed that we have heart," Freeman said.

And it showed that No. 5 still has a certain quality about him, a fourth-quarter knack. The Bucs were down 14-3 in this game and looked dead. But the defense rallied, and eventually so did the quarterback.

He didn't get all that much help from his offensive line. The running game was slipshod and there was constant pressure. And there were times when you wondered if it was just Freeman and Williams playing catch, and how will this work all season? How will this young offense make a go of it in 2010? Freeman had just 60 yards passing at halftime. It was ugly.

In the end, it was pretty. "With Josh it's about mental toughness," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "To miss a throw, then make a throw on the next opportunity "

Josh Freeman and the new kids on the block came through, just enough, barely, but they managed. No.5 managed a winning drive, even after he appeared to throw it away. Bucs running back Cadillac Williams saw something after Freeman's miss to Williams, very much the same thing he saw in Freeman last season.

That Freeman calm. "He always feels like he's always going to make the next throw."

Caddy smiled. "And he did."