Early Bucs offense nice change from last year
Offensive ineptness defined the Buccaneers' first-quarter scoring woes the past few seasons.
The inability to put points on the board in the opening quarter was so prevalent a year ago, it was as though an invisible wall at the Tampa Bay goal line created an impenetrable barrier.
That obstacle dissipated quickly in Sunday's 16-10 season-opening victory against Carolina as Tampa Bay marched down the field on its opening possession with the precision of a highly tuned Ferrari instead of a sputtering Pinto.
Lasting more than seven minutes, the 13-play, 80-yard drive ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Mike Williams.
"We always say to ourselves that we want to start fast, and that was the definition right there," said Williams, who finished with two catches for 12 yards. "Josh (was) 7-for-7 with a touchdown; that's starting fast. That can take the heart out of an (opponent) if you can go out and do that."
Last season, Tampa Bay produced just one offensive touchdown in the opening 15 minutes of games, and that didn't occur until the 13th game of the season. On Dec. 11, LeGarrette Blount scored on a 1-yard run against Jacksonville on the team's 30th first-quarter possession of the season.
For the season, the Buccaneers scored 34 points in the first quarter. "I don't even remember the last couple years,'' Williams said.
In the first game under new head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, Tampa Bay produced 10 points in the quarter, adding a 36-yard Connor Barth field goal on its second possession. It was the first time Tampa Bay's offense scored 10 points in the first quarter since Nov. 25, 200, when it scored 10 in a 19-13 win against Washington.
On Sunday's opening drive, Freeman completed all seven of his pass attempts to four different receivers before capping it off with the short toss to Williams in the end zone. Twice Freeman converted third-down attempts, including a 7-yard pass to Vincent Jackson to the Carolina 17-yard line.
Rookie running back Doug Martin was featured prominently on the drive, making a leaping catch for a first down and carrying the ball five times for 26 yards.
"Everybody was just locked in,'' Freeman said. "When you can open the game like that , you can look at it and if we can sustain that sort of focus and that sort of execution throughout the game, we will be a pretty tough offense to handle.''
Now, it comes down to having similar starts on a consistent basis. "We always preach to ourselves to start fast and sometimes we do and sometimes we don't,'' Williams said. "But to go out there and execute today, it felt good.''