Freeman, Bucs offense able to protect ball
On every one of the 62 snaps made by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Josh Freeman had one thought in mind. As new head coach Greg Schiano likes to say the ball, the ball, the ball.

Freeman's passing numbers were modest in Tampa Bay's 16-10 victory against Carolina, but the Bucs didn't turn the ball over and give the Panthers a short field to operate against a swarming defense.

"Our primary goal was to protect the ball and we were able to do that,'' said Freeman, who hit on 16 of 24 passes for 138 yards, including a six-yard toss to Mike Williams that opened the scoring. "Guys answered the call and there's no better feeling than kneeling on the ball at the end of the game.''

Freeman was sacked twice and had a 95.5 passer rating. Coming off a disappointing 2011 season, Freeman was crisp at the start, completing 8-of-9 attempts in a dynamic opening quarter. He ended up spreading the ball to seven different receivers, targeting Vincent Jackson 10 times. Jackson led all Bucs receivers with four catches for 47 yards.

"Keeping turnovers to a minimum was our game plan and Josh executed it, said TE Dallas Clark, whose only catch was a 33-yard reception that set up a field goal. "Josh did a terrific job of making throws when we needed it. It was our first regular-season game together and I was impressed. I thought he played with great confidence.''

About the writer
Ira Kaufman has long been both a great writer for The Tampa Tribune and friend to the Bucs UK and BUCPOWER.COM. He writes on all sports for the paper but during the NFL season offers his stories on not just the Buccaneers, but also the NFL in general.