Play-making woes hinder Bucs’ production
Josh Freeman has never been much of a statistics guy. Consequently, he said he doesn’t pay much attention to the numbers that are compiled to rate a quarterback’s play. Good thing, because his are not very pretty.
Through three games, Freeman has completed just 43 of 94 throws (45.7 percent) for 571 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions for a passer rating of 59.3. Oh, and just like the Bucs, he’s 0-3 in the win column. That has Freeman on pace for the worst year of his career at a time when he’s trying to prove he is not only the Bucs’ quarterback of the future, but their quarterback of the present.
Despite Freeman’s numbers — he completed 19 of 41 for 236 yards and an interception in Sunday’s 23-3 loss to the Patriots — Bucs coach Greg Schiano is sticking with Freeman. “There’s no magic pill,” Schiano said, absolving Freeman of blame for the offense’s lack of production. “We’ve done it before as a group. We’re not doing it now, so we need to figure out why, and that’s what we’ll do.”
After the Bucs were derailed largely by penalties in their first two games, they were undone Sunday by a lack of timely play making. “It really was us just not making the plays that we really needed to make,” Freeman said. “When you’re playing against a team with the defense and offense that New England has, you’ve got to make plays, get on the board and find a way to match them.”
Early Sunday, it was the Patriots who had to match the Bucs. Tampa Bay got off to a good start offensively, gaining 126 yards in its first two drives, but came up virtually empty on the scoreboard. After Rian Lindell missed a 38-yard field goal and rookie tight end Tim Wright let a Freeman pass slip through his hands in the end zone, the Bucs had to settle for a 3-0 lead. "We know that when we get down there we have to find a way to make plays,” Freeman said. “We have to find the guy who’s going to be open and then make the catch.”
That has been a problem for the Bucs. Freeman has been victimized by several dropped passes, a trend that continued Sunday when at least four catchable balls were not caught.
“You really can’t let that bother you,” Freeman said. “You just have to move on when that happens. If I throw a bad pass we have to move on to the next one. So, that’s kind of how we look at it. It’s a collective effort.”
With tight end Luke Stocker missing the game with a sore hip, wide receiver Mike Williams (leg) leaving the game temporarily and Vincent Jackson (ribs) leaving it for good in the third quarter, the Bucs were forced to rely on some of their offensive depth. Those players responded well, Freeman said. Eric Page caught three passes for 55 yards, Kevin Ogletree caught two for 35 yards and Wright caught one for 6 yards.
“We did some shuffling, moved some guys around,” Freeman said. “But the bottom line is the guys who know the offense, we’re expected to play at a high level. And some guys were able to make plays, but the bottom line is we couldn’t come away with it in the red zone.”