Freeman survives Bengals' blitz packages
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune, published 11 October 2010|
They came hard off both flanks. They came on delays up the middle. At times, it appeared Cincinnati defenders emerged from the banks of the Ohio.
On a day the Bengals threw every blitz package in their elaborate playbook, the Bucs managed to keep Josh Freeman upright long enough to throw for 280 yards in a thrilling 24-21 comeback victory.
"They bring pressure, that's for darn sure,'' RT Jeremy Trueblood said of Cincinnati's relentless blitz scheme. "But Josh breeds confidence. There's never a scared look about him.''
S Chris Crocker dropped Freeman twice and LB Rey Maualuga posted Cincinnati's other sack, but Tampa Bay managed to overcome three turnovers and an early quad injury to C Jeff Faine, who could be sidelined for an extended period.
"On that tying drive, Josh told us he was putting this thing in the end zone … and he did,'' said Jeremy Zuttah, who spelled Keydrick Vincent at left guard one series before replacing Faine for the final 40 minutes. "We all believe in each other. We're a young team learning how to win.''
Crocker was particularly effective blitzing from the blind side and the Bengals registered nine hits against Freeman, who remained battered but resolute.
"Josh took some big hits today but he kept everybody together,'' LT Donald Penn said. "We're going to enjoy this win tonight and get ready for the Saints next week, knowing we've already shown a lot of growth from last year.''
A message on Terrell Owens' Twitter feed Sunday violated the NFL's rules against using social media before games.
A post on Owens' Twitter account noted that a fan wearing his jersey Sunday would get a football signed by him and fellow WR Chad Ochocinco. The message was posted an hour before kickoff, violating the NFL's social media policy that prohibits posts 90 minutes before a game.
Against all odds
Tampa Bay needed to overcome some serious obstacles en route to an unlikely triumph.
Cedric Benson ran for 144 yards and Owens caught seven passes for 102 yards for the Bengals, who have dropped their past six matchups against the Bucs.
The Bucs had been 0-7 under Coach Raheem Morris when allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Tampa Bay also overcame injuries to Faine and S Sean Jones, who hurt his back on the first snap from scrimmage and never returned.
"That was a team effort all the way,'' rookie DT Gerald McCoy said. "We're growing closer and closer as a family and everybody in this room is starting to believe. That loss to Pittsburgh wasn't going to knock us down. I'm already looking forward to New Orleans. That should be fun.''
Earnest Graham, whose 61-yard burst in the second quarter marked Tampa Bay's longest run since he dashed 68 yards against Atlanta in 2008, credited team chemistry.
"We made all the mistakes we could and we had some injuries today, but this club has a lot of character,'' Graham said. "That's where it all starts.''
Since coming off the bye week, Morris has suggested the Bucs want to diversify their running game and relieve the burden off Cadillac Williams.
That plan never materialized Sunday as Tampa Bay backs combined for only 19 carries. Williams gained 8 yards on his first attempt and then was held to 2 yards in his next eight carries, finishing with 33 yards. Kareem Huggins carried only once for 4 yards, LeGarrette Blount ran four times for 3 yards and Graham carried only twice after his 61-yard dash.
"I've been playing football ever since I was a little kid,'' Graham said. "Every time I step on the field, I want to make a play. Last year was very disappointing, with all the hiccups we had between coaches and what was going on in the locker room. This team is together like family.''