Freeman shows signs he's finding for
Martin Fennelly, The Tampa Tribune, published 1 October 2012

Maybe something was gained Sunday night, even as the Bucs grabbed a foothold on 1-3. Maybe Josh Freeman looking a little like the old Josh Freeman, the on the fly Josh Freeman, desperate Josh the fourth-quarter comeback kid still works, even with his head down at the end. At least it wasn't in the fog anymore.

He was hurt by early mistakes, some his own, and by bad Bucs clock management, by the coaches, that left too much time for a Bucs defense that couldn't stop Redskins sensation Robert Griffin III when it mattered most. It set up a dying-seconds dagger by until then No Good Washington field goal kicker _ 24-22, a loss.

At least 5 regained some solid form, which beats a liquid state any day. And maybe his coaches know what he can do when up against it, Greg Schiano included. Maybe there's more trust this morning. Maybe Freeman feels better about his game. We're not dialing it back to 2010, not yet, not nearly, but he had moments. "We were able to make some plays," Freeman said. "I'm unhappy we lost the game."

But he made some plays . "He did," Schiano said. "He hit some big shots to our receivers. We had some big plays in the passing game. That's what he's capable of doing."

Maybe the head coach believes that a little more today. We all know how bad Freeman looked last season, and last week in Dallas, and through about 40 minutes Sunday, all those throws and misses, unsure, a head full of mush. He looked as alive as the sandwich meat in those RGIII Subway commercials.

It was the rookie's show as Washington grabbed a 21-6 halftime lead. Freeman and the Bucs offense couldn't move the ball on about the worst defense in the league. Freeman had 88 yards passing at halftime. There were boos for him, real ones. It was a mess. It was easy to wonder if this guy was on his way to being lost for good.

And then, late in the third quarter, he hit a 65-yard pass to Mike Williams. "I thought that was kind of an important play for him, because he was kind of fighting, swimming upstream a little bit, and that kind of opened things up," Schiano said.

Then Freeman zipped a touchdown to Vincent Jackson. Early in the fourth quarter, he hit Jackson deep, 54 yards, great throw, better grab, and then 5 hit him 83 again, great throw, to set up another touchdown. By the end of the game, Josh Freeman was just three feet away from the fourth 300-game of his NFL career.

He let a few out there, just three points to show for those last two drives, but the second one ended with Connor Barth's go-head field goal. Josh Freeman had led the Bucs back. Across the way, on the other sideline, was Redskins defensive backs coach and a true Josh Believer: Raheem Morris.

"I knew Josh had the ability to go out there and throw the ball around," Morris said. "It's just a matter of letting him pull the trigger. He went out today and pulled the trigger, and it's something on that sideline that I've seen a lot of from him."

How about that one play on what should have been the game-winning drive? The snap was low, in the grass, but Freeman scooped it up, then stepped up in the pocket and hit Tiquan Underwood for 19 yards to the Washington 34. He didn't seem like a scared rabbit or a caretaker at that moment. He was a trigger man.

Of course, all that went away when the Bucs defense, which had pitched a second-half shutout against Griffin, let down in a big, gaping way. They weren't helped by puzzling game management. Somehow, on that proposed winning drive, the Bucs let the Redskins keep a timeout and 1:47 of game time. I don't get that at all. On the other hand, the Bucs defense could have stopped them.

And, so, a fourth-quarter comeback victory and character builder went into the meat grinder. But maybe something will come out the other end: Here is what 5 can do and here's what the coach can do with 5. Maybe the coach and the quarterback are working ton it. That can't be all bad, even at 1-3.