Freeman has one of those days to forget vs. Saints
Josh Freeman won't be named NFC Offensive Player of the Week again for his performance against the Saints. Tampa Bay's second-year quarterback wasn't terrible Sunday, but his timing appeared a bit off in a 31-6 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions.
"We talk about growing pains and today was a day when we weren't hitting on all cylinders,'' Freeman said after completing 25 of 43 passes for 219 yards, including a late 2-yard scoring flip to Micheal Spurlock. "Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot for most of the game.''
A week after Freeman engineered a fourth-quarter comeback at Cincinnati to earn NFC honors, he faced another elaborate blitz package. Freeman wasn't sacked or intercepted, but he was hurried extensively in posting a passer rating of 79.5 that was dwarfed by Drew Brees. Often, Freeman couldn't step up in the pocket to deliver the ball with precision.
"One thing about Josh, he never loses his composure, and today was no different,'' tight end John Gilmore said. "Even when he came out of the game before our last series, he was still going over different looks New Orleans was presenting. To see a young kid like that stay so involved says a lot about him.''
Even Freeman's early-season rapport with rookie wide receiver Mike Williams was tested as New Orleans constantly sent linebackers up the middle and defensive backs off the flanks in an effort to make Freeman uncomfortable.
"Basically, what their strategy was early on in the game was to all-out blitz us, which means there is no safety in the middle of the field, and see if we can hit it,'' said Freeman, who hit on four of the nine passes intended for Williams. "Today, we were just a little off … couldn't hit them.''
Hurt by an ineffective ground game, Freeman was repeatedly forced into sure passing downs and Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams made him pay with an aggressive scheme.
"We just didn't play to win,'' said Williams, who was held to a single 5-yard reception after intermission. "Thankfully, we still get to play these guys again.''Sammie Stroughter's 27-yard catch marked Freeman's only completion of more than 20 yards and Freeman failed to hurt the Saints with his legs, gaining 2 yards on three rushing attempts. He had been averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
Freeman managed to avoid injury during Tampa Bay's only scoring drive of the day as Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins triggered a near melee along the Bucs sideline with a late hit aimed at Freeman's knees.
"There was a lot of unnecessary stuff going on out there,'' Gilmore said. "To be up 24-0 and feel the need to take cheap shots like that, I can't understand it. We didn't play well at all today, but it's only one game and we'll get another shot at New Orleans down the road. You can't blame Josh Freeman for this loss. He was in there battling hard until the end. That's the only way this kid knows how to play.''
|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.