Bucs dominate second half in 38-10 win over Chiefs
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson and defensive end George Johnson sat in the Buccaneers locker room late Sunday laughing out loud as they recited lines from the Eddie Murphy-Martin Lawrence comedy "Life.''
Given the events of the afternoon, it was an apt title to riff off of.
Any time a group of receivers can spend the day working against man coverage the way the Bucs did during Sunday's 38-10 victory against the Chiefs, life is good.
"That's kind of been their M.O., to play a lot of man-to-man coverage, and so we thought we'd have some matchups that we would like today,'' Jackson said. "As it turns out, they actually played a little more zone than we expected, but every now and then they would switch back to what they do best and we'd hit a strike and make a big play.''
Those deep strikes and big plays are fast becoming the signature of the Bucs' attack. Quarterback Josh Freeman went into Sunday's game on pace to set a career high for deep passes and only sped up the pace against the Chiefs.
After a slow start in which he telegraphed a throw that was intercepted in the red zone, Freeman turned in his fourth career 300-yard passing game, including two completions of 62 yards — one a touchdown to Mike Williams — one of 42 yards and one of 36. All were thrown against the Chiefs' man coverage scheme, which Freeman was confident he could exploit.
"When it comes down to it, I just feel like my guys are better than their guys," said Freeman, who also threw touchdowns of 19 and 17 yards to Jackson. "I hate to put it that way, but we have guys that can make plays and we gave them opportunities today. It was great the way they responded.''
Their response, actually, was critical. Many of those deep balls were thrown in a way that required the receiver to fight the defender in the air for the ball. Time after time, the Bucs' receivers won the fight.
"That's what we do,'' Jackson said. "We're going to try to win our share of those balls and protect Josh from giving up a turnover because those plays can definitely change the momentum of a game.''
One of those plays grabbed the momentum. The Bucs and Chiefs were slogging along late in the first quarter, each giving the ball away on a turnover, when Freeman threw what the Bucs call an "opportunity ball'' for Williams.
Williams, matched up one-on-one against cornerback Stanford Routt on a go-route down the left sideline, leapt over Routt for the ball about 30 yards downfield, pulled it in and ran untouched for a 62-yard scoring play.
"Routine play,'' Williams said of his catch, which gave the Bucs a lead they never relinquished. "We said that if we get one-on-ones like that, we're going to come down with the ball and that's what it was — me versus you, let's see who's the better player.''
The Bucs, who broke a three-game losing streak with the victory and improved to 2-3, were the better team on Sunday, but for reasons that went far beyond their ability to take advantage of man-coverage schemes.
The defense, among the best in the league against the run, limited Jamaal Charles, the NFL's leading rusher, to 40 yards on 12 carries and surrendered just 80 net yards on the ground.
The Bucs also got a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown from safety Ronde Barber, who picked off a Brady Quinn pass intended for Dexter McCluster just before it hit the ground.
For the most part, though, this game belonged to the big-play offense. Freeman completed 15 of 26 throws for 328 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 124.7 passer rating. He also averaged 12.62 yards per pass attempt, the third-best single game average in franchise history.
Even the running backs got into the act. Rookie Doug Martin turned a short Freeman toss into a 42-yard gain to set up Jackson's first touchdown, and also ran 13 times for 76 yards, including once for 23 yards.
Little-used LeGarrette Blount, meanwhile, ran seven times for 58 yards and a fourth-quarter, game-sealing touchdown he set up with a 35-yard run three plays earlier.
"We know as an offense that when we're balanced we're pretty tough to stop, and we had that balance today," said Tiquan Underwood, who caught the second of Freeman's 62-yard pass plays. "We just executed our offense the way we know we can and the way we know we are capable of and the defense helped us out by giving us the ball back. It was a good win, and now we're just going to try to keep building off of it.''
|About the writer|
Roy Cummings has been The Tampa Tribune's primary Buccaneer beat writer for many years now and has a knowledge of the current players that is unsurpassed amongst local reporters. He also appears on Channel 8's news broadcasts on stories about the Bucs. He came to London with the Bucs in 2009 and was at Richmond Park to be part of the Bucs UK's most memorable day when the club took on the UK Patriots at touch football in front of many Bucs alumni and club officials.