Freeman delivers once again in the clutch
Four minutes, 45 seconds remained in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Not much of the crowd remained. The Bucs were losing 17-12, losing beyond ugly, to the St. Louis Rams. Tampa Bay was on its own 19-yard line. No. 5, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, leaned into the huddle. "Let's do this for Jerramy," someone said.

All right, all right, no one said any such thing. But here's what Josh Freeman did say, in a flat tone. "We're about to win this game. We've got 81 yards to go. We're about to win this game."

And that is exactly what the Bucs did. Freeman steered them down the field, helping teammates make big plays before finishing it off by rolling right and hitting Cadillac Williams with a short winning touchdown pass with 10 seconds left for an 18-17 victory.

He's only in his second season, but this is what No. 5 does, and it's a big reason why, somehow, the Bucs are 4-2. Freeman has won seven games in his brief NFL career, and five are from behind in the fourth quarter. Those are Elway percentages. "He loves the moment, man," Kellen Winslow said. "He kind of makes it like a movie in the end."

Freeman and his crew have been pretty inept at home this season. They didn't score a touchdown last week while getting crushed by the Saints. And they didn't score a touchdown for the first 59 minutes, 49 seconds Sunday. The Bucs fell all over themselves and trailed 17-6 at halftime.

There was a drive in the first quarter that began first and goal at the Rams' 6. Two Bucs penalties and one sack of Freeman later it was third and goal from the 36 . "You're just kind of like, 'What happened here?'" Freeman said.

In the end, Josh Freeman happened here. Again. "I have so much confidence in the young man and he has so much confidence in himself," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "He said it best: He loves wins more than he's afraid of losing."

Freeman completed 23 passes on the afternoon. Ten of those completions came on the game-winning drive. I think his pulse rate was like 11 in the last minute.

As usual, the quarterback pointed at other stars, like the Bucs offensive line, like the Bucs defense shutting out the Rams in the second half, or the resurgent running game. Yes, there's a new rolling ball of butcher knives in town and his name is LeGarrette Blount and he lifted everyone up.

And there was Caddy, who caught five Freeman passes on the winning drive and ran for 10 yards on a third and 3. Later, there was Kellen Winslow's 9-yard grab on fourth and 3. Mike Williams caught two big balls, the last of them on a hitch on third and 10 that he turned into 20 yards and first and goal at the St. Louis 1.

But, as usual, the winning drive began inside Josh Freeman's head, in something one of his college coaches always told him. Part of it went like this: When it comes down to it, you've got to step up and be the hero. "It was mostly Josh's leadership," Mike Williams said.

5 shrugged about what he said to start the drive. "It was more, I'd say, to ease the tension," he said. "If they know I have a lot of confidence, they're going to have confidence."

He blinked twice as Bucs receiver Sammie Stroughter asked him, "You ready for this?"

Freeman could have laughed. Am I ready for this? Why, there was a lifetime left on the clock, not exactly panic time, and just 81 yards to go "It was quiet in the huddle. All you heard was Josh talking," Mike Williams said.

Freeman grabbed Cadillac as they broke the huddle for the game-winner. "Hey, man, if they blitz us, it's you," Freeman told him. "Make something happen."

Something happened. There's just something about 5.

About the writer
Martin Fennelly has been The Tampa Tribune's leading sports columnist for many years and is always on hand with a topical and witty opinion on any Florida sporting event. He was named the Bucs UK's Writer of the Year four consecutive years from 2001 to 2004.