Freeman playing at high level
The game turned on the first play of the second quarter. Tampa Bay, trailing the Oakland Raiders 3-0, faced third-and-15 at its 15-yard line. Time to go deep.
Josh Freeman dropped back and the offensive line gave him plenty of time. Receiver Vincent Jackson, from the right side, made a double-move, slipping between linebacker Miles Burris and cornerback Michael Huff, and went deep. Safety Matt Giordano came over to help, but Jackson had him beat.
The result: a 64-yard completion and a first down in Raiders territory. Jackson was called for taunting on the play, but it didn't matter. Two plays later, he caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Freeman. The Buccaneers had their first lead in what became a 42-32 victory.
"The safety got really deep and Vincent did a great job of selling one route and breaking deep on the other one," Freeman said. "That was one of the plays that really stands out in my mind, because the offensive line gave me about five seconds to stand back there.
" You're thinking you've got to move because it's so late, but there's really nowhere to go, you're not really feeling anything. That was one you just lay out there to the lane mark and Vincent goes and gets it."
Said Jackson, "Coach believes in us, believes in Josh's arm. The protection held up. I just gave the safety a good move, in between the safety and the corner, get up on it. And Josh just gave me a chance."
Hometown hero Doug Martin got most of the attention on Sunday – 251 rushing yards and four touchdowns will do that. But the passing game was important, too. Freeman completed 18 of 30 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 108.6 passer rating. For the third consecutive game, he did not throw an interception.
In fact, Freeman has played four excellent games in a row. Not coincidentally, Tampa Bay has won three of those four. Over that span, Freeman is 76 for 134 for 1,257 yards and 11 touchdowns against one interception for a passer rating of 112.7.
"He's just playing smart football," Jackson said of Freeman. "We've got the weapons. We've got tight ends, we've got running backs, we've got receivers. We can all make plays. All he has to do is just take care of the football. Our line is playing better and better each and every week. He can make every play.
"It's fun to see him, man. He's getting better each and every week and he's having fun and he's learning a lot."
Receiver Mike Williams was even more effusive. "I've been saying the last four weeks, 'He's the truth,'" Williams said. "He's the truth. I think he finally got it. He knows what he's got to do to get a win; he knows how to get a win."
Williams led the receivers with four catches for 68 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown. Nine Buccaneers caught passes on Sunday, another sign the passing game is clicking. The team appears to have turned the corner after learning a new offense in the off-season.
"As a whole offense, we had to get it," Williams said. "We had to get the new offense. There were a lot of adjustments against different coverages and things like that so we had to get on the same page and I think we've finally clicked."