Bucs left to ponder numerous missed chances
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune, published 26 November 2012

When Josh Freeman walked out of Raymond James Stadium Sunday night, he wasn't dwelling on his 19 completions against Atlanta. He was thinking about The Man That Got Away.

On Tampa Bay's opening drive of the second half, wide receiver Mike Williams broke free on a third-and-10 from the Falcons 24.

Freeman was initially looking for Tiquan Underwood on an underneath pattern and by the time Freeman went through his progressions, his overthrown pass for Williams sailed out of bounds, forcing the Bucs to settle for a field goal and a 13-10 advantage.

"There were a few,'' Freeman said of Tampa Bay's missed opportunities against the NFC South leaders. "Obviously, there's the one on the right sidelines going to Mike. (Cornerback) Asante Samuel fell off and I was initially trying to get it to Tiquan. In hindsight, we had an opportunity and didn't capitalize. Asante is really good at baiting you.''

Earlier in the 13-play, 62-yard drive, Freeman found Vincent Jackson streaking down the left sideline for a 31-yard completion on third-and-10, one of Tampa Bay's 12 first downs through the air.

On the next snap, Jackson appeared to be uncovered on the right side, near the end zone, but Freeman didn't see him. Instead, a pass intended for Underwood fell incomplete. "I thought (Freeman) played well,'' said Bucs coach Greg Schiano after Freeman threw for 256 yards in 30 attempts, without an interception.

"Like everyone else, he's going to say, 'I wish I could have done this a little differently,' but he hung in there in the pocket. He took some hits and made some big-time throws. There are probably a handful he would like to have back, but overall, I thought he played well.''

Although Freeman failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season, the Falcons were impressed. "I've had a lot of respect for Freeman since he came into the league,'' Atlanta linebacker Mike Peterson said. "He had a tough year last season and I guess you'd call that a sophomore slump sort of like what Cam Newton is going through in Carolina but we have a lot of respect for him. Still, we plan on it being rough on him every time he plays against us.''

Atlanta's defense had yielded an average of 5.0 yards per carry, so the Falcons successfully ganged up on rookie back Doug Martin with an extra defender in the box, limiting the first-round pick to only 50 yards in 21 carries. Freeman was sacked twice, but Atlanta's pass rush was erratic throughout. The Bucs fell to 6-5 on the season, despite winning the turnover battle 2-0.

"I think we'll be just fine,'' Freeman said. "I think guys will go in and go to work and continue to do their job. I think we have a very strong team. We hate to lose. It's tough, but we have a great group of guys, great coaches, and we're going to get prepared to take this team to Denver.''