Let’s start where it started this week. Undisciplined team, lackadaisical preseason, poorly coached, poorly managed, starting QB who lacks confidence, written off by his coach, except there’s a dolt on the bench who isn’t ready to play. A team on the edge... A wounded animal...
Wait a minute. Which of last Sunday’s teams are we talking about again?
So, let’s find the bottom. The Bucs were sloppy, no disputing that. The slop was a continuation of a preseason many, including some on the team, wanted to blow off as irrelevant. That’s absolutely on the coaching staff and they must be accountable to themselves and their players.
Now, a modicum of reality, which we may not have had last week. We walked up on a cornered animal. They were carried by their defense, their head man’s specialty, and the unit he’s relying on to keep a job this season. Last season they were the 8th best defense in the league, 2nd against the pass, and … wait for it … 26th against the run. They burned two first-rounders (ours and theirs) on a D-Line which was already pretty stout, but needed a pass rushing boost, and a corner to roll out opposite the true shut-down corner they didn’t trade away. Oh yeah, that run defense? Seems like it improved, no?
The Bucs came out and had an opening drive worthy of a special place in the long and storied lore of Buccaneer moments best animated by this:
Still, at the end of the day, we’re 0-1 just like 16 other teams in the NFL. We’re in second place in the division and we can seize sole possession of first in exactly 3 days, if…
Puke & Rally
In-situ, during the game, while it was happening live, I didn’t think any of that early shit was on Josh Freeman. He came out and was mid-stroke in executing a nice early drive. A nice opening drive, which he and the Bucs haven’t been very good at in his entire history as a starter. A slow - yeah, treacherously slow - starter, he has been.
Then came the headset problems, penalty upon penalty, 4 in the first drive, and 3rd & 35. The next two drives were both 3 & outs and both went for negative yards on demonstrably bad play by the OL. Still, nothing I would hang on Freeman.
Then came, The Drive. Freeman rolled out on the heels of a couple of really nice stands by the defense. He made nice accurate throws and first down upon first down. That led up to a fifth play TD on a throw some (myself included) do not think Josh can make on a routine basis.
In the barest of terms, Josh Freeman went from one of the worst drives in Buccaneer history to clean, fluid, efficient, and yes rook, accurate play in just 15 minutes.
Absolute Puke and Rally!
Sense of Urgency
At about that point, 14 minutes into the game, most Buc fans started feeling pretty good — afforded themselves a little air. The team had withstood the noise of a horrendous start and seemed like it was handling the wounded animal like a lion handles a wounded animal.
Steady, consistent, deadly pursuit.
Ten minutes later and following a second 1st half Jet turnover on a Lavonte David pick, the Bucs found themselves near mid-field. The only thing that could go wrong was for Josh Freeman to relax — for the pucker factor to go down. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.
Within three plays Freeman had thrown a ball long and WAY off right down the middle of the field. As poor as it was, that play only partly illustrates what’s really wrong with Josh Freeman.
Fast forward to the 4th quarter. First offensive play of the quarter, 14:14 remaining. Three step drop, quick slant to Vincent Jackson. Some doubted coming in that we had a 3-step, quick slant in the arsenal, but VJ rang up the Jets for 1-5-4, mostly on 3-steps. Back to the 14:14 mark: Josh hop-steps, never really sets his feet and skins it just beyond the considerable reach of VJax. Not a killer, not nearly as bad as a midfield pick in the 2-minute drill at the end of the half, BUT same mechanics, same mentality.
The reason I highlight this play is because Josh comes back following a completely ineffective 1 yarder by the Hamster, to roll right after the pocket breaks down, direct traffic on the roll and find Jackson 20 or so down field and standing alone in grass never tread by Man for a first on 3rd & 9.
So what’s the difference?
Let’s go to the end to get to the beginning. In Josh Freeman’s last drive of the evening, he again mustered something, some thing, that he some times lacks. He took his team out, trailing by a digit, marshaled them down the field and took the lead. He didn’t do anything special. Aside from overcoming weak protection on the first down of the drive to narrowly miss Mike Williams on a throw that only Mike Williams could catch, and two poor to really poor plays by Kevin Ogletree who apparently couldn’t catch a pass that anyone could catch. He benefitted from the Jets forsaking their, stop-Dougy-at-all-costs mentality. He “benefitted” from his coach calling the last three plays of the drive for Doug Martin to gain an additional seven yards and cap off the "routine" 20:20 drive in fantastic fashion with a heart-stopping Rian Lindell field goal.
So, what did Josh Freeman have on that last drive that he didn’t have on the 2-minute 1st half pick and the 14:14 overthrow?
Gritted teeth, feet set, a sense of urgency.
He may only have a few weeks remaining as a starting QB in the NFL. A sense of urgency is encouraged.
Source: Things Fishwrap Won't Cover