On Monday Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris and QB Josh Freeman talked about the offenses inability to get the ball to WR Antonio Bryant in the second half of the Bucs 20-17 loss to the Falcons. In the second quarter Bryant had two catches for 80 yards and a score, but only one more catch the rest of the game.
The day after a 20-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers talked about the team being unable to get the ball to wide receiver Antonio Bryant in the second half. Bryant got the Buccaneers their first touchdown of the game on the second of two receptions for 80 yards on the scoring drive. Starting quarterback Josh Freeman was asked about the lack of throws to Bryant after those two plays.
"There were shot called plays, the touchdown was an alert," Freeman said. "Really they started playing off him. There weren't many opportunities. They started to play a lot more cover two, which doesn't allow you take that many shots downfield."
On the first completion the veteran Bryant ran a deep post route and got open in the middle of the Falcons defense for a 38-yard gain. The next play saw Freeman roll to his left and hit Bryant inside the Falcons' five-yard line. Bryant leapt and fell to the ground while making the catch, and got up and trotted into the end zone for a touchdown. After those two plays, Freeman and Bryant connected for only one catch the rest of the game. The franchise receiver Bryant finished the game with three receptions for 91 yards and the touchdown. Head coach Raheem Morris talked about the Bucs not being able to get Bryant the ball.
"You do want to feed your playmakers," Morris said. "I'm sure [Kellen Winslow] feels like he's a playmaker and Cadillac [Williams] feels like he's a playmaker and Antonio feels like he is. And they all are, they all are. You've got to try to get them the ball as much as you can. Sometimes you call plays for those guys down the field and you don't get to them for whatever reason. We had another shot. I think three shots for [Bryant]. One was kind of a panic deal with the quarterback. He threw it to the wrong guy Â– not threw it to the wrong guy, he didn't hold for him, wait for him a little bit. The other one he didn't push down the field, the other one the protection broke down. You have all those things thrown in, you've got the play-call sheet, [offensive coordinator Greg Olson] has the play-call sheet, he has it there. 'Should I get the ball to 89?' For whatever reason, the play may not have went to him. The target wasn't there.
"That's a part of us getting better as a football team. That's about us getting better all around, and those things will happen. You've got to target him. Everybody wants the ball. [Bryant] feels like he can make a difference and I'm glad he wants the ball. Those are the guys you want on your football team. I wanted the ball when I was calling defensive calls. I want the ball, too. We all feel like we can be one of these playmakers and be contributors."
Tight end Winslow led Tampa Bay with seven catches for 81 yards, and is the Buccaneers leading receiver in 2009. Winslow has 54 catches for 564 yards and five touchdowns. The next closest Buccaneer is rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter who has 24 catches for 265 yards and one touchdown. Freeman said his focus is not getting one particular player the ball.
"It is all about the flow of the game. I think the most important thing is getting first downs and keeping the drives going," Freeman said. "Rather than looking for explosive plays every time."
Freeman was 20-of-29 for 250 yards and two touchdowns. In those 29 pass attempts, Freeman threw four passes to Bryant. Winslow had eight passes thrown his direction, and Stroughter had seven passes thrown to him while catching three. For the season Bryant has 22 receptions for 360 yards and three touchdowns. Last season Bryant had 83 catches for 1,248 yards with seven touchdowns. Morris was more encouraged with the performance of the Bucs rookie signal caller than he was concerned about not getting the ball to Bryant enough.
"First let's talk about Freeman first and his development and how he's done," Morris said. "He took a step back the following week, but it is about the kid's character when you talk about bouncing back. With that it is going to bring about more aggressive decisions with your quarterback."
Freeman has completed 55 percent of his passes (69-of-125) for 793 yards with seven touchdowns, five interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 76.5. Prior to the game against the Falcons, Freeman had a four-turnover game against the New Orleans Saints in a 38-7 loss at Raymond James Stadium.
"He has shown me nothing but good things. He had the one week where he kind of backed off," Morris said. "He had some blunders and the one big rookie mistake that we all kind of chuckled about, but he's getting better and better every week. He had a couple of mistakes yesterday. He missed a couple of throws. He had a couple of routes run the wrong way, which he was able to correct, which you love. When quarterbacks correcting routes, and not your coaches, you are going in the right direction. He's starting to get in those shoes and fill him. He connected with Antonio Bryant for two big plays and a score. We get seven. The defense gets us a three-and-out and he goes down and gets us three more going in to halftime, so we feel good. ... Patience, patience, but is he going in the right direction? Yes."
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