Beat Writer & Videographer
Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson thinks Freeman's game against the Cardinals may have been his best game as a pro. Find out what else his coach said about him.
Last Sunday’s game in Arizona marked quarterback Josh Freeman’s 16th start in the National Football League. 16 games is sort of the benchmark on when you can really start judging a player.
Well, if you ask Buccaneers offensive coordinator Greg Olson, he will tell you Freeman’s performance in Tampa Bay’s 38-35 victory over the Cardinals was his finest yet.
“I felt like Josh might have played his best game as a Buc,” Olson said. “He was 18-for-25 for 72 percent completion [percentage], but after watching the film, really he had four drops. It could have very easily been a 23-of-25 game.”
Head coach Raheem Morris said Monday that Arizona’s crowd was really fired up and loud during the game. Under those circumstances, Olson was extremely proud of the way his second-year signal caller played in what was a back-and-forth contest.
“It was really a game where he was hitting hands and was very accurate, and to me, he was in the flow of the game and the game came to him,” Olson said. “To see him do that on the road and in a hostile environment where he’s having to make a lot of calls at the line of scrimmage and walk to the line of scrimmage and communicate to everybody. It’s really a tribute to him and what his preparation has been like.”
At one point in the second half the Bucs had a 17-point lead over the Cardinals. However, the Cardinals scored two touchdowns in a span of 23 seconds and scored 21 unanswered points to give them a lead in the fourth quarter. Despite falling behind late, the Buccaneers remained unflappable because they knew they had a quarterback under center that has proven the ability to win a game late.
“With the entire sideline there was no panic because of what Josh has been able to do in the past,” said Olson. “There was no panic, no anxiety on the sideline. I think guys thought ‘Well, here we go again.’ He went out and obviously performed again and made plays down the stretch, and made good decisions… anytime you have a quarterback in this league you are going to have a chance to win games like we have won.”
The 22-year-old Freeman went 3-for-3 on a seven-play, 74-yard drive to give the Bucs the lead for good. On the drive Freeman picked up a first down on fourth-and-1 with a QB sneak to keep the chains moving. On the next play, Freeman connected with rookie Arrelious Benn on a deep post route for 53 yards. Rookie running back LeGarrette Blount punched it in the end zone from one-yard out on the next play. The Bucs did not relinquish the lead after that.
“From early on to this stage in his development everyone noticed it, not just coaches, but the players and his teammates, that this guy has that ‘IT’ factor,” said Olson. “It’s difficult to describe, but he’s so cool under pressure.”
After going 3-6 as a rookie and committing 20 turnovers, Freeman has completely improved his game in every way. This season Freeman is 5-2 as the starter and has turned the ball over just three times. He is 135-of-224 (60.3 pct.) for 1,533 yards with eight touchdowns and just three interceptions, while compiling a QB rating of 87.1. He also has made some very timely scrambles and has 176 rushing yards on 25 carries (7.0 avg.).
Olson thinks that Freeman’ success this season stems directly from the fact that he has now learned all the things that come with playing quarterback in the NFL.
“It’s completely decision-making with him,” said Olson. “He understands now when to get to the check downs, he recognizes the coverages, he recognizes the blitzes. All of those things have come with experience through hard work. Last year it was just kind of him trying to learn the plays. He would maybe know what progression or receiver he needed, but he was not entirely to sure what was going on with the other side of the ball. Now, he has a much better understanding of that and at this stage of his development we’re happy, but we still think he can get better.”
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