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December 27, 2010 @ 1:00 pm
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What We Learned: Bucs vs. Seahawks

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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Behind great performances by QB Josh Freeman, TE Kellen Winslow and WR Mike Williams, Tampa Bay trounced Seattle, 38-15, on Sunday and remained alive in the NFC playoff picture. Get insights and analysis from Scott Reynolds in this week's edition of What We Learned.
Here are some of Scott Reynolds' observations from Tampa Bay's 38-15 shellacking of the visiting Seattle Seahawks:

We learned that Josh Franchise can dominate games. In 2010, we’ve seen that Freeman can do several different things from the quarterback position. We’ve seen him manage games with plenty of outings with which he has thrown one or two touchdown passes and no interceptions. We have seen Freeman become a clutch QB that can rally a team to victory in the fourth quarter. We have also seen him become a quarterback that can avoid mistakes, as his two interceptions at Atlanta back in November are the most he’s thrown in a game all season.

But in Tampa Bay’s 38-15 victory over Seattle, we saw Freeman absolutely dominate a game. Did you know that Freeman had only thrown three touchdown passes in a game before Sunday just once? That came in his first ever NFL start last year against Green Bay. Freeman’s five touchdown passes on Sunday not only became a personal best, but it also tied the franchise mark set by Steve DeBerg (1987 vs. Atlanta) and later tied by Brad Johnson (2002 vs. Minnesota).

“His numbers speak for themselves and he is a special player,” said Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber. “He just is. We have never seen a guy like that around here. You obviously appreciate what LeGarrette [Blount] is doing in the running game and how well some of our young offensive linemen are playing, but we go how that dude (Freeman) plays. There is no doubt about it. He is without question our MVP. We all know that and you all know that, so when he plays like he did today we are hard to beat.”

Bucs head coach Raheem Morris praised Freeman’s efforts after Sunday’s win.

“He was big,” Morris said. “He played phenomenally and came out with 140-plus quarterback rating, threw five touchdowns, no turnovers. He was just phenomenal.  He was big time. He’s a quarterback. He’s what we brought him [to Tampa Bay] for.  He’s clutch. He’s a closer. He’s a big-time quarterback and he’s developed right in front of our eyes and we get a chance to see it.  It’s beautiful to watch.”

Freeman completed 21-of-26 (80.7 percent) passes for 237 yards and had a QB rating of 144.2. After Sunday’s game, Freeman’s development is complete. He can dominate games. Now it’s all about doing it consistently for Josh Franchise.

We learned that Blount inducted Lawyer Milloy to the Hurdled Over You Hall of Fame. Blount, the rookie sensation who had a career-high 164 yards on 18 carries against Seattle (9.1 avg.), broke off a 48-yard run in the third quarter in which he hurdled over Milloy, a veteran safety. Milloy marks the fourth defensive back that Blount has gone airborne over this year, in addition to hurdling Arizona’s Kerry Rhodes and San Francisco’s Reggie Smith, and leaping over Carolina’s Charles Godfrey.

“Oh man, it’s fun,” Blount said. “It’s fun playing against veterans – really good veterans. Lawyer Milloy is one of the best safeties I think. I grew up watching him play for the Patriots. It’s definitely awesome to get guys like that on the football field. After the game is over, I want to meet some of these guys like Lawyer Milloy and Donovan McNabb. Those are guys I grew up watching. We’re all in the NFL, but these are guys I idolized and they helped me get into the league.

“All I saw was green grass.  I saw my fullback run and make a big block. I saw grass down the whole right side of the line and basically all I had to do was run to the open field and go one-on-one with the safety. He had to make a decision pretty quickly on the field and his decision was to go low, because he wasn’t going to tackle me high. I kind of knew that at the time, so the first thing I thought was to give my all, by any means, and I jumped over his head.”

Blount, who has 941 yards and six touchdowns on 182 carries (5.2 avg.) on the year, is 59 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season. On Sunday against Seattle, Blount posted his two longest runs of the year, a 48-yard jaunt and a 53-yard dash – both of which eventually led to Bucs touchdowns.

“I love the open field,” Blount said. “I like to showcase some things that people don’t think I have. Some people don’t know that I can run. They don’t think I’m fast. I like to surprise people.”

With long runs and his penchant for hurdling defenders already on display, there’s little Blount can do to surprise any more.

We learned that Mike Williams might become the best Bucs receiver of all time. It’s early, and we’ve seen rookie seasons before that have turned out to be nothing but teases in the end (see Michael Clayton and Lawrence Dawsey), but Williams is a special talent. Not only did he catch three passes for 44 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday against the Seahawks, Williams broke a team record and tied another.

With 10 touchdowns on the year, the Syracuse product broke the team’s rookie record for TDs in a season, which was held by Lars Tate in 1988. Williams also tied Joey Galloway’s single season touchdown catch record, which was set in 2005.

“It’s very exciting,” Williams said of catching touchdown passes from Freeman. “I mean all year, playing with him, catching touchdowns from him, learning from him and learning my route adjustments, it’s been great.  I’m looking forward to keep on going in the future.”

Williams has 61 catches for 924 yards and 10 TDs on the season, which easily leads all rookies. He needs to get 76 yards in New Orleans to finish with a 1,000-yard season, and he needs five catches to reach 66 and move into second place ahead of Mike Alstott and behind Clayton (80 receptions) for the most receptions by a rookie in team history. Williams has the talent to break all the receiving records in Tampa Bay when his career is over.

We learned that Kellen Winslow is on fire. Tampa Bay’s top tight end had a big day against Seattle on Sunday, catching seven passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Over the last three games, Winslow has really heated up, catching 13 passes for 196 yards and three touchdowns, and has 63 catches for 702 yards and five scores on the year. His five touchdowns ties his career high for a single season, which he set in 2007 in Cleveland and matched last year in Tampa Bay.

Winslow said he was motivated to play on Sunday after finding out that the league sent an apology letter to the Buccaneers for a blown call that took away Winslow’s fourth quarter touchdown last week. That proved to be a pivotal play in Tampa Bay’s 23-20 overtime loss to Detroit.

“Most definitely – they’ve taken two away from me this year,” Winslow said. “What can you do? You have to control what you can control and move on.”

Not one to accept all the glory, Winslow praised the efforts of Freeman and Blount on Sunday after the game.

“I wish I was able to do that still,” Winslow said of Blount’s hurdling ability. “I don’t even think he knows what he’s doing yet. That’s what is so amazing about him. I can’t wait until he really gets it because he’s unstoppable.”

With catches of 29 yards and a 20-yard touchdown in which he leapt into the end zone in dramatic fashion, Winslow was quite unstoppable against Seattle on Sunday, too.

We learned the offensive line took over in the second half. Freeman and Blount were not the only players that took over the Seattle game after halftime. Tampa Bay’s offensive line, which had given up two sacks and only generated 66 rushing yards in the first half, really turned up the level of its play in the second half. The pass protection improved greatly, and that gave Freeman time to throw three second half touchdowns.

Winslow credited the offensive line play for the success of the offense on Sunday.

“It was just protection,” Winslow said. “If [Freeman] has time – and that’s with most quarterbacks around the league – quarterbacks are so good in this league that we’re going to be able to connect. I think that was the key today.”

Blount rushed for a career-high 164 yards on Sunday, with both of his big runs – a 48-yarder and a 53-yarder – coming in the second half. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood played exceptionally well in starting for the injured James Lee. The Bucs offensive line started their eighth different offensive line combination on Sunday and generated a season-high 439 yards of total offense after recording 403 yards last week against Detroit. Tampa Bay is 5-1 this season in which the offense produces 350 yards of total offense or more.

We learned that Frank Okam is a beast. Don’t believe me? Ask Tampa Bay defensive end Michael Bennett, who got his first career start on Sunday in place of Stylez G. White.

“Frank is a beast, man,” Bennett said.

The 6-foot-5, 350-pound Okam, who got his first start in Tampa Bay as a three technique against Detroit last week and struggled with consistency, played much better on Sunday against Seattle. But he played like a beast on Sunday and was second on the team in tackles with a career-high seven (six solo), in addition to two tackles for loss.

Okam, who gave up a big, costly run last week late in the game against Detroit by not being in his gap, did a much better job of maintaining gap integrity on Sunday against Seattle.

“I think we were pretty embarrassed the past couple of weeks, so it was pretty important to make sure we tried to stop the run,” Okam said. “It’s a defensive motto, we know if we stop the run, then we had a chance to do some things and get them in one dimension. Then we can go out there and blitz them like we try to do week in and week out.”

The Seahawks rushed for just 90 yards on 28 carries (3.2 avg.) and Okam was a big reason why Seattle struggled to run the ball effectively.

We learned that Geno Hayes can dominate when motivated. Hayes has been wildly inconsistent this year at weakside linebacker. He’s had some great performances, such as a 12-tackle effort against Cleveland and an eight-tackle game with a pick-six at Arizona. But Hayes has also underwhelmed with pedestrian four-tackle and five-tackle contests against New Orleans and St. Louis, respectively.

Against Seattle, there was gang-tackling aplenty with Hayes usually leading the charge. He finished with a team-high nine tackles (eight solo), a career-high two sacks and two tackles for loss.

“I guess it was just one of those days where you get into a zone,” Hayes said. “Me and Coach [Raheem Morris] have really been looking at my past tape and looking at some tape of my past games. I have slowed down here and there and I really took that as a wakeup call for me to go out and make a plays and go out there and put a spark into the defense.”

Hayes was used effectively on blitzes against Seattle and dropped Charlie Whitehurst twice on Sunday.

“I love getting to the quarterback,” Hayes said. “That’s one of the things that I pride myself on – getting sacks. That can take a lot of confidence out of offenses. I set him up nice on the second one and came in clean.”

The quick and athletic Hayes will need another big game like the one he had on Sunday if Tampa Bay is going to have a chance to win at New Orleans next Sunday.

We learned the Bucs secondary bounced back. After a rough outing last week attempting to cover Calvin Johnson and playing a part in surrendering 10 catches for 152 yards to the 6-foot-5, 235-pound receiver, Tampa Bay's defensive backs rebounded with a great performance against a similar-sized receiver in Seattle’s Mike Williams. Coming in with 60 catches for 720 yards and one touchdown, Williams was the Seahawks’ primary receiving threat.

E.J. Biggers and rookie cornerback Myron Lewis did a nice job of shutting him down, holding Williams, who is a Tampa native, to only two catches for 15 yards. Not only did the secondary bounce back, so did the Buccaneers, who shrugged off last week’s devastating, 23-20 overtime loss to Detroit.

“Monday, the day after the game, everyone came in,” Morris said. “I wanted them to be miserable. I yelled at them, I told them they should be miserable, to enjoy this misery and to remember it this week when it was time to play again. I reminded them last night about how miserable we felt last week. By the time we got there on Tuesday, my young college football team forgot all about it. We went out there and played in our BCS Bowl tonight and next week, hopefully, we get an invite to the playoffs as we get a chance to go to New Orleans. This is our playoff game.”

We learned that just when you think Micheal Spurlock is losing steam, he breaks a big one. Spurlock, who came into Sunday’s game averaging 24.3 yards per kick return, hadn’t really had a big return since returning a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown at Atlanta. In fact, take away that big return and Spurlock’s average drops to a rather pedestrian 22.5 yards per return.

But on Sunday against the Seahawks on a day in which he would mishandle a kick return and not field a punt, which cost his team 15 extra yards, Spurlock came through with a 79-yard kick return in the first quarter to spark the Buccaneers and set up a field goal. Spurlock averaged 33 yards per kick return against Seattle and now averages 24.9 yards as he has gone over the 1,000-yard kick return mark this season.

We learned that the Bucs are still alive in the NFC playoff race. The full playoff picture is outlined by the team at Buccaneers.com, but the quick, less complicated version breaks down like this:

If New Orleans loses to Atlanta on Monday Night Football, Tampa Bay can make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed wild card in the NFC with the following:

• A Tampa Bay victory over New Orleans AND
• A Green Bay loss at home to Chicago OR
• A New York Giants loss at Washington

If New Orleans wins at Atlanta on Monday Night Football, Tampa Bay can make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed wild card in the NFC with the following:

• A Tampa Bay victory over New Orleans AND
• A Green Bay loss at home to Chicago AND
• A New York Giants loss at Washington

If the Falcons beat the Saints on Monday Night Football, there is another, more complicated scenario that could unfold involving several tie-breakers. For the full breakdown of that scenario check out this link to Buccaneers.com.

We learned that the Bucs own the NFC West. With Tampa Bay’s 38-15 win over Seattle, the Buccaneers swept the NFC West division this year. Yet one of the team’s the Bucs beat – either Seattle or St. Louis – will be going to the playoffs while Tampa Bay, who will finish either 9-7 or 10-6 after Sunday’s game at New Orleans, will have to beat the Saints and hope for help elsewhere to make the postseason.

Should the Seahawks prevail next Sunday, they will make the playoffs with a 7-9 record, which would be an absolute embarrassment to the NFL, especially with a Bucs team that beat them having two or three more victories than Seattle. Here’s hoping that the Rams win because at least they would finish 2010 with an 8-8 record, which would make their playoff appearance more tolerable.

It has been well documented that the Bucs have not beaten a team with a winning record all season. They will have one more chance to do so at New Orleans against the 10-4 Saints. But even if they don’t win next Sunday, Tampa Bay can at least claim a victory over a playoff team – even if it was against a wimpy NFC West opponent.

We learned that the coaching and game management was much better than a week ago. Credit Morris for being a quick study. After admitting to second-guessing himself a week ago after the team’s crushing, 23-20 overtime loss to Detroit by trying to win the game on defense instead of putting the game in Freeman’s hands.

“That was my thought process [on Sunday] if you couldn’t tell – go let Five win the game,” Morris said. “Go let Five play defense. Go let Five play offense. Go let Five dictate special teams. That’s what he did.”

The play-calling by offensive coordinator Greg Olson was phenomenal as Tampa Bay racked up a season-high 439 yards of offense – the vast majority of which came in quarters two through four. He deserves credit for putting Freeman in position to win the game and the franchise quarterback responded.

Olson also deserves credit for not shying away from Blount despite the fact that he fumbled twice in the first half (neither of which resulted in a turnover). He kept feeding the rookie rusher the ball and Blount wound up with a career-high 164 yards, including runs of 48 and 53 yards in the second half.

We learned that the Bucs are not losers and have become a team on the rise. Tampa Bay’s 38-15 win over Seattle was a complete victory in which the offense, defense and special teams all combined to make big plays that resulted in the team’s ninth triumph of the season. The team hadn't had a victory quite like this since the 21-0 shutout of San Francisco back in November. The benefit to nine wins is that the team will certainly finish the 2010 season with a winning record, which makes for a better consolation prize than finishing with a losing record.

However, in a sign of immense maturity and seriousness, Freeman indicated that he will not find any comfort in the team’s winning record – whether it is 9-7 or 10-6 – without making the playoffs.

“It’s going to mean exactly the same as a 3-13 season if we don’t make the playoffs,” Freeman said. “That’s what we’re all in it for. We’re all in it to try to win championships. That’s our goal. If we don’t make the playoffs it doesn’t matter if we are 3-13 or whatever we are. The season is considered a failure. That’s our mentality and that’s what we’re working for.”
Last modified on Sunday, 02 January 2011 13:41

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  • avatar

    I love how this team has come together. From the outside looking in everyone thought it was questionable how they handle the season: being cheap, plucking practice squad players, and starting 7th round players. When you analyze what has been done...it masterful. The coaching job done by Raheem and staff of getting players seen as practice squad players on other teams to start and produce effectively against the some of the NFL best teams (we do play n the NFL's best division) is a credit to their talent. This not only boast the moral of the players who are trying to make team and play but also the starters we have here as well. It makes everyone better. In turn looking at the bigger picture more players via free agency will want to come here and contribute, I havent heard a player (other than piscitelli) say they dislike playing for this team. Thats big kudos to Raheem. This offseason will be huge and will put us on track to make a superbowl run because when we get into the playoffs next year with the depth we have. The whole 53-man roster will bring it!
  • avatar

    Get Blount his contract
  • avatar

    totally agree KINDERRT we need to sign Blount now rather than later.
  • avatar

    Good points Scott even though a 9th grader good have said the same thing. The problem I have with what you stated was based so many times on win/loss. You kind of "go with the wind" or should I say win/loss. Lets try this differently? Regardless of the the win or loss our DB's and Safety's have always been in the game. That's it for the Defense. We have lost most games because of the DL and LB's when it came to defense. Now for the Offense; we have won most games because of the offense and I can't remember any game that it was mainly the offense. Yeah sometimes you guys at PR try to blame a lost on Freeman or the OL, but really our 6 losses have been because of our defense. We must draft in the first three rounds 1-2 LB's and 1-2 DE's. The main guy Iwould replace and I know I will take a lot of heat on this is RUDD. He looks like Tarzon and plays like Jane. He's killing us in that position. At least move him to another spot if he is to stay. Go Bucs! Despite Rudd, lets get that 10th win.
  • avatar

    We need to sign Blount long term now, he deserves it!
  • avatar

    Man, I don't want this season to end. I just want to keep seeing these guys going.
  • avatar

    How much fun was it to watch big "tree-fiddy" Okam plow through the line and land on people. Ouch. If he can play nose in a 3-4 as well, then the DT room is as improved as the WR room. Nice work Dom. I'm just sick about Benn's injury and am hoping for the best. His development this year as a big physical reciever has been impressive and I hate that he's losing the off-season work. Bennett is a keeper; playing LDE, RDE and DT. Hayward too, is a keeper. I don't know if I'm more impressed with Biggers' development or Lewis'. Both played a very solid game. The offensive power on this team is scary after only 1 real season with Ollie under thier belts. I can't help but feel with the return of the IR guys (suspended too) that this defense is headed in the same direction. Not even counting FA or the draft. I don't think I"ll be watching a Panthers vs. Steelers type game this comming Sunday in NO. The Bucs' have a very strong "punchers chance" of taking NO down. What a great ride this season has been.
  • avatar

    This team is so much fun to watch, and we have never had a QB like Freeman. The only thing I would say to Josh is win or lose Sunday, playoffs or no playoffs, this season was definitely not a failure.
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