Buccaneers head coach Rahem Morris and quaterback Josh Freeman both spoke about Tampa Bay's aspirations of reaching the playoffs in the 2011 season and how close the team came in 2010.
Winning 10 games in a NFL season would usually reserve a spot in the playoffs in most seasons. But last year, even after 10 wins, the Buccaneers were home in January, watching the playoffs on television, and asking the what if question. What if they convert on fourth-and-one at Atlanta? What if the offensive pass interference call against Kellen Winslow versus Detroit went the other way? What if Matt Ryan’s touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins falls incomplete? There is a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL, and both Raheem Morris and quarterback Josh Freeman believe the Buccaneers are ready to make the next step.
“For us it has really been this term we made up, it’s a youngry team, [young and hungry],” Morris said. “We were 10-6 last year and didn’t make the playoffs. So everybody in here has to push for more. In order to push for more, and the only way you can guarantee yourself to make the playoffs is to gout and try and win your division. It’s clear-cut, it’s simple. Not simple to win your division, it a simple message and it’s a message that is going to have to spread throughout the building. Every phase and facet, and that’s what we are trying to work on right now. Winning our division. So we have to go out there and do that.”
Four of Tampa Bay’s six losses last year were by a touchdown or less [Atlanta twice, Baltimore, and Detroit]. In all four of those games a select few plays made the difference in getting the victory instead of the loss. Morris understands how close most games in the NFL are.
“My old defensive coordinator [at Hofstra] used to say, there are going to be two snaps in this game that will change it,” Morris said. “We just don’t which one they will be. So play all 60 snaps like it’s going to be those two snaps.”
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, who spoke to reporters Monday after the team’s walk-through, commented on the Buccaneers’ goals.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to get those wins,” said Freeman. “Like Rah said it starts with your division, and winning our division is priority one right now.”
Taking the next step to the playoffs will require the entire organization making the good decisions and Freeman likes what he has seen from the front office.
“Our talent evaluators, Mark Dominik know how to pick them,” Freeman said. “He picks guys that are good character guys and good players. You had some guys get their first start in crucial situation and they stepped up huge. That is kind of the culture we are building around here. Everybody has got to be prepared to step up and play at a huge level. And guys take that to heart and take that personally.
“Our defense is looking really good. With the addition of the two defensive ends [Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers] those guys are studs. We got Brian Price back, Gerald [McCoy] both those guys are going to make it tough for teams to drop back and throw the ball.”
Realizing what you need to do, and actually doing them are two different things according to Morris, but he feels his team is up for the challenge.
“I think it’s about getting better at what you do,” Morris said. “And what we do is play hard fast smart and consistent. We have the ability to get better in all those things, and finish games and play more consistent in the games we lost throughout last year. Last year means absolutely nothing now. But to be able to use an example, to finish off those Atlanta games at the end last year. To play more consistent in those big time games. We have to get better at those things.”
Heading into the 2011 season, the Buccaneers are poised once again to be, one of, if not the youngest teams in the NFL.
“[Youth] really wasn’t an excuse last year,” Freeman said. “It’s the NFL, it doesn’t matter if you have freshmen playing, rookies, whatever. You get one shot in the NFL and we are trying to make the most of it.”
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