Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman held his weekly press conference on Wednesday afternoon at One Buccaneer Place and discussed problems the Buccaneers have had in the red zone. Freeman also commented how opposing teams have played against them, and where he sees his team at the halfway mark. The following is a transcript of the press conference.
Red zone opportunities have been a big problem for you guys this year. What is happening there?
“Really we had our opportunities. You look at the one to Kellen (Winslow) [and] the one to Lumpkin (Kregg) [and] even the one to Lorig (Erik) just being a hair off. If they are on then we have touchdowns there. The Saints, they did a good job. They stopped the run when we started getting down there and we ended up kicking more field goals than touchdowns. It is hard to win in this division especially versus the Saints if you are not scoring touchdowns.”
It has been the problem all year and not just this past week. Are there some things you guys have identified as biggest issue there?
“[It is] just taking advantage of the opportunities. We have had the opportunities. Everything in the red zone is more condensed. It has got to happen faster and we just haven’t been on our game. [We] haven’t been making plays.”
With two losses in a row and Green Bay coming up is it too early to call this a must win?
“Every game is really important. Especially at this point. We’re 4-4 at the halfway point in the season. We got a really good team with the Texans coming in. Every week we are going to prepare as well as we can and go out and play as well as we can and try to get a win.”
Can you give yourself a good objective evaluation of play here at halfway mark?
“Obviously the turnovers. You look at that. First half of the season that has been something that [I] never would have anticipated, but at the same time it has happened and we are doing things to correct it. Then third downs are a place in every game that they are critical. You know converting on third down. We haven’t really had that many sacks, but yes I would basically say turnovers and then when you have opportunities down the field making the most of them.”
When the running game doesn’t produce the way you want it to do you start to put more pressure on yourself?
“No. Looking back earlier in the season some of those errors and throws may have been from pressing and trying to make something happen when there is nothing there, but I look at it play to play. Each play that is called I go out and I know my responsibility and I do my best to execute it.”
With McCoy going down on the defensive side on the ball, do you feel if the offense can get in front of the team and sustain some drives that will take pressure off the defense?
“Yes. It really hasn’t been something we have thought a lot about, but yes you always try to get a lead. You always try to score points. It is not really [and] I guess you don’t go into a game saying oh we got to do this, but you do [with] every possession want to get away with some points. Get away with a touchdown or field goal.”
You’ve had a good chemistry on field with Graham and are you still building that with Lorig and Lumpkin?
“Well, the reps I took this training camp leading up to…Earnest was the guy. Earnest was the guy in, but I feel like on our offense everybody has an assignment. Everybody has a job. Like Raheem says it is the next man up. Kregg Lumpkin goes in and he has got to hit the same assignments that Earnest Graham did and Erik Lorig is the same way. You talk about chemistry [and] most of the time throwing to the running back it is a check down. So there is not a whole lot of chemistry on in there.”
In general are teams just trying to play Cover 2 and keep a deep safety and make you be patient?
“Each team kind of does their own thing. Look at the Colts—they played a lot of zone. We found that a lot of teams are trying to man up on us. They are trying to man up. They are rotating the safety (there kind of alert guy) to Mike Williams’ side or Kellen Winslows’ side. Trying to take away those guys because they are good guys versus man. We have seen a lot of man this year. A lot of man and this week is going to be no different. The Texans come out [and] they play a lot of man-to-man. They are pretty good at it. We haven’t really seen a lot of zone and when we do see zone we are usually pretty successful.”
Some people said you were demonstrative in this last game on some routes. Is that just your style that you want to address it right then or is it better to take it to the sideline?
“Sometimes it is an emotional game and I am emotional. The last thing I want to do and I hope it doesn’t look like it [but] the last thing I want to do is put somebody on blast. I don’t want to embarrass any of our guys. I would say yes most of the time it is better to go back and talk [about] it on the sideline. Sometimes there are some things that I feel you got to address right then. It is an emotional game [and] most of the time I try to get on the sideline [and] talk it out there. Sometimes if you have a guy right there you are going to let him know.”
Have you been able to maintain your identity this year offensively and have you gotten forced out of being run first team?
“Depends. Depends on the game. It really does. You know I wouldn’t say that. We have had a few injuries [and] kind of in the running back room we don’t have a whole lot of bodies [and] a whole lot of guys who have game experience. I feel like—you know this past game we ran the ball a bunch of times, but you never know. Each game is different. I know if we can get LeGarrette (Blount) rolling [then] we can run the ball successfully. We have had a lot of success in the past.”
Where do you see your team?
“We are still a team that is continuing to get better. They are young guys and a lot of things that we are going to get better on in the future. We are working right now to correct any mistakes. Clean up our style of play right now. These next eight games are going to be some tough matchups, but at the same time we have a lot of confidence. No matter what is going on outside of the building (Raheem talks about it all the time) the guys in that room are the guys that make the difference – from the equipment staff to the head coach everybody has a job to do. We are confident. We are confident we can go out and compete and win every game left on our schedule.”
Is there an issue that stands out as the priority to fix this week regarding penalties and turnovers?
“You can’t really say you are going to focus [but] you kind of have to keep it in the back of your mind whether it is penalties or turnovers—negative things you want to stay away from those. At the same time you have to keep your aggressive mentality and you got to go out and find a way to make plays. The word is always execution. Everybody has a job to do on every play. If everybody does their job to the best of their abilities we feel like we got a pretty good chance.”
-Mark Cook contributed to this story