Just when you start to wonder where the Josh Freeman of 2010 has gone, the third-year signal-caller puts together his best game of the season and his career, statistically.
Freeman was decisive and a leader. Although he ended up with two interceptions he gave the Buccaneers ample opportunity to win the game.
Earlier this week Freeman told the media he thought he was a better all-around quarterback than last season, but up until the Green Bay he hadn’t shown it. Sunday though, Freeman played with something to prove. By throwing for almost 350 yards he was able to silence some of his critics.
For the game Freeman was 28 of 48 for 342 yards, two TD’s and two picks.
LeGarrette Blount single handedly sparked the entire team with a highlight-reel run, busting through and over eight Packer defenders en-route to a 54-yard first half touchdown.
On the afternoon, in cold soft-turf conditions, Blount punished the Packers with his physical running style and made the defense think twice before attempting to stick their helmet in No. 27’s chest.
Give Greg Olson some credit for not totally abandoning the run when the Buccaneers were down 14-0 in the first half. But give Blount the majority of the credit for getting his teammates pumped and excited for the remainder of the game.
The Bucs leading rusher finished with 107 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown and even added one pass reception for six yards.
After receiving criticism from Raheem Morris, Greg Olson and the media and fans since the preseason, Buccaneers receivers showed up today and almost helped pull off a stunning upset.
Much-maligned and oft-criticized receiver Mike Williams easily had his most productive the 2011 season, hauling in seven Freeman passes for 83 yards and a score. But maybe more importantly was the lack of any noticeable drops.
Arrelious Benn also came through big time for Olson and Freeman with five catches for 76 yards, including a 31-yard fourth quarter jump ball over man coverage that led to the Buccaneers' final touchdown.
Preston Parker remains a true third-down weapon, catching one 20-yard pass on third down and having another wiped out by a penalty.
Even Dezmon Briscoe got into the action today by making up for his missed opportunity to score last week and snaring fourth-quarter TD pass.
It’s hard to be critical when a guy with gimpy knees sells out his body and has a career day catching nine passes for 132 yards. But the Buccaneers needed that touchdown called back on offensive interference and the two-point conversion drop. The two-point conversion pass was low and behind him, but if you ask Winslow he will say he should catch that ball every time.
Winslow will never be called a great blocker, but neither will Tony Gonzalez. Winslow’s job is to create matchup problems, pull safety’s away from receivers and to be a be a headache for linebackers.
Winslow did just that on Sunday and provided leadership in the process.
After what was probably their worst game of the season in the humbling loss to Houston the Buccaneers' offensive line responded to line coach Pat Morris’ challenge and played a solid all-around game.
In pass protection, the O-line gave Freeman just enough time to complete 28 passes and amass nearly 350 yards through the air. Freeman was sacked twice but was well-protected for the most part.
In run blocking, the unit's aggressiveness was never more apparent than on Blount’s 54-yard scamper. Guys were blocking not just one, but in some cases two or three players. Blount may not score if guard Davin Joseph stays locked up with the linebacker and doesn’t come off his block to destroy Tramon Williams' ribcage. And Jeremy Zuttah was sprinting right behind Blount all the way to the end zone.
Playing on a cold, soft field is more difficult for a defensive line than an offensive line, as the ability to stop, plant and redirect becomes nearly impossible sometimes.
The line was mostly solid in limiting the Packers to just 91 yards on the ground. Pressure was steady but Tampa Bay was only able to get Aaron Rodgers to the ground on two occasions.
No one on the defensive line had more than two tackles but the all-around play was good enough to win facing most any team other than the Green Bay Packers.
The most criticized unit on the team played decent but rarely did you hear a linebacker's name being called after a big play.
Quincy Black played his best total game, collecting eight tackles, but had an egregious error when he let Packers tight end Tom Crabtree release on a short touchdown pass. To be fair to Black since we don't know what the defensive call was on that specific play, he may have expected safety help from FS Corey Lynch.
Rookie Mason Foster and Geno Hayes both ended up with only two tackles each, but to the linebackers' credit, they were hustling to the ball and I expect their tackle counts to rise after the Buccaneers staff grades out the game on Monday.
It’s hard to say if the Buccaneers secondary played poorly or if Aaron Rodgers just made it seem that way. The one thing that is certain is E.J. Biggers struggled most of the game getting beaten regularly and drawing yellow flags for interference and illegal contact.
Biggers has been picked on all season and the Packers followed suit.
Myron Lewis, who has rarely seen the field this season, was thrust into the lineup and was beaten by Jordy Nelson for the Packers' decisive score. He was also flagged for a defensive holding which negated a third-down stop.
Aqib Talib was largely solid and had an important pass breakup. The safety play of Sean Jones was markedly improved over last week. Corey Lynch filled in decently, but you have to wonder if Tanard Jackson's presence would have been enough to flip the result.
Michael Koenen wasn’t his usual reliable self and his mistake trying to field the first onside kick wasn’t smart football. The execution of the kick was also poor, as it never traveled the required 10 yards to begin with.
Koenen averaged 46.3 yards on his punts but his net average was only 23.7 and suffered as Packers kick returner Randall Cobb took a punt back 55 yards in the second half.
Conner Barth was perfect on his two field goal attempts and is having a Pro Bowl-type season.
The return game was solid as Preston Parker returned one punt for 16 yards and Sammie Stroughter averaged 25 yards on six kickoff returns.