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December 23, 2012 @ 5:43 pm
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Red Zone Misfires, 4 INTs Doom Bucs In 28-13 Loss To Rams

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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For the second straight game, Bucs QB Josh Freeman threw four interceptions, including a pick-six, and that combined with several missed opportunities in the red zone cost Tampa Bay in a 28-13 loss to St. Louis. The defeat assures the 6-9 Bucs a losing season for the second straight season.
Tampa Bay’s late-season slide continued at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday as the team lost its fifth consecutive game, 28-13, to the St. Louis Rams. The Bucs stood little chance of winning as quarterback Josh Freeman, who is mired in a four-game slump, struggled mightily once again. After throwing a season-high four interceptions in last week’s 41-0 loss at New Orleans, Freeman threw another four picks in Sunday’s loss to the Rams.

“You can’t turn the ball over,” Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. “That’s what it boils down to in this league.

“We have to, have to, have to make improvement there. The number one job of a football team is to not turn the ball over and take the ball away.”

Freeman was accountable but frustrated after Sunday’s loss.

“I’m trying to cut these turnovers out of my game and win,” Freeman said. “I have to take the blame as the quarterback. ... I’m not depressed by any stretch, but I’m frustrated.”

Nearly as bad as Freeman’s interceptions was the fact that he couldn’t throw touchdown passes in the red zone despite given multiple opportunities. Trailing 28-13 in the second half, the Buccaneers had two golden opportunities to tie the game but saw the offense sputter twice inside the Rams’ 10-yard line. Late in the third quarter after an incompletion on third-and-1 from the St. Louis 5, a QB sneak by Freeman failed to pick up a first down and it was a turnover on downs.

The same thing happened early in the fourth quarter as Tampa Bay went for it on fourth down from the St. Louis 7-yard line. But Freeman threw three straight incompletions before hitting Doug Martin with a 2-yard gain down to the 5-yard line on fourth-and-goal, which was another turnover on downs.

“It’s rough, trying to make something happen,” Freeman said. “We have to figure out a way to eliminate these turnovers.

“Untimely turnovers these last couple weeks … I’m the quarterback and that’s on me.”

Two more turnovers on downs occurred late in the fourth quarter as Freeman was sacked on fourth-and-5 in St. Louis territory to end one drive, and his completion to tight end Dallas Clark fell short of the first down on the Bucs’ final drive. Freeman was harassed all day and sacked five times as Tampa Bay’s banged up offensive line, which lost left guard Jeremy Zuttah to an ankle injury, struggled to block St. Louis’ aggressive defensive front.

Defensive lineman William Hayes led the Rams with two sacks, while defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Kendall Langford and safety Quintin Mikell each had one sack.

“We have to examine all that stuff,” Schiano said. “At the end of the day, we aren’t going to win turning the ball over.”

Freeman finished the game completing 30-of-54 passes for 374 yards with one touchdown, a 61-yard strike to Mike Williams, to go along with his four interceptions. Williams was Tampa Bay’s leading receiver with a season-high seven catches for 132 yards.

“When [Freeman] makes those [good] plays they are spectacular,” Schiano said. “When he doesn’t, he’s forcing it. When it works, it’s a great play. Calculated risk-taking is a huge component of quality quarterback play.”

Bucs wide receiver Vincent Jackson had seven catches for 108 yards, including a 46-yarder. Sunday marked Jackson’s fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season.

Martin, Tampa Bay’s rookie running back, gained just 62 yards on 18 carries (3.4 avg.) and was out-gained by Steven Jackson, who gained 81 yards on 19 carries (4.3 avg.) and scored a touchdown in the third quarter to give St. Louis a commanding 28-6 lead. Martin did catch a career-high seven passes for 57 yards on Sunday for the Buccaneers.

After not generating a turnover on defense in the last two games, Tampa Bay’s defense got the team off to a good start with a forced fumble by cornerback Leonard Johnson in the first quarter, but after his recovery, he fumbled it back to St. Louis. In the second quarter, cornerback Danny Gorrer picked off St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford in the end zone to end a potential Rams scoring drive, but that was it for the Bucs defense in the takeaway department.

“If you are going to have a four- or five-turnover game you need to be able to match that,” Schiano said.

Although Tampa Bay’s defense did not record a sack it played reasonably well outside of an 80-yard touchdown pass to tight end Lance Kendricks on the first play of the second half. Kendricks, who led the Rams with four catches for 119 yards, was wide open down the middle of the field as there was a bust in Tampa Bay’s coverage.

“That was a shame,” Schiano said, refusing to name the player that blew the coverage on Kendricks. “Certainly disappointing. St. Louis took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t.”

The Bucs defense surrendered 285 yards to the Rams with 80 of it coming on one play. Bradford completed 13-of-27 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and outplayed Freeman, who has now thrown nine interceptions and just five touchdowns in the last four games.

“I do say this to our fans we have good players in this program and we’re going to get more and we’re going to win,” Schiano said at the end of his press conference. “I ask our fans to hang in there.”

Sunday’s loss assures Tampa Bay, which is now 6-9, of its third losing season in the last four years. The Bucs travel to Atlanta to face the NFC-leading Falcons in the 2012 season finale. Tampa Bay has a better chance of winning that game and snapping its five-game skid if the Falcons rest their starters for the playoffs since Atlanta has clinched home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the postseason.

First Quarter – Buccaneers 3, Rams 0

Josh Freeman started off the game hot by completing 5-of-6 passes for 52 yards and running twice for 13 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson had three catches for 38 yards, but the drive stalled at the St. Louis 11 after Freeman got sacked and the Bucs had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Connor Barth to take a 7-0 lead.

Second Quarter – Rams 7, Buccaneers 3
Freeman threw an ill-advised pass off his back foot on third-and-15 from the Tampa Bay 31 and it was picked off by cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who returned the ball 41 yards for a touchdown to give St. Louis a 7-0 lead.

Second Quarter – Rams 7, Buccaneers 6
On third-and-2 from the Tampa Bay 28, tight end Dallas Clark made a great one-handed catch for eight yards. A 15-yard facemask penalty on Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis gave the Bucs another first down. Mike Williams picked up seven yards on third-and-6 to move the chains down to the St. Louis 38, but the drive stalled at the 31 and the Bucs had to settle for a 49-yard field goal by Barth.

Second Quarter – Rams 14, Buccaneers 6
Steven Jackson ran four times for 20 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run to put St. Louis ahead of Tampa Bay right before halftime. Jackson started off the 65-yard scoring drive with a 12-yard run and Sam Bradford hit tight end Lance Kendricks for a 19-yard pass on the drive.

Third Quarter – Rams 21, Buccaneers 6
It took the Rams 14 seconds to score on the first offensive play of the second half as tight end Lance Kendricks was wide open for an 80-yard touchdown catch as St. Louis built a 21-6 lead.

Third Quarter – Rams 28, Buccaneers 6
The Rams took over at the Tampa Bay 30-yard line after Freeman threw his third interception of the game. On third-and-3 from the Tampa Bay 23, Bradford hit wide receiver Danny Amendola for an 8-yard gain to the 15-yard line. Three plays later, Bradford hit wide receiver Austin Pettis for a 5-yard touchdown to put the Rams ahead 28-6.

Third Quarter – Rams 28, Buccaneers 13
The Bucs traveled 80 yards in four plays with Freeman hitting wide receiver Mike Williams for a 61-yard touchdown pass. That play gave Tampa Bay some life and cut into St. Louis’ lead, which was reduced to 28-13.

Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson forced and recovered his first NFL fumble in the first quarter. …. Tampa Bay cornerback Danny Gorrer recorded his first NFL interception in the second quarter. … With two interceptions on Sunday, Bucs QB Josh Freeman has thrown multiple picks in four games this season. … Bucs wide receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson each surpassed 100 yards receiving against the Rams. … With his touchdown pass on Sunday, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has now thrown a career-high 26 touchdowns this season. His previous best was 25 touchdowns in 2010.

Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams stepped up and had his best game of the year on Sunday, catching a season-high seven passes for 132 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown. On third-and-2 from the Tampa Bay 39, quarterback Josh Freeman found Williams wide open on a crossing route, and the receiver eluded linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and safety Craig Dahl to score. The touchdown was his third play of 60 yards or more this season.

Williams only had two catches for 20 yards at halftime, but erupted for five receptions for 112 yards in the second half. Four of Williams’ second-half catches went for first downs and the other one went for a touchdown. For his efforts, Williams is this week’s PewterReport.com Bucs MVP.

Bucs' inactives against the Rams were: Bucs' inactives: CB LeQuan Lewis, RB Michael Smith, G Roger Allen, WR Chris Owusu, WR David Douglas, DT Corvey Irvin and DT Matthew Masifilo.

Rams inactives against the Bucs were: QB Austin Davis, WR Steve Smith, RB Terrance Ganaway, TE Cory Harkey, LB Sammy Brown, OT Joe Barksdale, DT Matt Conrath.

• Tampa Bay wide receiver Tiquan Underwood suffered a back injury in the first quarter and was replaced by Roscoe Parrish. Underwood later returned.

• Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers suffered a groin injury in the second quarter and was replaced by Anthony Gaitor. He did not return.

• Tampa Bay cornerback Leonard Johnson hurt his left shoulder making a tackle in the third quarter. Johnson later returned.

• Bucs left guard Jeremy Zuttah suffered a right ankle injury in the fourth quarter. He was replaced by Derek Hardman.

• Right tackle Demar Dotson got beat by defensive end Chris Long twice in the first half. Long got a sack in the first quarter and his pressure allowed Kendall Langford to sack Josh Freeman in the second quarter.

• On third-and-15 from the Tampa Bay 31, a frustrated Josh Freeman threw a pick-six off his back foot and the interception was returned 41 yards by rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins for a touchdown to give the Rams a 7-3 lead. The Bucs had three offensive players, including Freeman, in position to make a tackle near the goal line, but Jenkins was still able to score.

• On first-and-10 from the St. Louis 49, Freeman was sacked by safety Quintin Mikell after running back LeGarrette Blount whiffed on the block. Mikell forced a fumble on the play, but the ball was recovered by Tampa Bay right guard Jamon Meredith.

• After the defense forced three straight punts in the second half, the Bucs failed to score points and capitalize on great field position every time. Tampa Bay had two golden chances for touchdowns in the second half, but saw two drives end at the Rams’ 5-yard line and the 3-yard line with turnover on downs.

Tampa Bay (6-9) travels to Atlanta to play the Falcons (13-2) on Sunday, December 30 at 1:00 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox.

Last modified on Sunday, 23 December 2012 17:52

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  • avatar

    Last year we fired a coach because the team fell apart down the stretch. This year we are doing the same thing. To me the biggest issue is we just don't have enough talent. On Defense,the only above average players we have are Barber, McCoy and David-and you can make an argument for Bennett and Foster. On Offense, Jackson, Penn, Nicks, Martin, Joseph. That's it. This is why we continue to lose games when it matters most. PR gave the MVP to Mike Williams. Really? Did you notice he was the reason for two of the interceptions? I can excuse the one where he fell, but running a sloppy route and letting a DB cut across your face is inexcusable at this level. We aren't very talented, and we are making alot of mistakes. This causes losses in November and December. And no I am not calling for our coaches head, I don't think it's his fault. But that spending spree we went on last year has gotten us 2 wins, maybe 3 if Atlanta rests everyone next week.
  • avatar

    Boy this is an emotional bunch. Why is the first option with some people to cut a player on whom they believe all blame for a loss rests.....the QB? I know it looks bad when a QB throws an interception; but ALL QB's throw inopportune interceptions (some their fault and some not). The question for me is; why after 13 games Freeman had only 8 interceptions and looked fantastic; then in just two games he has doubled the interception total? I suspect opponents have figured out how to defend this briefly potent offense by bringing in defenders to the line of scrimmage and clog the running lanes on their way to pressure the QB. The weakness of the offensive line has been exposed. Combine that with our weak secondary and pass rush (in spite of repeated blitzing) giving up huge chunks of yardage and rarely getting off on 3rd down and we are behind on the scoreboard. Freeman then gets antsy and tries to do more than he should resulting in stretches of poor play. I still see enough good things in his play to resist starting over like many fans want to do with the likes of players who have failed elsewhere or an unproven rookie. We all hear about Andrew Luck and think he's great yet he has 18 interceptions. The thing is, his defense doesn't give up as many points. Other team's backups rarely succeed elsewhere. If you want to jettison Josh Freeman, tell me who is a sure thing.
  • avatar

    Scubog, those statements don't work anymore. Freeman had time at times to do what most average consistent QB 's do. He appeared clueless, looked like a brand new rookie in his first game, appeared to be lost in transition, he appeared to shut down at times like he didn't know what to do. He is no leader.
  • avatar

    Some of em have said , Freeman is a work in progress . At this rate Doug Martin will be 40 years old by the time he gets it .
  • avatar

    While I cant continue to support Free I also can't seem to come up with a better option either via FA or draft...To me, our problems start with this defense and the lack of talent in the secondary as well as lack of quality depth on the DL. While fixing them may help Free, I think we know what we have with him...which is a wildly inconsistent QB.
  • avatar

    kevin8546, I hear what you are saying and I have given Freeman a pass for the same reasons until now. I finally accepted that we will never make it back to the Super Bowl with Freeman as our QB. I had to let it go. It's time to reset the QB clock in 2013. I would rather swap QB,s with the Jets and try Sanchez. I never thought before that this suggestion might be logical because both need to play somewhere else.
  • avatar

    I genuinely felt sorry for Freeman today. The guy is a nervous wreck. I'm on my way over to One Buc Place to hold his hand to help him get his finger up his nose!
  • avatar

    I've been beating this drum for awhile now,Freeman needs competition. Free was handed this job four years ago, it's time he earn it. Thank god we didn't give him an extention like how the Jets are saddled with Sanchez.
  • avatar

    Amen to that surfer, Amen to that!
  • avatar

    Another disastrous home performance in a season of disastrous home performances. The 2012 effort will ensure the continued dwindling and suppression of the season ticket base and result in many more blackouts in the coming years.
  • avatar

    @ pinkstob, @ horse Totally agree w both of you.
  • avatar

    We are fans of one terrible football team.
  • avatar

    I was at the game. There was a lot of blame to Go around. There's no question that several players will not be on this team next year that were on the 2011 team. I am off the Freeman bus. We need to cut him after the Atlanta game and move on. After four years of inconsistency from Freeman, it's time to go another way. It's also time to say good bye to Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan. We have a very expensive pass rush pass defensive scheme and Sheridan should take the blame for it. It is also time for several Bucs to take less money or it's time to send them on their way as no team will pay them that kind of money either. Lastly, Coach I am still a fan and support you, but we need to get much better in 2013. Glazer's, you still need to lower your ticket and concession prices.
  • avatar

    Freeman= PURE GARBAGE.. Draft/pick-up a QB Bucs, or this will be the result for years to come.. SAD,SAD,SAD.. What a waste of talent not being utilized ..
  • avatar

    Freeman... accountable??? Funny, others have lost their jobs or been cut for poor performance. WHY does Freeman keep getting a pass. Hard nose Schiano should bench him to send a message if nothing else. BUt we are stuck with a QB who has weapons galore, and still can not get things right in his head. I am going to be sick with all this red zone stupidity from Freeman...
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