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December 31, 2012 @ 1:07 am
Current rating: 5.00 Stars/2 Votes

PR Analysis: Tampa Bay's Offensive Game Grades Vs. Atlanta

Written by Mark
Freeman played better Sunday at Atlanta than the previous two games
Freeman played better Sunday at Atlanta than the previous two games Getty Images


Mark Cook


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What grade did QB Josh Freeman earn after Sunday's 22-17 win over the Falcons? What about the play of rookie running back Doug Martin and the offensive line that didn't allow a sack of Freeman? Find out in this weekly postgame feature from Pewter Report.
Pewter Report's Mark Cook offers up his analysis on how each offensive unit played in Sunday's morale-boosting win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Josh Freeman didn’t single-handily carry the Buccaneers offense on his back, and he learned today that you don’t have to throw for 400 yards and four TDs to win a football game. Take away his bonehead third quarter interception that led to a Falcons touchdown, and No. 5 played a pretty solid game.

Sure there were some inaccurate throws and a couple he would like to have back, but for the most part, Freeman took exactly what the Falcons defense gave him and it proved to be enough for the Buccaneers to notch their seventh win of the season.

One thing that helped Freeman immensely was the offensive line that created as clean a pocket as Freeman has stood behind this season. It wasn’t perfect, but the line gave Freeman more than ample time to find his second and third reads when the primary receiver was covered.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was also helpful to Freeman, scaling things back it appeared, helping get Tampa Bay’s signal-caller into a rhythm early in the game. Sullivan also made good use of some misdirection in the first half that kept the Falcons defense guessing.

It wasn’t an All-Pro performance by any means, but compared to the past two weeks it was a big step forward, something Freeman and the fans needed.

On the afternoon Freeman finished 19-of-35 for 222 yards with one TD and one interception. Regardless of the inconsistencies in 2012, Freeman ended the season with franchise records in passing yards (4,065) and touchdown passes (27).

Doug Martin had a huge game on Sunday and without his efforts it is a doubtful the Buccaneers end up getting their seventh win.

The rookie from Boise State has made everyone – including the coaches – forget all about LeGarrette Blount. Martin has proved he is a three-dimensional player (rushing, receiving, pass protection) and Tampa Bay’s front office deserve huge props for identifying the small-in-stature but big-in-heart Martin.

Pewter Report raved about Martin after spending a week in Mobile watching him at the Senior Bowl, but to be perfectly honest, we didn’t foresee the success he has had, especially in such a short period of time.

What was impressive about Martin on Sunday – and really all season – is his ability to squeeze a couple yards out of even a busted or not blocked-well play. Occasionally Martin gets dropped behind the line of scrimmage but for the most part, always seems to gain positive yardage. Martin has an uncanny ability to squirt free for several yards when it looks like he is bottled up for little or no gain.

And Martin also appears to be extremely mentally tough. Despite not having a ton of success in the first half (11 carries for just 36 yards), the Muscle Hamster never dropped his chin to his chest and came out running just as hard – if not harder – in the second half and it paid off with 106 second half yards.

Martin finished with 142 yards on 28 carries (5.07 avg.) with one TD, and also added another 18 yards on four receptions. During the course of the 2012 season Martin shattered all Buccaneers rookie-rushing records including most yards by a rookie (1,454) which is just behind James Wilder’s all-time franchise mark of 1,544 yards set in 1984. Martin’s also recorded his 10th 100-plus total yard game in a season, another franchise record.

Martin was the only running back to register a carry or reception on the afternoon.

Fullback Eric Lorig blacked fairly well from first glance but did commit two holding calls (one was declined), and the former Stanford defensive linemen-turned-fullback had one reception for 12 yards.

The Buccaneers receivers weren’t perfect but once again made several clutch catches at crucial times.

Mile Williams finished just four yards shy of a 1,000-yard season with his six catch, 65-yard afternoon on Sunday. His first half touchdown catch from Freeman was vintage Williams – a twisting top-tapping, falling out of bounds catch.

Williams wasn't perfect however. Late in the fourth quarter, needing another first down to help milk the clock, Williams ran a slant in front of the sticks on third down. Even if he made the catch the Buccaneers would have been a yard short.

Williams still has some things to work on (field awareness, running more precise routes, and using his hands more as opposed to his body to catch the ball) but overall had a tremendous bounce back season in 2012, finishing with 996 yards and leading the team in touchdowns with nine touchdown receptions.

Like a few games this season, Vincent Jackson was nonexistent for a period of time, but when it counted, the veteran receiver stepped up big time. Jackson came up with a three clutch third down receptions, twice picking up low Freeman throws to convert the first down and move the chains. Jackson finished with three receptions for 50 yards.

Tiquan Underwood had two receptions for 27 yards, but also had a drop in the game. Underwood has played well as the Buccaneers third receiver but occasionally has lapses of concentration where he doesn’t look the ball in. The young receiver will need to improve in the offseason as critical drops are about as well tolerated as fumbles by head coach Greg Schiano.

The question of the Buccaneers possibly being a tired football team was brought up recently by former Tampa Bay safety John Lynch, and no unit looked any more tired in recent weeks than the offensive line. The lack of running room and the constant pressure Freeman had been under during the five-game losing streak has been apparent.

On Sunday the beleaguered line rebounded with one of their best efforts in the last several weeks, opening holes for Martin and also giving Freeman plenty of time to go through his progressions and find open receivers.

The Buccaneers most certainly can’t wait to get Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph back next season, but at least now show that they can reshuffle and adapt if they must.

Dallas Clark was shutout for the first time all season and it may have been his final game in a Buccaneers uniform. The former Colt signed a one-year deal last spring, but both parties may be willing to re-up another year.

Luke Stocker will never develop into a Clark type receiving threat, but has gotten better as the year progressed. The former Tennessee standout had a career-high 50 yards on three receptions on Sunday, including a 27-yarder in the first half.

Tampa Bay’s tight ends must also be given some of the credit for Martins 142 yards as they blocked well for the most part on Sunday.

Last modified on Monday, 31 December 2012 01:27

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  • avatar

    I for one was very pleased to see Offensive Coordinator sitting with Freeman on the sidelines and giving him guidance. His forte is in teaching QBs how to improve their games and I am glad he has finally realized he needs to work his magic on Freeman in order to see his offense work like he wants. I also give kudos to our Offensive Coordinator for calling a creative offensive game. It was excellent for a change.
  • avatar

    @Scu- Chris Simms was 6'4 and had 6 batted passes against the Ravens opening day like 5 yrs ago
  • avatar

    I believe in freeman. You can nitpick away at his faults and he does need to improve, but he will. He has shown he can win shoot outs, one score games, and fourth quarter comebacks. Please guys be patient! What we really need is massive defensive help, and quite frankly anything that takes away from that focus this offseason would be useless. If freeman had a defense that could make stops somewhat consistently I doubt he'd make as many mistakes. Anyone can argue validly that we can get better at qb, but the defense is the problem here
  • avatar

    Pink please stop making excuses for Freeman, it's always someone else's fault. Most right tackles can't cleanly block a pro bowl D end. Freeman was looking his receiver the whole way, one little pump fake, slide in the pocket just a little that ball doesn't get batted down. Lynch even mentioned that Freeman get's to many balls batted down, it's on him. His T.D. pass was a perfect example of how a Q.B. should play. Like Big Ben he spun out of trouble, and quickly fired the ball to Williams. But when he stands there flat footed, staring down receivers, he get's picked, or batted down passes. After four years he needs to get that out of his game to take us to the next level.
  • avatar

    Underwood is not an NFL level talent. Get rid of him and get a decent Number Three. He's rarely open on third down and seems to be afraid to go over the middle.
  • avatar

    I'm surprised more wasn't made of Dotson's performance. Two of those Freeman passes that got batted down were because the guy came in unblocked from the right side.
  • avatar

    Good grades Mark. Freeman played good enough not to lose. He was more consistent the first half versus the second half. Thank goodness our defense held them from scoring in the Falcons last series. I hope we bring in a legit back up and draft a developmental QB in the late rounds. I hope we wait until after the 2013 season to see where we are with Freeman. He can and needs to improve; the question is will he?
  • avatar

    Mark, where's Ron Turner when Josh comes to the sideline? I only seem to see Sullivan huddled up with him, shouldn't his Q.B. coach be close by?
  • avatar

    Freeman played a decent game, about time, that's what he gets paid to do. He gets balls batted down because he still stares down receivers, and hasn't developed the ability to slide a little left ,or right to find a clear throwing lane. He should watch tape of Brady to see how it's done. No doubt he has the talent. The gorilla in the room is can he do it for 11 out of 16 games be a consistent winner, or just 4 to 7 games like he's been doing. If I'm the Bucs I still want to have someone like A Smith to come in, and push Josh.
  • avatar

    I am with you guys on all of that - I hope Freeman has developed thick skin...he played well and I agree with Underwood being as culpable on that INT. We need to sign Freeman - he may not be top 5 in QBs but he's definitely top 15 improving on his way top 10....and with a vicious running game next year behind our guards he will be more than good enough to take us well into the playoffs. Now to get something happening on defense......
  • avatar

    Josh should get at least a B-. Man, the guy loses either way. He had one boneheaded play and 2 obviously inaccurate throws in an otherwise excellent outing. I really hope we don't run this great young QB out of town.
  • avatar

    I agree with Scubog about the interception. Underwood did not fight for the ball and faded back. He waited for the ball to come to in and didn't go get it. It wasn't a well thrown ball, but it should not have been an interception either.
  • avatar

    Scubog- all QBs still need lanes to throw the ball through the line. Think about it... Even Josh at 6'6 will get balls batted down by a 6'3 guy with his arms up. Doug Flutie was excellent at finding these lanes being 5'9. Josh needs to be better at not getting balls tipped. Chris Simms was also horrible at this.
  • avatar

    Yes, imagine that. As soon as the team starts protecting the QB, adds an effective running game, and actually plays decent defence....we win and the QB isn't apparently the worst passer this side of Byron Leftwich. It is a team game and QB is by far not this team's biggest issue. Oh yes, and Freeman only became the Bucs all-time passing leader in several single season and franchise categories. But yes, let's listen to the critics and get rid of this bum, since it's his fault every time the team loses....! Glad the team doesn't listen to talk radio types. Re-sign him!
  • avatar

    Hmmmmm, Freeman gets all of the credit for the losses but it appears by his average grade that the remainder of the team gets credit for the win. I do think the 'C' is appropriate but would have been a little higher had Underwood not dropped the easy first down pass and made a better effort to catch the ball or shield off the defender who jumped in front of him for the interception. Not sure why at 6'-6" Josh gets so many balls batted down. He needs to work with Drew Brees or Doug Flutie this off season to learn their tricks. All in all, I thought the offensive line had one of its' better games.
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