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.QUARTERBACK
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).GRADE= CRUNNING BACKS
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.GRADE = AWIDE RECEIVERS
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.GRADE = C+OFFENSIVE LINE
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.GRADE = B+TIGHT ENDS
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.GRADE = B
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