This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers. QUARTERBACK The Buccaneers started quarterback Josh Freeman for the first time in his career. Tampa Bay traded up in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft to select Freeman, and make him their franchise quarterback. The game started out quietly for Freeman with punts and incompletions on his first two possessions of the game.
After getting the ball at the Packers eight-yard line, Freeman was able to get the Bucs on the scoreboard. Freeman threw a pass into the flat for running back Derrick Ward. The pass was accurate and Ward was able to turn up field and dive for the pilon. It was Freeman's first touchdown pass of his career, and his first completion of the game.
Freeman went back to Ward for 38 yards on the next Buccaneers possession. The Bucs did a good job of setting up the screen, and Freeman did a marvelous job of avoiding to Packer defenders. Not only did he avoid a sack, he kept his eyes downfield and threw an accurate pass into Ward. The Bucs veteran running back weaved his way through traffic to get the Bucs to the Packers' 25-yard line.
The scoring opportunity escaped Tampa Bay. Freeman overthrew an open Maurice Stovall who was in the front corner of the end zone. Stovall's defender had fallen down, a somewhat accurate pass to the 6-foot-5 wide receiver could have tied the game at 14. Instead the Bucs attempted a 45-yard field goal but missed it.
Freeman took a bad sack and fumbled the snap at the Bucs' three-yard line on the next possession. On the sack Freeman rolled out and should have thrown the ball away, but held onto the ball too long. The next possession got worse for Freeman.
After hitting Maurice Stovall for a 13-yard pass, Freeman threw the first interception of his career. After slipping while dropping back to pass, Freeman threw off his backfoot for Stovall. The big receiver was a couple of steps behind safety Nick Collins, but Freeman's pass was underthrown and Collins easily picked it off.
On a two-minute drive to end the first half for Tampa Bay, Freeman showed some improved poise. He connected with Stovall for 12 yards. On the next play Freeman scrambled and had wide receiver Michael Clayton running free down the field about 30 yards past the line of scrimmage. The pass was overthrown and incomplete. If the pass was accurate Clayton could have had an easy touchdown.
Freeman came back to nail Stovall across the middle for a gain of 21-yards. The rookie signal caller followed that up with an 11-yard run, and astutely got out of bounds to stop the clock. He also completed passes to tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Sammie Stroughter to get the Bucs a field goal before halftime.
In the first half Freeman was 8-of-18 for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The 21-year old rookie struggled with some flaws that are typical for young quarterbacks. He starred down receivers, and was jumpy in the pocket.
The third quarter was quiet for Freeman as the Bucs struggled to move the ball and convert on third down. Freeman had a first down conversion on a short pass to fullback Earnest Graham dropped. The fourth quarter Freeman came alive to step up and lead Tampa Bay to their first win of the season.
Early in the fourth quarter Freeman got the Bucs back on the scoreboard. After getting the ball at the Packers 17-yard line, Freeman hit Ward for 10 yards to set up first-and-goal from the seven-yard line. On second down Freeman rolled and threw a pass high in the back of the end zone. Tight end Kellen Winslow leapt into the air, and snatched the ball out of the sky for a touchdown. The score put the Buccaneers down by five, 28-23.
Tampa Bay tried for a two-point conversion and Freeman threw a pass into the middle of Winslow's chest, but the tight end dropped the pass when Packer defenders hit him.
Freeman got the Bucs a lead for the first time in the game on the next possession. On the first play Freeman threw a catchable pass to Winslow downfield for 22 yards. The play got the Bucs to midfield. Freeman threw an interception to Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, but the play was called back on an illegal contact penalty on Hawk.
The big play on the drive came on third-and-7 when Freeman threw an excellent pass to wide receiver Michael Clayton downfield. The pass was placed where Clayton could come back to the ball and make the catch. The sixth-year receiver made the catch, and it went for 29 yards to the Green Bay 13-yard line.
A few plays later the Bucs were faced with a fourth-and-goal situation from the seven-yard line. Freeman threw a perfect fade pass to the back of the end zone for wide receiver Sammie Stroughter. The pass was hauled in to give the Bucs their first win of the season. Tampa Bay elected to go for two again. On the two-point conversion attempt Freeman rolled to his left, and connected with Clayton running wide open across the back of the end zone.
For the game Freeman was 14-of-31 for 205 yards for three touchdowns and one interception. Freeman made a lot of clutch throws to get the Buccaneers their first win of the season.
GAME GRADE: B
RUNNING BACKS Starting running back Carnell ‘Cadillac' Williams had a hard time finding running lanes in the first half. Williams also dropped the first pass of the game after getting open in the flat. Through the first two quarters Williams had nine carries for 29 yards.
The second half featured some tough running from Williams as he grinded his way to 56 yards in the game on 16 carries. Due to having to come back to get the win, the Bucs did not run the ball that much late in the game.
Ward did not have much success on the ground in the first half, running twice for three yards, but he moved the ball well for Tampa Bay through the air with two catches for 44 yards. Ward got the Bucs tied with Green Bay at seven in the first quarter with the six-yard touchdown reception. He got enough space and beat Packers outside linebacker Aaron Kampman to get to the pilon.
On the next possession Ward caught a middle screen on third-and-10 that he rumbled down the middle of the field for 38 yards. Ward almost broke the play for a touchdown, but was dragged down by the last Packer that had a shot at him. The backup Ward did an excellent job of weaving through some traffic to get the ball into Green Bay territory.
The second half mirrored the first for Ward as he did not get going on the ground, but contributed in the passing game. Ward caught a 10-yard pass to help set up the Bucs third touchdown of the game. For the game, Ward had four carries for five yards, and three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Clifton Smith got involved in the offense on a trick play. He caught a shotgun snap and ran left behind the offensive line. Smith lateralled the ball back to the right to Freeman, but Smith's toss was off the mark and went out of bounds. It was a loss of six.
Starting fullback Earnest Graham had a pretty good game as a blocker, especially in blitz pickup. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Graham had a critical drop. On third-and-1 at the Bucs 25-yard line halfway through the third quarter Freeman threw an easy pass to Graham who was five yards past the line of scrimmage. Without a defender near him Graham dropped the ball and the Buccaneers had to punt.
GAME GRADE: C+
WIDE RECEIVERS The Buccaneers wide receivers were without starting receiver Antonio Bryant against Green Bay. Taking his place in the starting lineup as the ‘x' receiver was fourth-year veteran Stovall. In the first half, Stovall was the only receiver to catch any passes.
In the first two quarters Stovall did a good job of getting separation from defensive backs. Tampa Bay worked the big-bodied receiver into the middle of the field, and he did a great job of presenting a big target for Freeman to hit. Stovall moved the chains for Tampa Bay with three catches for 46 yards. His 21-yard reception late in the second quarter was the biggest play in the Buccaneers field goal scoring drive.
Starting flanker receiver Clayton had a quiet game except for two plays late in the fourth quarter. It could have gotten off to a better start as earlier in the game Clayton was wide-open running down the field on a sure touchdown catch, but the pass was overthrown by Freeman.
Clayton made two catches to help lead the Bucs to getting points. He caught a 29-yard pass to get the Buccaneers to the Packers' 13-yard line when the Bucs were down by five. The ball was short of Clayton, and the veteran receiver cut back in front of cornerback Al Harris to make the catch.
After a touchdown pass a few plays later, Clayton caught a two-point conversion for Tampa Bay. He was left uncovered running across the back of the end zone, and grabbed the easy toss from Freeman. Officially Clayton had one catch for 29 yards.
Stroughter scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Bucs after Clayton's 29-yard catch. On fourth-and-goal Stroughter beat Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush on a fade route running to the back corner of the end zone from the slot. Freeman dropped the ball in to Stroughter for the game-winning score. For the game Stroughter had three catches for 19 yards and the score.
GAME GRADE: B
TIGHT ENDS Through the first three quarters of the game it was quiet for the Bucs starting tight end Winslow. He caught two passes for 28 yards in the first half, and was held without a catch in the third quarter. Winslow got the Buccaneers back on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
On a very high pass in the back of the end zone Winslow showed off his leaping ability and snatched the pass out of the sky for a touchdown. Unfortunately for Winslow, he dropped the two-point conversion attempt on a curl route.
The next drive for the Bucs offense saw Winslow make a nice catch waist high running a deep out. The gain went for 22 yards and got the team to midfield. Winslow finished the game with four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Backup tight ends Jerramy Stevens and John Gilmore did not have any passes thrown their direction. Both contributed as blockers in pass protection as Tampa Bay kept in extra blockers to help pickup outside rushers from the Packers 3-4 scheme. GAME GRADE: B
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN It was a mixed outing for the Bucs offensive line early in the game for Tampa Bay. They did a good job of pass protecting, but struggled to open up holes on the ground as the Packers were presenting heavy run defense fronts.
The Bucs offensive line did a good job of executing the middle screen to Ward, and giving Freeman time to throw the ball on the two-minute drive. The one sack they gave up was the fault of Freeman for not throwing the ball away.
In the first half the offense had 166 yards of offense with 46 yards rushing and 120 yards passing. The Bucs were 3-of-7 on third down attempts, and barely lost the time of possession 15:05 to 14:49.
The offensive line also had some mistakes. Left tackle Donald Penn was whistled for a holding call that pushed the Buccaneers close to their end zone. Left guard Jeremy Zuttah had a costly false start penalty on fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter. The penalty forced the Bucs to punt the ball, and give the Packers a chance to tie the game or take the lead. Fortunately for Zuttah, the defense intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.
Tampa Bay's offensive line did a good job of protecting Freeman in the second half as well. The rookie quarterback was sacked only once in the game, and there were many plays that Freeman held onto the ball for a long time to try and let his receivers get open.
The Bucs totaled 279 yards of offense with 81 rushing and 198 passing. They converted three-of-12 third downs, and had 17 first downs. The Buccaneers lost the time of possession 24:43 to 35:17.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.