TAMPA — Shortly after he was hired in January, Bucs coach Greg Schiano joined general manager Mark Dominik in many discussions about the best way to continue building the team.
Quarterback Josh Freeman needed help, so they added a playmaking receiver to stretch the field and a workhorse running back who could run, block and catch.
They spent $55.5 million on Chargers free agent receiver Vincent Jackson and parlayed extra draft selections to move back into the first round and take Boise State tailback Doug Martin 31st overall.
Tampa Bay's triplets, overcoming an unproductive first half Sunday at Carolina, were big in the clutch in the Bucs' 27-21 overtime win.
Freeman threw a 24-yard touchdown and two-point conversion to Jackson and the winning 15-yard strike to tight end Dallas Clark. Martin rushed for 48 of his 138 yards in overtime.
"Between Mark and me, we said, 'What do we want to build, how do we want to build it?' " Schiano said. "Our formula. Mark was great, he said, 'What do you really want to do as a coach and your staff? Let's try to go get the pieces to do it.'
"That was huge."
Freeman and the offense struggled for the first 54 minutes Sunday; he was 14-of-27 passing for 106 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. But in the final 10:20 he was 11-of-19 for 142 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
"He's a guy who has great composure and great confidence and you have to have that to be a quarterback in this league and this was just another great example of that and staying cool and calm in the situation and making the big plays," Clark said of Freeman.
"That throw to Vincent for the touchdown was unbelievable. Vincent was telling me, 'Great job,' after the game. I'm like, 'Are you kidding me? I don't get a chance to make that catch if you didn't make that unbelievable catch and Josh didn't make that unbelievable throw.' Triple coverage? I mean, that play is unbelievable. He made some big, big-time throws and that's what we're going to need. It's a credit to his ability and his focus when the game is on the line."
Monday, the locker room was still buzzing about the come-from-behind win. Players have credited Schiano and his staff for preparing them for an overtime situation like Sunday's. They ran a similar drill in practice two weeks ago — trailing by eight, one minute to play and no timeouts.
"That's everything to us," Schiano said. "It kind of goes back to the philosophy of, concern yourself with things you can control. And preparation is something we can control. We try to outprepare ourselves every week. What can we do a little bit better than we did the week before, thus learning and getting better each week. It goes to the coaches and the players. … We scour the league and tried to find situations that could apply.
"These guys are into it. That's the big thing."
"The main thing that's happened for Greg and me is talking through our team in daily meetings since he was hired, talking about the idea of what we want to put together," Dominik said. "When you looked at the opportunity to add a guy like Vincent Jackson, how does that fit? And knowing when we first talked to Greg about play action, how does that parlay off each other?"
"With Doug Martin, we saw a special type of back, which is why we traded back up to get him and he's done a really good job."
Perhaps the gold standard for triplets resided in Dallas when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls with quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and receiver Michael Irvin. All three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A fourth piece of the Bucs' puzzle is the tight end, where Clark has surfaced. After catching only nine passes through the first five games, the former Colts star has 18 receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns in the past five.
"The other piece is the tight end because the tight end gives you the opportunity when they try to take this away and that away, it gives you that one curveball that's hard to defend," Schiano said. "For our tight end to make that catch to win the game, on a wheel route, that's pretty good stuff."
Rick Stroud can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.