Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Josh Freeman steps up attack in second half for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA — There still is a learning curve with the new coaching staff when it comes to Josh Freeman, one as big as the arc of footballs the Bucs quarterback heaved deep into the sky Sunday.

After watching Freeman go 11-of-17 for 211 yards passing and one touchdown in the second half of the Bucs' 24-22 loss to the Redskins, coach Greg Schiano said his team, which erased an 18-point deficit, should've attempted more deep passes in the first half.

"Offensively, we threw the ball deep effectively in the second half." Schiano said Monday. "Probably needed to take more shots in the first half."

Trailing 21-6 late in the third quarter, Freeman connected on a 65-yard bomb to receiver Mike Williams, setting up a 7-yard touchdown to Vincent Jackson four plays later.

Freeman started the Bucs' next possession with a 54-yard strike to Jackson. Williams (four catches for 115 yards) and Jackson (six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown) were the first two Bucs to eclipse 100 yards receiving in one game since Mark Carrier and Lawrence Dawsey 20 years ago.

Before the third-quarter outburst, Freeman had only three completions of more than 10 yards, all to Williams. Entering the fourth quarter, Jackson had four catches for 24 yards with a long of 7.

After struggling in the first half to complete 13-of-22 passes for 88 yards, Freeman and the offense did not produce any explosive plays until he was allowed to go downfield to take advantage of matchups against a porous secondary. He finished 24-of-39 for 299 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Before Sunday, the Bucs scored on the first possession of every game. But Schiano said the Bucs need to spend the bye week pinpointing what Freeman is comfortable doing — and throwing.

"He came out gang-busters the first three games, the first series," Schiano said. "This game — not. I look at this quarter of the season now, you step back with the bye week and that's what we're doing now, is looking at our first four games and attacking some things in the next two days. But if it were one thing he were comfortable with or not comfortable with, we'd just cut it out. … But there's different things, different defenses. I just walked out of a meeting where it was, 'Hey, the things we need to do, some of the things is cumulative repetitions.' We've just got to keep doing it and we'll get better at it.

"The deep shots that he hit were as good as you can throw. Some of the lasers he threw in there were as good as you can throw. I do think there is some of that really pinpointing what we know he's most comfortable with and what our offense is most comfortable with. So that's our job to do and make sure we get it right quickly."

The Bucs took the lead on Connor Barth's third field goal, a 47-yarder with 1:42 left.

Tampa Bay had a first down at the Redskins' 34-yard line. LeGarrette Blount ran for a yard at the two-minute warning. The Redskins had two timeouts remaining, but rather than run on second down, a Freeman play-action pass to Williams was nearly intercepted. On third down, wanting to get Barth closer, Tiquan Underwood gained 5 on a receiver screen.

That left too much time for the Redskins, who drove 56 yards and won on Billy Cundiff's 41-yard field goal with 0:03 remaining.

"It's easy in retrospect to say, 'we should've handed it off,' " Schiano said. "But if those are two stuffs and you miss a 52-yard (field goal), then it's "why didn't you throw it?' That isn't an easy one. We'll get it right."

Schiano had no regrets at least two blitzes against quarterback Robert Griffin III on the winning drive.

"Suffice to say, we made mistakes on two of those plays that were critical," he said, without elaborating.

Rick Stroud can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

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