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Numbers for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Freeman nice, but composure mattered more

TAMPA — Here are the vital statistics from Josh Freeman's first NFL start Sunday:

Two hundred and five yards passing, three touchdowns, one interception, a come-from-behind 38-28 win over the Packers and 60 beats per minute.

While Freeman caused plenty of excitement at Raymond James Stadium, he didn't appear to quicken his pulse. One day after the Bucs' first win of the season, Freeman's poise under pressure dominated the conversation among teammates and coach Raheem Morris.

"He was real composed out there; he didn't let anything get to him," linebacker Barrett Ruud said. "I think if you saw him after the game, if he would've thrown four interceptions, he would've been the same way. He's not too up; he's not too down. I think that's a great mentality for a quarterback to have."

Freeman rallied the Bucs from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter, throwing touchdowns to Kellen Winslow and rookie Sammie Stroughter.

He went 6-of-10 for 78 yards in the fourth quarter while leading his team on a 72-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive. That performance was capped by Freeman's 7-yard touchdown on fourth down to Stroughter in the corner of the end zone.

"I think he handled it decently well," center Jeff Faine said. "One of the most positive things about it was he was … in the moment. It was like he was playing college ball, like he was out there just playing ball and having a good time, reminding skill guys the intricacies of routes and what not. … He was just living in the moment, taking it all in and having fun with it."

Freeman did a good job eluding the rush and kept his eyes on receivers downfield to make plays.

"That's why I play football. I want to win games," Freeman said. "That's the mind-set all the guys on the team have."

Morris, who was the defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2006 when Freeman was a freshman for the Wildcats, said he wasn't surprised by the 21-year-old starter's composure.

But that's not to say Freeman didn't have jitters. He forgot to send a player in motion on the first play and slid a yard short of the first-down marker on third down.

"I knew he would be composed," Morris said. "He missed a motion on the first play of the game. He missed a couple of the things early, the slide before he picks up the first down. So a lot of that is nervous energy. A lot of that is me grinding into his head and (offensive coordinator Greg Olson) grinding into his head to play smart, not to take any unnecessary shots. He took an unnecessary slide."

By the end of the first half, Freeman got into a good passing rhythm. He led the team to a field goal just before halftime in a two-minute drill. His three touchdown passes are the most by a Bucs rookie in a first NFL start.

"That's what big-time quarterbacks do: They keep their eyes down the field, even when they break the pocket, always looking for the big play," Morris said. "He took some shots down the field, scrambling to his left, scrambling to his right. Some of those things will be big plays soon, and that will be real exciting. It was a great start for him. Obviously, we've got to keep building and keep growing, and obviously, patience is still going to be a virtue with him.

"I wasn't shocked to see him do it at all because I've seen the kid come in here and study, and you've got to give the kid credit for the preparation he put into it without the reps. When he was able to get the reps, he took advantage of it. His ability to come into the meeting room, meet with Greg Olson at 6 o'clock, he's what I told you the kid could be and what we felt he would be when he got here. That's the way he was at Kansas State, and I didn't think it would change. He only got more motivated to do that."

Numbers for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Freeman nice, but composure mattered more 11/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 9, 2009 8:35pm]
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