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Scenes from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars game

Up until Saturday evening, after the Bucs' arrival in Jacksonville, there remained uncertainty about the status of QB Josh Freeman. • Having missed the previous week's game against Carolina with a shoulder injury, Freeman returned to practice late last week and, after testing his arm in pregame warmups, took the field as Sunday's starter. • But he admitted it wasn't without discomfort. And Freeman continued to battle the difficulty he was experiencing when his shoulder got cold — during timeouts and defensive series — which resulted in it stiffening up. • Freeman was 16-for-30 for 181 yards, throwing two interceptions. It wasn't his best day, but the Bucs had no second thoughts about playing him. • "Obviously, he didn't play well," coach Raheem Morris said. "But you put him out there. You've got to play him. He was healthy. We make no excuses about it. He took a couple (hits) and was able to get back up. Obviously, you can't say (he played) without pain. He played through it. He's a fighter. This guy is for his team. He wants to go out there and win for them. But we won't make excuses that he had bad throws because of his bad shoulder. We had bad throws because of decisionmaking. I wouldn't put him out there if he wasn't ready to go."

RB LeGarrette Blount's punishing running style makes defenders leery about tackling him, a trait that would seem a good quality for a running back. • But defenders have learned that, when unable to get Blount to the ground, there's a second option: strip the ball. • Blount fumbled twice Sunday, losing one, giving him three lost fumbles in a span of three games. Blount lost two fumbles at Tennessee two weeks ago. • "Once you get to the second level and these guys see they can't tackle you, their second thought is to go for the football because they know they can't get you on the ground," Blount said. "It's just fighting for all that extra yardage. Being the kind of player that I am, that's what I do. I'm not going to (divert) from how I play, but at the same time, I have to learn how to hold on to that football and just continue to play the way I play. I have to be conscious that they're going to come and get the football." • Blount's first fumble Sunday, in the second quarter, was recovered by G Jeremy Zuttah. But his second, coming with 7:59 left in the third quarter, proved costly, coming at the end of a 23-yard run. With defenders struggling to take down the powerful second-year back, Blount kept fighting for yardage, giving LB Russell Allen time to punch the ball out. • "Defenses are going to go for the ball more so against guys who fumble it a lot," Blount said. "I don't want to get that label. … It's something that's creeping into a lot of people's heads, so I'm going to have to try and erase that memory, including for myself."

. The Bucs have been largely pleased with the performance of WR Preston Parker, both as a kick and punt returner, and as a slot receiver. But if there has been a weakness in his play, it would be his tendency to cough up the football.

Parker entered Sunday's game with six fumbles this season, getting enough fortuitous bounces that the Bucs lost just one of them. But his lucky streak ended in Jacksonville, where he had two fumbles.

Parker, who declined postgame interview requests, fumbled in the first quarter while fielding a punt and absorbing a hit from Montell Owens. Morgan Trent recovered for the Jaguars.

The good news? The Bucs defense held, forcing another punt.

Parker was not as fortunate the second time around. As he fielded a punt at the Tampa Bay 20-yard line, he again took a shot from Owens. The ball was jarred loose, bouncing into the hands of Colin Cloherty, who returned it 8 yards for a touchdown.

That prompted Bucs coaches to pull Parker. He was replaced on punt and kick returns by veteran Micheal Spurlock, who fielded one punt for 1 yard.

. The Bucs did something Sunday they had been after all season: score an offensive touchdown in the first quarter. It seemed the day was full of possibilities. "I'm sitting there on the sideline at 14-0 thinking this could be a blowout," C Jeff Faine said. "I wanted to feel great for once this season. But obviously we keep shooting ourselves in the foot." The fast start ultimately went to waste when the Bucs yielded 28 second-quarter points to the Jaguars via an assortment of turnovers. "We came out and started fast, and our offense was clicking right off the bat," RB LeGarrette Blount said. "You have to let that momentum carry you through the game, but it didn't." The Bucs marched 80 yards in 10 plays on the opening possession. QB Josh Freeman, who notoriously has been sluggish in first quarters this season, was 4-for-6 for 59 yards on the drive. Among his completions was a 28-yard strike to TE Kellen Winslow on a well-executed fourth-and-1 play. The Bucs used play action to Blount and rolled Freeman to his right, allowing him to hit Winslow in stride. They capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Blount. The Bucs took advantage of an interception by CB Ronde Barber at the Tampa Bay 48 late in the first quarter to set up their second touchdown. Freeman hit FB Erik Lorig for a 22-yard gain, then the quarterback ran up the middle for the final 13 yards for the score. Seven turnovers later, the quick start was rendered moot.

The Bucs did a better job against Maurice Jones-Drew, the NFL's leading rusher entering the game, than just about any team this season. He was held to 85 rushing yards, his fewest in five games. He averaged just 3.1 yards per carry, his lowest in any game this season. • Yes, Jones-Drew scored four touchdowns (two rushing, two receiving) to establish a Jaguars record with his 73rd career touchdown. Jones-Drew surpassed Jaguars great and former Gator RB Fred Taylor, who had 70 TDs. • "To break a record that Fred (Taylor) set, it means a bunch," Jones-Drew said. "Words can't really explain how excited I am to have a guy that mentored me the whole time, taught me how to play this game the right way, how to take care of my body and do those things. To come out and break the touchdown record makes me very excited." • Jones-Drew's scores came on a pair of 1-yard runs and a pair of 5-yard receptions. • "He runs hard," Bucs MLB Mason Foster said. "He makes plays, and he runs well behind the offensive line."

Players: Don't blame Raheem

. As the Bucs tried to collect their thoughts in a somber locker room after the loss, some players were adamant that coach Raheem Morris shouldn't take all the blame.

"We don't look like a team that can compete right now through 60 minutes," CB Ronde Barber said. "That's everybody's fault. You can't put that on the coach."

Ultimately, coaches are held responsible for their team's play. But players don't escape unscathed, and that's something several veterans made reference to, saying players need to realize their jobs are on the line, too.

"We have to win for us," Barber said, referring to himself and his teammates. "There's no doubt about it. If they don't know it, they will. This league will chew you up and spit you out if you let it. I think they know that. We just have to be a better football team."

Veteran C Jeff Faine offered a similar warning.

"People are going to say it's an indictment on the coaches, but it's on the players," he said. "We've been playing this game since guys were 5 years old. We know the ball is everything. Ball security is everything. We've got to play smart.

"It's a terrible position we've put (Morris) in. The way that we've lost and the fashion in which we've lost, it is a terrible position for us as players to put him in. This is a very, very young team. Unfortunately, I think a hard lesson is going to be learned this offseason. This is the NFL. They don't play around here. There are going to be a lot of decisions made very soon."

Quick hits

. DE Adrian Clayborn recorded a sack in the first quarter, increasing his team-leading season sack total to 6½.

. CB Ronde Barber's first-quarter interception was his third of the season and 43rd of his career, the most in team history (well ahead of second-place Donnie Abraham's 31).

. Rookie LB Mason Foster's third-quarter interception was the first of his career.

The seven turnovers

. Including what the Jaguars did on the ensuing possession:

Play Quarter Result

Preston Parker fumbled punt return First Punt

Parker fumbled punt return Second Returned for TD

Josh Freeman fumble Second Recovered for TD in end zone

Freeman interception Second Touchdown

Freeman interception Third Interception

LeGarrette Blount fumble Third Punt

Josh Johnson interception Fourth End of game

Scenes from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars game 12/11/11 [Last modified: Sunday, December 11, 2011 10:51pm]
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