TAMPA — Until Bucs players learn how to pull away from teams on the scoreboard, Raheem Morris plans to keep his foot on the accelerator for them.
Morris said his failed fourth-quarter decisions to fake a punt and attempt a 51-yard field goal with the lead Sunday at Atlanta were "aggressive play" and a trait he wants to instill in his team.
Punter Dirk Johnson was unable to complete a pass and tore his left hamstring on the fake punt, landing him on injured reserve Monday.
After Connor Barth missed a field goal wide right, Atlanta drove 59 yards for the winning touchdown with 23 seconds left to beat the Bucs 20-17.
"I don't know if a long field-goal attempt is outside the box. I don't know if a faked punt attempt is outside the box," Morris said. "I think it's aggressive play. We were a 1-9 football team. I think you have to teach this team how to insert a dagger in somebody and win the game. That's part of the learning, part of the curve and part of what we're going through. For me, too."
Morris said he didn't second-guess his decisions after he made them Sunday.
"During the game, no," Morris said. "But right now, it didn't work, so yes, I'm second-guessing myself. But if it worked, I wouldn't be. If it worked, we (would have) got the ball back, run the clock out and the game's over. Bucs win."
Morris said those two fourth-quarter decisions will be made easier with the continued development of rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who connected on 20 of 29 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
The Bucs forced Atlanta to use their final timeout and faced third and 7 from the Atlanta 36-yard line. But rather than have Freeman attempt to pick up the first down passing and potentially run out the clock, the Bucs got a 3-yard run from Derrick Ward before the missed field goal.
"He took a step back the previous week, but it's about the kid's character and about bouncing back," Morris said of Freeman. "With that, it's going to bring about more aggressive decisions with your quarterback. Having that type of flow and that type of feel, that's just going to build naturally. (Sunday)? I kind of felt the Connor Barth love, and I kicked a 50-yard field goal.
"I didn't ask him to make three this game; you go make this one. We kick the ball off, they get the ball inside their 20 or the 20-yard line. We go out there on defense and play the way we've been playing the whole day — fast, hard, physical and together — we get out of here with a win. It just didn't work out that way."
Morris said he had confidence in Barth after watching him kick three field goals of 50 yards or more Nov. 15 at Miami. Playing indoors at the Georgia Dome only buttressed his decision.
Other times this season, Morris has erred on the side of caution and wound up losing.
Trailing 16-10 and facing fourth and goal at Washington's 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter, Morris opted not to take another shot at the end zone and opted for a Mike Nugent field goal. The Bucs got the ball back at their 19, but Clifton Smith fumbled with 48 seconds remaining.
How does Morris believe he has fared with some critical coaching decisions this season?
"Not good, because we haven't won a lot of them," Morris said. " … You've just got to do better. You've got to win them all. It's easy the next day to second-guess yourself in a decision, because you can always go back and say, 'What if, what if, what if?' But at the time, you've just got to make the decision and go with it."