TAMPA — The best and worst of QB Josh Freeman was on display the last time the Bucs played the Panthers.
Tampa Bay rolled up 469 total yards, the fifth-best offensive output in club history. Freeman went 23-of-44 for 321 yards, but the game will be remembered for his five interceptions and no touchdowns.
Two of the five picks came in the red zone, including a pair by Pro Bowl LB Jon Beason.
"It was definitely a tough game to watch because that was a game I definitely feel like we should've won, and we didn't win it because of ball security issues on my part," Freeman said. "Looking back on that game, I try to look at the mistakes I've made and get those out of the way first and then look at the good things I did with the shots down the field and the ability to drive the ball and getting into the red zone.
"This year, I have to be more ball secure, and we have to get those points. I've grown a lot as a player, and I expect to go out and have a much better performance."
In addition to having a firmer handle on the offense, Freeman has learned a lot about the athleticism and quickness of players such as Beason. In fact, offensive coordinator Greg Olson encourages his young players to keep a notebook on players they face twice a year in the NFC South.
Freeman had a gutsy performance last week in the Bucs' 17-14 win over the Browns, throwing two touchdowns and one interception while playing with a broken right thumb. His injury should not be as much of a factor this week.
But it's too early to know if the dark days are behind Freeman.
"I don't know if you can ever say those days are behind you when you play the quarterback position," coach Raheem Morris said. "I think you've just got to say you can learn from those mistakes and try not to go make them again.
"Defenses have beautiful ways of making you make new mistakes."
Tampa 2.1: Need proof the Bucs' Tampa 2.1 defense has evolved under Morris?
Consider that in 61 defensive plays, the Bucs played Cover 2 one time against the Browns.
"We felt we wanted to play a little tighter coverage to make the quarterback with the rush throw balls in tight areas, and it worked in our favor a couple times," Morris said. "That day, that game plan dictated that's what we wanted to do. Every week, hopefully we can change."
Talib fallout: CB Aqib Talib violated the terms of his suspension by watching the Bucs-Browns game in the suite he bought at Raymond James Stadium. Then he lied about it. Twice.
It's hard to fathom Talib realized he was doing something wrong initially by going to the game, but he should have. The terms of his suspension were pretty clear: Stay away from One Buc Place and team activities and have no contact with players, coaches or front office personnel.
It's fair to argue whether a player should be allowed to watch his team play as a spectator while on suspension, but the NFL is clear on this point as well. Players can't.
Before Talib left the Bucs at the end of the preseason, somebody in the organization should've made sure he knew what he could and could not do.
Ultimately, it's Talib's responsibility. But the player and club could face sanctions. Both are at fault.