TAMPA — The Bucs will try to do something they haven't done since 2003: win a fourth straight road game. And they can finish the first quarter of the season 3-1.
As a rookie, QB Josh Freeman led the Bucs to consecutive wins at Seattle and New Orleans last year. They won at Carolina in their only trip this season.
"Playing on the road presents a different challenge for the offense," Freeman said. "When you are at home, your communication is a lot easier, but when you are on the road, the crowd tends to get a little noisy and you might have to rely a little more heavily on your nonverbal communication. That is definitely going to be a point of emphasis (in practice this week)."
But coach Raheem Morris said a victory at Cincinnati on Sunday won't change the Bucs' businesslike approach. In fact, he won't begin to be satisfied until the club is hanging a division championship banner like the Tampa Bay Rays.
"This town doesn't deserve to throw a pool party every time we get a win," Morris said. "This town deserves the Rays, what the Rays have been able to do. Playoff bound, out there fighting and going out there and winning the AL East. You guys probably wrote them off, too. That's what they went out there and did, and we want to be that.
"I'm not saying we're going to do that right now, or when we're going to be able to do it, but that's what we're building for. I told you guys a long time ago, we're going to build a team that has long-lasting winning, and we're starting that. We've got young players, ascending players, and we're growing in the right direction. I hope I can get there faster than what you guys think I can because then I can come up here and make you guys look bad."
Dynamic duo: Freeman will face one of his toughest tests when he challenges the Bengals' Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, one of the best cornerback tandems in the league.
Hall has an interception in each of his past three games, and Joseph had six picks last season. But he suffered a forearm injury against the Browns, and his status is unknown for Sunday's game.
The Bengals play a lot of man-to-man coverage and will force tight windows for Freeman, who has a 59 percent completion rate.
"Both those guys, they really don't get enough credit because of the line of work they're in; Cincinnati leaves them on islands all the time," Freeman said. "Those guys step up to the challenge week after week, and they've done a tremendous job.
"We understand there's going to be some contested passes, some throws where we're going to need Mike Williams to make a play or we're going to need me to throw a perfect ball.
"We understand that and invite the opportunity, invite the challenge. I'm excited about the opportunity to play against another AFC North defense and a team … ranked (ninth) against the pass."
Earning his stripes: Williams, a rookie receiver, has watched WRs Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens for years with admiration. He'll get a firsthand look at the Bengals' dynamic duo Sunday.
Owens, who notched 222 receiving yards against the Browns last week, recently surpassed 15,000 career yards. A few weeks ago, Ochocinco reached the 10,000-yard mark. Those are plateaus Williams can only dream of three games into his career.
But Williams knows that emulating some of the best can help him get there.
"They're two great receivers I've always looked up," Williams said. "Those two on the same team, it's crazy. It's like cheating.
"All the receivers in the league, I try to take something from everybody and try to make it a part of my game. But especially those two guys."
Of Owens' big game last week, Williams said, "He shows what he can do with any team he plays with. With a guy like that, you can go outside and inside, and that's what you see with him. He's playing the slot and outside receiver. You can't stop a guy like that."
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.