Josh Freeman

Archive for November 2012

Bucs Have Player*s* Of The Month

November 29, 2012 at 02:22pm by Scott   •  2 Comments »

Not that I don't think he could kick the shit out of me, but those guns aren't big enough to use that as a celebration.
It’s gotten to be so routine that Lavonte David leads the team in tackles and is constantly around the ball that I’ve kind of stopped mentioning it in game write-ups. “Ho hum, another 15 tackles, 2 for loss, a pass break-up, he saved a basket of kittens from drowning. Just another day.” It kind of sucks when you’re so good that it becomes expected and stops getting recognized. Well, the NFL has my back on this one because David won the November Defensive Rookie of the Month award.

What’s even more impressive is that David doesn’t have a lot of “spectacular” plays, and I’m using that word literally. He doesn’t have a bunch of interceptions or even a string of bone-crushing tackles that would have been featured on “Jacked Up!” if ESPN was still a real network. David is just consistently making solid play after solid play, and it’s a testament to whoever is handing out these awards that they didn’t go for style over substance with him.

But if we did care about style points, it didn’t get much more stylish than Dekoda Watson laying out a punter to get the ball blocked and returned for a touchdown by Adam Hayward. That’s why they gave Watson the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month. In addition to the punt block, Watson also recovered a fumbled punt by the Panthers and had a couple special teams tackles too. It’s good recognition for a player who has been around for a few years but hasn’t gotten a lot of the glory even though he has been solid and made his share of plays. Congratulations to David and Watson.

REAR ENTRIES: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

November 29, 2012 at 01:23am by Scott   •  3 Comments »

rearentry154

MCCOY KISSES THE RING: Gerald McCoy went up to the podium at One Buc today and paid his respects to Peyton Manning, who he will be going against this Sunday. And by “paid his respects”, I mean verbally blew him. Like a really slow, deep verbal blowing. I’d cut and paste a quote from it, but you really have to read it all. And McCoy was really excited to let everyone know how much he loved Manning. He interrupted his own press conference to extoll Manning’s greatness. Pay attention to the SoundFX episode from this week and you’re going to hear McCoy ask for Manning’s autograph on the field.

ROSTER SPOTS FILLED: The Bucs filled out the roster spots left by the two players put on injured reserve with guard Derek Hardman and David Gilbreath, a wide receiver/returner who was recently waived by Pittsburgh. Hardman is more versatile than Jeremy Trueblood and the Bucs are one offensive line injury away from the Arena League, so it was a good move. And the Bucs’ return game has netted only slightly more than squat, so if Gilbreath can keep the Bucs from starting drives in their own endzone, fine. I said the same thing about Roscoe Parrish, though, so it’s apparently harder than it looks to find decent return men. Or a decent burger. Can you tell I’m hungry?

I also have to note that a safety was put on IR and a cornerback was suspended, yet neither of the two replacement players were in the secondary. So congratulations LeQuan Lewis and Danny Gorrer. I wonder if Peyton is intimidated.

I SHOULD PAY MORE ATTENTION: I pulled up the Bucs roster to make sure I knew Gorrer’s first name and started scrolling through it a little more carefully. Holy shit, there are a lot of unknown dudes on there. Here are some names for you. Without looking them up, have you ever heard of them or know what position they play? Aaron Morgan, Matthew Masifilo, David Douglas. Okay, I guess that’s only three, so I do know most of the roster. But still… I don’t even recognize those names from college. And who’s this guy LeGarrette Blount?

Two On IR, One Suspended

November 28, 2012 at 01:01am by Scott   •  5 Comments »

Trueblood got a false start here when he went for the water hose too early.
The Bucs lost two former starters and current backups today when they put both Cody Grimm and Jeremy Trueblood on injured reserve. Grimm has a hamstring injury that’s been bothering him for a couple games and Trueblood evidently injured his shoulder in the Falcons game, although I don’t ever recall seeing him on the field. It may very well have happened when he put on his pads or pumped his fist in celebration of something. If you were really looking forward to seeing Trueblood in a Bucs uniform in person just just hadn’t found the time to buy tickets, you may have missed your chance forever. I’m going to go out on a huge limb here and say that Trueblood will be playing for a different team in 2013. He’s got lots of starting experience and makes a good backup at right tackle, but that’s evidently all he can play and backups have to be more versatile than that. There are teams that will scrap their offensive lines in the offseason (Chicago, Green Bay, possibly Pittsburgh to a degree) and Trueblood will be a decent option for them.

And as long as we’re making do without certain players, we might as well throw in the announcement that Eric Wright has been suspended for four games for that Adderall thing from a few weeks ago.

“This is the result of taking Adderall at the end of July for health issues I was experiencing,” Wright said. “I am extremely disappointed that the suspension was upheld at my appeal.

“I apologize to the Glazer family, general manager Mark Dominik, Coach (Greg) Schiano and the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization, my teammates, our great fans and my family who have stood by me through this entire process. I will continue to prepare myself and look forward to rejoining the team.”

The Bucs are still dead last in the league in pass defense and this doesn’t help. And they’re not just going to suddenly get better. The only way to improve this is right now is to get a better pass rush going and force bad throws. Seriously, I think Julio Jones is still running.

Falcons Win. Barely.

November 26, 2012 at 10:46am by Scott   •  9 Comments »

falcons20121

The Bucs made it close, but ultimately couldn’t beat the 9-1 Falcons, leading some to conclude that this team is a bag of shit that deserves your scorn. But what this game really did was prove that the Bucs are exactly what we we thought they were coming into the game. They’re a decent team that can win against lesser teams and still hold their own against the better teams. The Bucs lost by one point to the Falcons, continuing that trend of keeping those tough games close. It sucks that they lost, but no one is bringing me down because of it.

All that said, it seems like everything was dialed down a notch yesterday. The intensity, the attention to detail, the pace all seemed just a tick less than they have been in recent weeks. Josh Freeman went 19 for 30 for 256 yards and a 90.4 passer rating, which is certainly a good day. But he was missing that signature strike that he usually has to put a game away. There was no kill shot. And he made a couple boneheaded throws that didn’t get picked, but could have made the difference if he had been on target or had seen his alternate wide open receiver.

The offensive line was okay, although the right side of the line broke down a couple times in pass protection and no one run-blocked very well. Penalties against the right side of the line erased Doug Martin‘s only breakaway run of the game and Martin was left with 50 rushing yards total with 2.4 YPC. He did score two rushing touchdowns, though. But for the most part, I’m blaming the line for Martin’s lack of production. You could see defenders peeling away from their blocks to fill gaps and stop Martin early. And seven tackles for loss by the Falcons is awful. Some of that is also blocking, and some has to be a bad play called for the defense the Falcons ran. Hang some of those on coaching. Not that Martin doesn’t carry some of that blame also, but I didn’t see that he could do much with what he was given.

Apparently LeGarrette Blount went on the field for at least one play, but I never saw him and he never touched the ball.

The wide receivers did their normal excellent job yesterday, with Tiquan Underwood really stepping up when Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams were covered. And how about that sweet pass from Williams to Jackson? I loved the way Williams caught the lateral and just cocked his arm and tossed it. No hesitation, no contemplating on whether he should run with it — just confidence. Of course, it helped that no one was within shouting distance of Jackson and it made the decision easy, but you see those kinds of plays go wrong so often because the passer freezes in his decision making for a second. Not Williams. And Dallas Clark continued to catch everything thrown his way (literally). Luke Stocker is starting to become a disappointment, which makes me incredibly sad to say. But it’s true. Couldn’t catch the only ball thrown to him yesterday and his blocking duties have pretty much been taken over by Nate Byham. Byham is the best blocking tight end the Bucs have had in years.

If I don’t throw this is now, I’ll forget. Fuck you if you blame Connor Barth for the loss because he missed a 56-yard field goal. He made all his others and to hang the blame on him for such a long miss is ridiculous. Sorry, but I’ve seen it said already. Not here, of course, since my readers are all understand football. It’s amazing what some people will just blurt out, though.

The defensive line and linebackers kept the running game in check, with the exception of a breakaway run by Jacquizz Rodgers and a Matt Ryan scramble. But the line got no pressure on Ryan, who was only sacked once and that came from a corner blitz by E.J. Biggers. I think the announcer even said once that Ryan could have gotten out a rocking chair since he had so much time in the pocket, which is a funny line but sad if you’re a Bucs fan. For my money, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim was the best lineman out there yesterday.

The big play by Biggers and Ronde Barber‘s interception were splash plays in the secondary, but everything else was pretty terrible. Leonard Johnson couldn’t stop Julio Jones from scoring an 80-yard touchdown even though he was right on top of him. Roddy White burned LeQuan Lewis a couple times. And who the fuck is Danny Gorrer? Biggers had the best day of all the corners. Go ahead and read that sentence again.

And everybody missed tackles. Some because of bad angles, some because they’re out of position, and some just because they get out-muscled. It’s going to happen. It just seemed like it happened more than usual yesterday.

And that’s the story of the game. Like I said at the beginning, the Bucs just didn’t seem to be at their best. But it wasn’t an embarrassing loss. No one ran up 150 yards rushing and Ryan didn’t throw for five touchdowns. Be disappointed in the loss, but look at the kind of loss it is and compare it to how they were losing last year. Worlds of difference. Remind others of that when they complain after a 1-point loss.

Everything Good You Feel Is A Lie

November 21, 2012 at 10:58am by Scott   •  15 Comments »

Doug Martin, you have accomplished nothing with your 1,000 yards rushing so far.
Everybody feeling good about the win on Sunday? Everybody in a good mood heading into Thanksgiving? Well, Tom Jones hates you and wants to ruin all that. Prepare to have your turkey stuffed with handfuls of negativity and bile. And raisins!

Don’t be fooled by what you’re watching. Don’t get too carried away with the 6-4 record. Hold off on those postseason dreams just for a moment.

We’ve seen this before.

Remember 2010? The Bucs went 10-6 and we all swallowed the bait, thinking it was the start of something great in Tampa Bay.

So you should know that anything good you’re feeling is wrong and should be snuffed out immediately.

Look, I’m not trying to rain on the parade here, but, at the very least, let this be a cautionary tale.

Yes you are. That’s the entire intent of this article. Except we’re not throwing a parade. We all know what happened in 2010 and are well aware that this is a team in transition. But can’t we just enjoy the wins? Does everything have to be a fucking lesson?

Think about it. Whom has this team beaten to make you think it is that good? I want to believe this team has moved into the upper echelon of the NFL and I want to point to a big victory as proof. But that victory just isn’t there.

What the Bucs should do is just insist on playing the Patriots every week.

One victory came against the Chiefs, who have won once and might be the worst team in professional football. Another came in a wild shootout against the 3-7 Raiders and another came against the 4-6 Chargers. There are two victories against the two-win Panthers, each by six points.

The Bucs are winning the games they’re supposed to win. They weren’t doing that last year. I call it positive progress. I assume when Jones’s kid brings home an ‘A’ on an algebra test, he tells him he hasn’t gotten to the REAL math and chastises him for not having conquered calculus yet.

Oh, speaking of beating Carolina on Sunday: Should we be gushing about the Bucs winning a game in which they blew a 10-point lead then needed a late field goal, followed by a defensive stop, a perfect throw-and-catch touchdown, a two-point conversion, a coin flip and an overtime touchdown to beat a team that can’t seem to get through a week without firing someone?

This. This right here. This is the perfect illustration of his perspective. The Bucs didn’t overcome a 10-point deficit to rally for an exciting overtime win where Josh Freeman played perfectly at the time his team needed him most. No, the Panthers blew a 10-point lead and needed everything to line up just right to keep from blowing the game. Same exact story, but how he tells it lets me know where he stands on the Bucs. He hates them and always has.

The best victory? Probably that Thursday night win at Minnesota on three days’ rest. The Vikings are 6-4, but you watch, by season’s end, the Vikings will not have a winning record.

Because regardless of your record, you’re only a good team if you’re on Tom’s special list of acceptable teams to win against. “You are what your record says you are” only applies if you don’t play the Bucs.

The quarterbacks the Bucs have beaten aren’t exactly a murderers’ row of signal callers. More like a murmurs’ row: a sophomore-slumping Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Brady Quinn, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers, who has been just awful this season. These five quarterbacks have thrown a combined 46 interceptions.

All first-round picks. Newton was just Rookie of the Year and the Bucs beat him twice. Now, you want a list of terrible quarterbacks? Try Chris Redman, Randy Fasani, Henry Burris, Akili Smith and Mike McMahon on for size. Yeah, those 2002 Buccaneers were real poseurs and didn’t beat anyone good. THEY NEVER PROVED ANYTHING!

Meantime, the Bucs’ four losses have come against teams with a combined record of 20-20. They lost to a pair of 5-5 teams (Saints and Cowboys) who are better than their records. They’ve played four teams with a .500 record or better and beaten only one. They’ve played four really good quarterbacks — Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Robert Griffin III — and lost to all of them.

Heavens to betsy! You’re telling me that the Bucs are winning against bad teams and losing to good teams? Whoever heard of such a thing? What he’s describing is a halfway decent team. A halfway decent team in its first year under a rookie head coach with entirely new offensive and defensive schemes. And, they haven’t lost a game by more than 7 points but have won by margins of 28 and 19. No credit at all for the good things from Tom. It’s either Super Bowl or go fuck yourselves.

The 2012 Bucs are more talented, better coached and would flat-out hammer the 2010 Bucs. But the comparison shouldn’t be between the 2012 and 2010 Bucs.

Did you not read the article you just wrote? You’re the one who made the comparison!

What matters is how the 2012 Bucs stack up against the rest of the NFL, and we’ll have a better indication starting this week.

They play the Falcons, a team that might not be as good as its 9-1 record but is certainly the best team the Bucs have faced this season.

He’s already taking something away from it. The Bucs could beat a 9-1 Falcons team on Sunday and he has already said they are not as good as their record, so really it wasn’t as big a win as you would think. The game hasn’t even been played and he’s already got the negative spin going.

Then comes a trip to Denver in what appears to be the most difficult game on the schedule. After that, they still have road games left against both the Saints and the Falcons.

These are the games that will tell us just how far the Bucs have come. Beat Atlanta. Beat Denver. Beat New Orleans. Heck, beat one or two of them. Then maybe you have something.

“Then maybe you have something.” I know the Bucs think they’ve won games, but they haven’t. All those weeks of preparation and practicing, all the sweating and hitting and film study… it was all bullshit. They have accomplished nothing and have nothing to be proud of. They might as well have played high school teams.

I can’t believe people think like this. Seriously.

It’s not the Bucs’ fault that they’ve beaten a bunch of lousy teams. They don’t pick the schedule. And winning any game in the NFL is tough stuff no matter whom you play. This isn’t fishing. In the NFL, you don’t throw wins back, no matter the opponent or performance. In the end, the NFL doesn’t count how, it counts how many.

He just spent the entire article saying the opposite. And now he’s softening it up because it isn’t a smart move to tell a bunch of 200-400 pound athletes wearing armor that they haven’t accomplished anything.

But here’s the point in all of this:

OH THANK YOU JESUS.

We really don’t know yet how good this team is. We won’t until it beats a decent team. Until then, don’t get sucked into the hype like we all did in 2010.

Who is getting sucked into hype? We’re just fucking happy. It’s what happens after a win, but you wouldn’t know that because you hate the team and don’t give a shit if they win or lose and write your petty negative bullshit because it gets more pageviews than anything positive you could write. NO ONE THINKS THIS IS A SUPER BOWL TEAM! JUST LET US BE HAPPY!

Back in 2010, the Bucs went 10-6. But here’s the rub: they were 9-1 against teams below .500 and 1-5 against teams above .500. The organization either grossly overestimated its talent or became too cocky. The result was that it was completely fooled by 2010 and completely unprepared for 2011. It made no significant offseason moves, and it ended up going 4-12.

This is the only paragraph I agree with. That’s exactly what happened. The message to management is to keep improving regardless of how good you think your team is because if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. Thank God we have a prophet like Tom Jones to tell us these words of wisdom that no one has ever uttered before ever.

Those in charge over at One Buc Place need to closely evaluate how this team plays against the big boys such as the Falcons, Broncos and Saints over the next few weeks. That way, even if the Bucs lose, recent bad history will not repeat itself.

Do you hear that, Mark Dominik? You need to closely evaluate this team. I know normally you do the groundskeeping work and check the hemlines on the cheerleader skirts, but could you do us all a favor and watch the upcoming games and make decisions based on what you see? Tom Jones seems to think it’s a good idea, so you better take it seriously.

Enjoy the game this week, people. Enjoy it even though Tom doesn’t want you to. Root for the Bucs extra hard because you know if they lose, Tom will get than smug smile on his face that says “told you so”. And even though we already know the Bucs are a brand new team that has already exceeded our expectations and a loss wouldn’t devastate us like he thinks it would, I want him to have to write something good. Even though, you know, it’s just the 9-1 Falcons.

Bucs Sweep The Panthers

November 20, 2012 at 01:22pm by Scott   •  9 Comments »

panthers20122

I’ve been waiting years to write that headline.

At about the beginning of the fourth quarter, I was pretty sure the Panthers game was going to be one of those that we all expected the Bucs to drop because they’re still not a great team yet and I was all prepared to console everyone and let them know that they’re still ahead of where we thought they’d be and winning three in a row is a great accomplishment and verbally stroking everyone so they don’t drown themselves in turkey gravy this week.

And then the last five minutes happened.

I think we all have to accept the fact that Josh Freeman is inconsistent throughout a game. But he’s consistently inconsistent. He will start off well, have a shitty middle of the game, and then end clutch. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday. His middle was about as shitty as he’s been all season and his end was absolutely brilliant. Both his passes to Vincent Jackson to tie the game were spectacular, but his play-action fake to Doug Martin on the two-point conversion to suck Luke Kuechly up was a thing of beauty. Something just clicks in Freeman when the game is on the line as the clock is ticking down. His passes become crisper, his decision making becomes better and he is obviously more confident in what he’s doing.

And as Freeman goes, so goes the offense. I’m not going to split up the offensive positions in this write-up because they’ll all look the same. Good, bad, great. The only player I’ll say was better than that was Jackson, who is quickly becoming the best free agent acquisition in Bucs history. That may not seem like a great compliment, but the Bucs have had some great producers out of free agency. Hardy Nickerson, Simeon Rice, Brad Johnson… Jackson is on the path to be better than all of them. I thought he was overrated in San Diego and probably not worth what the Bucs were paying him. I was dead wrong.

The Bucs’ defense had ten tackles for loss. Ten. That’s an incredible number. The both stuffed the run and got to the Cam Newton enough to keep him off balance for most of the game. Da’Quan Bowers re-asserted himself with a ten yard sack and Michael Bennett got another one. And Daniel Te’o-Nesheim recorded seven tackles. I really have no complaints at all about the defensive line this week.

Same thing with the linebackers. Lavonte David, awesome. Just copy and paste from the rest of the season.

I’m not sure what to think of Mark Barron. All the scouting reports talked about his inability to cover, but his 12 career interceptions at Alabama made me think they were just looking for something to bitch about since no player can be perfect. But his coverage against the Panthers was actually a liability. He gave up some big plays and gave up a PI call (which was a bullshit call, but he has to turn around and at least pretend to look for the ball if he’s going to avoid it). He missed a couple tackles as well, which was unheard of to this point. It was just a bad game and I’m not going to worry, but the guy is human. Let’s hope this was the bottom and that he’s due to get his second wind now.

Also note that there were no interceptions at all on Sunday. Against Cam Newton. It was a better game than the secondary has had recently, but still not all that strong. The secondary is still the weak spot of this defense.

But holy shit, they’re finding ways to win. I don’t want to focus on the negative here because it’s not important right now. I had just expected to lose this game when it got down close to the end because it seemed like they were due and I had no right to expect anything else. But this game showed me that this team is never really out of it. Could it be that we’ve crossed the threshold, going from a team that you expect to lose to a team you expect to win? They’re 6-4 now. They’re at the point where they can sniff the playoffs (they still don’t control their own destiny, but they’re on the verge). The teams that they have to play aren’t unbeatable and some of them should even be gimmes. Wow, it really does feel like a new day in Tampa Bay.

Johnson > Williams

November 16, 2012 at 12:30am by Scott   •  8 Comments »

An article on Brad Johnson = Boring week
There’s nothing going on with the Bucs today that qualifies as news or even interesting, so here’s a mostly historical piece from Pat Yasinskas that compares what’s going on with the offense now with the offenses of the past. And as you might guess, it compares very favorably.

What’s happened in the past five games has vaulted the Bucs into the league lead in average yards per play (6.21). They’re averaging 28.9 points per game, which ranks them behind only New England (see Brady, Tom) and Denver (see Manning, Peyton). Speaking of Peyton Manning, he’s second in the league with an average of 8.20 yards per pass attempt. Freeman is No. 1 at 8.27.

There are some interesting nuggets in the piece and it’s worth a read, but I had to take issue with one part.

Even back during the first rise to prominence (1979), Tampa Bay was much more defined by Lee Roy Selmon and the defense than it was by the offense and Doug Williams.

Speaking of Williams, he was the best quarterback in franchise history — until Freeman’s emergence.

That’s just not true. Williams is fondly remembered because he was tough and gritty and brought the Bucs from worst to first and won a Super Bowl for the Redskins. But as a quarterback for the Bucs, Brad Johnson win hands down. Williams had a Buccaneer passer rating of 66.2, Johnson had 83.2. Williams’s completion percentage was 47.4, Johnson’s was 61.8. Williams threw 73 TDs and 73 INTs in five years while in four years Johnson threw 64 TDs and 41 INTs. And Johnson has a Super Bowl ring with a Bucs logo on it. After Freeman gets his fourth season behind him, we can compare him with the others and see if Freeman makes the jump to the top of the heap. But before him, you have to go with The Bull.

REAR ENTRIES: Can Any Of My Readers Play Guard?

November 15, 2012 at 12:48am by Scott   •  5 Comments »

rearentry153

MEREDITH ON CRUTCHES: So here’s a fun little tidbit. Jamon Meredith, the guy nobody heard of a few months ago and who has been on the team briefly enough that the Times needed to run with a photo of him in a Giants uniform and who is currently starting in place of Davin Joseph, rolled his ankle and is questionable for Sunday.

“We don’t have that many more moves left,” coach Greg Schiano said.

That made the sight of starting RG Jamon Meredith leaving the locker room on crutches Wednesday afternoon concerning. He was limited at practice after rolling an ankle. The severity of the injury was unknown.

[emphasis mine because holy shit.]

The article says Roger Allen is his backup. I know the Bucs have had some good luck with all the line shifting so far, but they’re digging so deep into the roster that I don’t know who these people are. If Allen gets hurt, they may want to just put a big foam helmet on Captain Fear and stick him in there.

LEONARD JOHNSON’S PICK SIX: The Tribune has a nice personal interest story about Leonard Johnson couched in the story of his pick six last week. It’s well-written, it’s got heart without being sappy, and heaven help me it’s by Martin Fennelly. Seriously, he just kind of lets the story happen and doesn’t get in the way too much with his nonsense. It is the best piece I’ve read of his in years. Maybe the Mayans were right.

PRO BOWL: If you haven’t done it already, go to the Pro Bowl site and vote every Buccaneer into the Pro Bowl. So far, Ronde Barber is leading the free safety vote. Everyone says it’s just a popularity contest, which is fine since being popular is more important than ANYTHING.

Quincy Is Done For The Season

November 14, 2012 at 01:10pm by Scott   •  3 Comments »

Just once, instead of a thumbs up, I want to see someone do the 'Walk Like an Egyptian' thing with their hand on the stretcher.
The bad news is that Quincy Black is done for the season. The Bucs put him on injured reserve yesterday. The good news is that the prognosis is good for a complete recovery, although his left arm is still iffy.

Black has use of his left arm but doctors believe there could be nerve damage and are waiting for the swelling to go down before ordering further tests, according to his agent, Marc Lillibridge.

“It’s not like he’s not using that left arm,” Lillibridge said. “They expect it to all come back and time should help it heal, but they got some tests they want to finish. They don’t know exactly what it is yet, because there’s trauma to the area.”

“Trauma to the area” is putting it mildly; that was a vicious hit. Ryan Mathews just up and walked away from it and Black’s season is over. One inch one way or the other is all it takes to make the difference. I’m really glad he’s going to be okay. It could have been worse. A lot worse. After Greg Schiano‘s experience with Eric LeGrand, he must have been a wreck. Good luck, Quincy.

Bucs Are Over .500 In November

November 13, 2012 at 12:10am by Scott   •  13 Comments »

chargers2012

Well, what do you know. The Bucs can win even without Doug Martin running for a dozen touchdowns with the whole team on his back. This time with Martin running just enough to keep everyone out of his quarterback’s grill, Josh Freeman did it with efficient passing and a whole lot of help from the defense and special teams and Philip Rivers.

I have heard some criticism of the defensive line over this game, but I don’t necessarily agree with it. According to Gerald McCoy, the line was being asked to do too much stunting in the first half. When McCoy asked the coaches to let the line go up the field more, they said yes and the whole dynamic of the game changed. Rivers was under pressure for most of the second half, causing his passer rating to drop by almost 50 points from the first half. After the defensive line clamped down, the Bucs took the game over.

Part of the credit goes to the linebackers, too. I say this every week, but Lavonte David was everywhere and did everything. Sadly, Quincy Black was having his best game of the year before he sustained a neck injury and had to be carted off. And while Mason Foster did give up a touchdown in coverage, he got after Rivers quite a bit, sacking him once and also notching a tackle for loss.

The secondary continues to suck for a good portion of the game, then has a couple splash plays to make it all seem okay. It’s not all okay. E.J. Biggers gives up at least one touchdown every game. I think he’s a solid backup right now but not starting material. He has had good games, but not recently. Leonard Johnson is really starting to make a name for himself with three interceptions in three games. And that’s all well and good, but let’s not pretend yesterday’s interception was a great feat of coverage. He hauled in a desperation pass that Rivers just chucked up for no good reason. Remember Larry Brown picking off Neil O’Donnell? Yeah, that’s what happened. Johnson was the beneficiary of being where he was supposed to be, and that’s better than the alternative. But before we go crowning him Johnson Island (which would be a great name for a gay reality show), let’s let him play a few more games. But so far, so good. Do you want to know how little faith the Bucs have in Myron Lewis? LeQuan Lewis was put in instead of Myron and looked pretty sweet in his first action as a Buccaneer (besides fumbling a kickoff in the endzone). One interception (a better one than Johnson’s, even though the pass was underthrown) and another pass broke up in relatively limited playing time. Even Ronde Barber played some corner instead of putting Myron back on the field. Ahmad Black missed a couple tackles, Mark Barron was beaten for a couple completions… it just wasn’t consistent.

Mike Sullivan has just about given up the charade that he has any other running backs besides Martin. LeGarrette Blount had one run for 3 yards and D.J. Ware botched a direct snap that lost a yard. That’s it. Martin was everything else on the ground, with 68 rushing and another 51 receiving. Not as impressive as his last couple games, but it was enough to remind the Chargers who he was and that they needed to respect the run.

Josh Freeman was excellent. He only threw the ball 20 times (completing 14), but 2 of them went for touchdowns, none of them were picked and he ended the day with a passer rating of 137.5. With a productive running game, that’s all he needs to be. He’s more than a game manager, of course, but I think he is identifying his strengths (the long ball with a solid pocket) and playing to them. That’s the mark of a mature quarterback. He may not have thrown for 400 yards yesterday, but I really thought it was one of his best games as a pro.

And hats off to Dekota Watson and Adam Hayward for that blocked punt. There are fewer things more satisfying than seeing a punter get laid out on a perfectly legal play. They flop and draw so many bogus penalties so much, it’s nice to see one just get hammered every now and then. I know he looked hurt and he started staggering and shit, but he was well enough to continue punting and holding, so he’s fine. If you put on a helmet and take the field, you’re a target.

Awesome game. The Bucs have 7 more of them. The Panthers, Rams and Eagles should be wins. If they can beat New Orleans (which they have done even when the Saints were a better team and the Bucs were a worse team) and get just one of the Falcons games, that’s a 10 win season. Whether or not that makes them a playoff contender is anyone’s guess right now. But if you had heard that a 10 win season was a real possibility back in March, you’d be ecstatic. Props to the players, coaches and management for making this happen in such short order. There’s a long way to go, but I’m much more impressed than I thought I’d be at this point.