In last week’s shootout loss to the Giants at MetLife Stadium, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman completed three passes for 20 or more yards, including two that were over 40. Those types of results were much more similar to what he put up during his breakout 2010 campaign than what occurred last season in a difficult year for the whole team.
In 2010, Freeman had four games in which he completed at least five “long-play” passes, including one (at Arizona) in which he had six and two of them were longer than 40. Last year, he had just one such game (at Green Bay), and none of the completions were at least 40 yards in length.
The Bucs were expected to throw it downfield more often under new Head Coach Greg Schiano and new Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan. That sort of game developed against the Giants, after a season-opening win over Carolina in which the running game controlled the action in a tight affair.
“It’s more [a matter of] opportunity,” said Freeman. “It all kind of varies – looks, matchups, coverages. People talk about the deep shots, and yeah we had some [in New York]. We didn’t really have any the first Sunday, and you look back to the preseason and there were a couple games where everybody was looking for the deep balls and we didn’t really have any opportunities based on coverage. But they’re built into the offense, and based on the coverage we’re getting, the opportunities and matchups, you have a chance to take a few more.”
Freeman showed exceptional touch on his throws downfield against the Giants, especially on a 41-yarder to Vincent Jackson in the first quarter that arrived on a low, hard arc and hit the receiver perfectly in stride. Another big-gainer in the fourth quarter was eventually overturned on replay, but it was a stunning throw through the defense to Mike Williams on the sideline.
On the long play to Williams that was allowed – a 41-yard touchdown on the previous drive – the quarterback and receiver reacted to the coverage they saw when they got to the line of scrimmage and elected to take a shot. Expect to see the Bucs take those shots more often this year.
“We talked about the coverage we were going to see and we had a route for Mike,” said Freeman, describing the play. “The thought going into it was, if we got a single matchup to go ahead and signal him to go. Getting out, we saw that we had single [safety] high. Looking back and watching the film, Mike made a heck of a play. That’s the thing. If you’re going to play one-on-one, you’ve got to have a lot of confidence in your guys – Mike, Vincent [Jackson], Arrelious [Benn] – that they’re going to make a play.”