Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman and his teammates may be one of the league’s biggest up-and-comers, and are clearly on the rise in the NFL.
But fortunately for Baltimore Sunday in their 17-10 victory over the Bucs, the Ravens defense did their best to halt his progression for one more game.
With Tampa Bay needing Freeman to get back in Sunday’s game after trailing at the half 17-3, the Ravens continued to blitz the second-year quarterback out of Kansas State, forcing Freeman to rush his throws as the Buccaneers fought to get back in the game.
“I played extremely poorly,” Freeman said. “There are a number of balls I usually hit that I missed. I felt like I really had an off-game. I just wasn’t getting it done.”
His coach felt like he didn’t deserve to put all the blame solely on his shoulders.
“He played the Ravens defense,” Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said. “We’re talking about a really good defense that’s really talented. He had some attempts to make some plays on a stretch, but just fell short. We lost this game by running out of time. It is what it is.”
Freeman finished the game 17-for-37 for 162 yards and one score. His longest play came on a 30-yard pass to tight end John Gilmore, but the Ravens defense stopped Freeman through the air and on the ground.
He nearly had an interception in the second half to defensive lineman Cory Redding– which would have been the first of his career-had Ray Lewis not gone for the ball as well.
Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson, who spent most of the game rushing the passer, was surprised by what we saw out of Freeman.
“He was a confident guy and controlled the offense well. I was very impressed with the way he runs around and throws the ball. We were able to get him off his spot, and he wasn’t real accurate, but I was real impressed with the guy,” Johnson said.
Sunday’s game for the Ravens pass defense could be seen as the best they’ve played this year given the talent they were facing. Freeman had several options with receivers Mike Williams, rookie Arrelious Benn, and Michael Spurlock.
And none of them could get anything going against the Ravens secondary.
“They have some young wide receivers that have been successful in this league,” Baltimore corner Josh Wilson said, who started in place of the deactivated Fabian Washington. “That was our job in the secondary to slow them down to give our team a chance.”
The Buccaneers also have running backs Carnell Williams and LeGarrette Blount and tight end Kellen Winslow, who caught a touchdown pass from Freeman with 3:05 left in the game to trim the
Baltimore deficit, 17-10.
Ravens cornerback Chris Carr said that they had a lot on their plate with both the physicality and combined speed of the Bucs receiving corps, leading the way with Winslow’s versatility.
“Kellen Winslow is like a receiver out there playing tight end,” Carr said. “Coverage wise, he might be the best tight end when it comes to covering him.”
Freeman was on a bit of a hot streak as of late. Going into Sunday, he had tossed 14 touchdowns with just five interceptions and 2,099 yards passing on the season.
In the previous three games against the 49ers, Panthers, and Falcons(two Tampa Bay wins), he threw two touchdown passes in each contest with a completion percentage of 63 percent.
An added benefit for stopping Freeman is his physical comparisons to next week’s quarterback—Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, when the Ravens play the Steelers with first place in the division on the line.
Much like Roethlisberger, Freeman, who stands at 6-6, 248 lbs and has shown flashes of being able to make plays in-and-out of the pocket as a quarterback who is hard to bring down, the Ravens could use this as a tool toward game-planning toward Big Ben.
“Josh is a very similar quarterback,” Wilson said. “Now we’re just focusing on Pittsburgh. We’ve just got to look at the film and be ready for next week.”
Linebacker Terrell Suggs backed Wilson up and was sure that they can repeat their success against Freeman Sunday versus Roethlisberger next Sunday.
“We said it all week, he was a Roethlisberger type,” Suggs said. “He’s a good young quarterback but he faced off against a team of destiny today.”
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