The good folks at Fox and the NFL should send the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a thank you note. With the score at 31-17, I was moments away from packing up the Crosskey family and heading back home. Then, minutes later, I was sweating, anxious and on the edge of my seat. Then a few minutes after that, I was screaming in jubilation as the Bucs pulled off another thrilling victory (I try to be impartial, but that was an unbelievable way to end the game.) Aside from a few bumps at the beginning and costly mistakes in the late third and early fourth quarters, the Bucs may have turned in one of their best performances of the season. And they had every reason to not do so. Coach Raheem Morris’ proclamation heaped national pressure on them and they were on the road, in a hostile environment. However, the Bucs were showed brilliance at nearly every phase of the game.
- A star is born- I wanted to see more from rookie running back LaGarrette Blount and boy did he show it. Blount had made his mark on the game before his late fourth quarter run. He ran with aggression, power and speed on his way to a 22-carry, 120-yard performance. Blount also had two touchdowns. While his fumble came at a critical point, he made up for it with a signature, 48-yard run, including a highlight-reel hurdle over Arizona’s Kerry Rhodes. Nothing has been more obvious than the need for the Bucs to get Blount the ball. You could literally feel the excitement when it was handed off to him. If he continues to develop into a running threat, the Bucs will have an opportunity for success in their remaining games.
- Freeman does it again- The defense and the Blount fumble may have made this a game, but Freeman made it a Bucs victory. It’s one of those things where you know he’s good, but then he does something that shocks you. When he rolled back on the play action (sparked by Blount’s ability to run the ball) and slung the pass down field, you didn’t quite know what to expect. When it softly and accurately landed in Arrelious Benn’s hands, you had to be amazed. Not only was Freeman instrumental in another Bucs road comeback, he was solid throughout the game. Young Freeman went 18-25 for 278 yards and a touchdown and, in general, looked like he had command of this offense. I especially like his 18-yard scramble in the second quarter.
- Defense was so-so at times, but great at others- The defense still doesn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback. But they held down the Cardinals’ rushing attack (100 yards on 22 carries.) They allowed the Arizona Cardinals to climb back into the game. But they had two pick-sixes and sealed the game with an interception (game ball to the secondary and Aqib Talib.) St. Pete Times columnist John Romano said it best when he called yesterday’s performance, “one of the most bizarre defensive efforts you will ever see.” However, Morris, great poo-pooer of stats, would say that it didn’t matter because they found a way to win. And in this case, he would be right.