The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cleaned house in the offseason, bringing in a new head coach and staff to turn the franchise in a different direction.
What a different direction the Buccaneers are heading in.
After six games last year, Tampa Bay was 4-2 and in serious playoff contention. The Buccaneers lost their next 10 games and finished the year with a 4-12 record.
The Buccaneers were in a different spot after six games this season at 2-4, and after Thursday night’s victory in Minnesota, they’re finally moving in that different direction the front office was hoping for.
In taking down the Vikings, 36-17, on the Thursday Night Football showcase, not only did the Buccaneers halt a nine-game road losing streak that dated back to last season, but they watched the emergence of a rookie running back and the further progression of a young quarterback looking for validation.
Rookie Doug Martin rushed for 135 yards—his first career game over 100 yards—and a touchdown on the ground, and added 79 yards and a touchdown through the air. In a game that featured one of the league’s best running backs in Adrian Peterson, Martin stole the show.
Martin wasn't the only bright spot on offense for Tampa Bay.
Josh Freeman went 19-of-36 for 262 yards and threw three TD passes. He became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for three touchdowns in three consecutive games.
Those three games have been quite special for Freeman, who’s thrown for 1,010 yards, nine touchdowns and only one interception in the span. He made quite an adjustment during the Week 5 bye and came out spreading the ball around like a gunslinger.
Freeman wasn’t the only person to make a change at the bye week. Head coach Greg Schiano and the coaching staff decided to give Freeman more opportunities to make plays.
Freeman threw for 790 yards and averaged just under 30 passing attempts per game through the first four weeks of the season. Since the bye week, Freeman’s exploded for over 1,000 yards and nine scores, and has thrown the ball just under 35 times per game.
If the Buccaneers continue to show faith in Freeman and his arm—and why wouldn’t they with the results over the last three games—he’s beginning to look like he could get back to 2010-11 numbers, when he threw 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.
Just as important as Freeman returning to second-year form is Martin exploding at the right time and giving the Buccaneers a viable pass-run dual-threat option.
The Buccaneers gave Martin 32 touches against the Vikings and allowed Freeman to throw the ball 36 times. This shows that the Buccaneers truly believe in this duo and they are beginning to grasp offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s new offensive scheme.