Why Josh Freeman's Play Is the Key to Second Half of Tampa Bay's Season

Jeremy SickelContributor IIIOctober 26, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 25:  Josh Freeman #5 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers passes the ball against the Minnesota Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 25, 2012 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Josh Freeman is fresh off another three-touchdown performance in Thursday night's 36-17 road victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Though he completed only 53 percent of his passes, Freeman did a remarkable job of finding his open targets while not forcing the situation—something he will need to continue doing if Tampa Bay has any aspirations of competing in the NFC South.

With the New Orleans Saints playing a very inconsistent brand of football and the Carolina Panthers in shambles, the Buccaneers have an opportunity to rebound from last season's letdown.

While you can point to the defense needing to tighten up against the passing game or the emergence of rookie running Doug Martin as keys to the second half of Tampa Bay's season, it is the play of Freeman that will decide just how good this team can be.

Through seven games, Freeman has thrown for 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Those numbers over the 16-game season would give the quarterback 4,114 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

To put that into perspective, Freeman threw for 3,451 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions during his breakout 2010 season. Tampa Bay finished with a 10-6 record that season.

Their remaining schedule isn't easy by any means, but the Bucs have been competitive all season long—as evidenced by their four losses being by a combined 22 points.

One could have easily chalked up Freeman's recent resurgence as a product of playing porous defenses (Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints).

However, the Vikings entered Thursday night's game as the league's 11th-ranked pass defense. So Freeman's 262 yards and three touchdowns—on the road no less—is a very impressive feat.

The offseason addition of wide receiver Vincent Jackson is certainly a huge reason for Freeman's play. Having a reliable target will keep the quarterback confident throughout the season.

As long as Martin can provide balance out of the backfield and prevent Freeman from needing to do too much, Tampa Bay will put last season in the rear-view mirror.

With the trio of Freeman, Martin and Jackson, the Buccaneers look to have a bright future—and it could begin as early as this season.


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