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.
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.
What is the most important element to the second half of Tampa Bay's 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.
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.