Tampa Bay-New Orleans: Saints Get a Freebie, Blast Bucs

JC De La TorreAnalyst IIINovember 22, 2009

Sooner or later it was going to happen. It's happened to Drew Brees. It's happened to Peyton Manning. It's been happening to Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, and Matt Stafford.

Josh Freeman had a horrible Sunday, accounting for four turnovers (three interceptions) in the Saints' 38-7 demolition of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Freeman was inaccurate for the majority of the ballgame, missing several open receivers and throwing off the mark that led to costly turnovers—something you just can't do and hope to upset one of the best teams in the NFL.

The fumble bug raised its ugly head again for Josh, as instead of throwing the ball away or at least tucking it away, Freeman was hit from behind and fumbled for the sixth time in three games, setting up a third quarter New Orleans score that all but erased any thoughts the Bucs had of pulling off the upset.

It wasn't all on Freeman. In fact, Freeman gave the Bucs an early lead, leading them on an impressive 95-yard opening drive that culminated with a sizzling 18-yard touchdown pass to Michael "Hands of Stone" Clayton.

The Bucs' defense actually played pretty well for 25 minutes of the game, limiting New Orleans to one score and forcing the high-powered Saints to punt four times.

A Freeman pick would set up the Saints for a field goal, then after a three-and-out by the Bucs' offense, Drew Brees showed the Bucs why he's Drew Brees, marching the Saints 63 yards in five plays for a touchdown and a 17-7 halftime lead.

Freeman would turn the ball over twice in the third quarter, and it was pretty much over from there, as the Saints would add another two touchdowns to their lead.

For perhaps the first time this season, I saw a little quit in the Bucs' defense.

As the Bucs' offense continued to struggle, the Saints marched 82 yards in 13 plays, most of which came on the ground where gaping holes greeted running back Mike Bell.

Raheem Morris said earlier in the week that the Bucs just don't have the players on the defensive line to compete on a regular basis. The players he did have decided to mail in the second half after the Saints got up 24-7.

To his credit, Morris didn't just leave the blame on his players this time.

"That was a total team loss," Morris told the Tampa Tribune . "Players, coaching staff, everybody. We lost that together."

If you hear Jeremy Shockey tell it, maybe it's more about coaching than anything.

"Let's face it, these are not the Jon Gruden-coached Tampa Bay Buccaneers that we're used to," Shockey said. "No offense to Tampa."

While the Bucs may miss the coaching prowess of Gruden, they at least have a quarterback to put their hopes on.

Unfortunately, it was a tough lesson for young Josh Freeman in his third NFL start. A 33.1 QB Rating is not good. Bucs fans can take heart that it's a right of passage in the NFL, that third and fourth start.

Teams have some film on you, they're beginning to figure out what you do well and what you don't. They will take away your good things and focus on your bad tendencies.

Drew Brees had a 58.1 rating in his third career start. Peyton Manning threw 11 interceptions in his first four games. Mark Sanchez tossed three picks in start No. 4 (Sanchez, in start No. 10, tossed four picks today). Matt Stafford threw three picks in start No. 3.

The good ones adjust to what defenses are doing against them, shake off the bad performance and improve. The bad ones never recover and fade away.

"It was just a hair off," Freeman said, "I felt confident throwing the ball; it was just one of those days. An off day."

So, yes, this is one where Josh Freeman will want to learn what he did wrong, then put it out of his memory bank.

For the Buccaneers, it was definitely one to forget.