It wasn't Avatar , but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave their coach and fans something to smile about before Christmas as they stunned the Seattle Seahawks 24-7. The win was the second of the season for the Buccaneers and their first on the west coast since 1999.
The cynical Buccaneer fan will say all the Bucs managed to do today was to say "Suh Long" to their chances at the number one overall draft pick. With losses by both Detroit and St. Louis, the Bucs chances of securing the top choice in the NFL college selection meeting is on life support.
Still, at this point, Raheem Morris doesn't care about April. He's worried about December and having his team finish on a winning note. He's also looking for the continued maturation of Josh Freeman.
Morris got both of his wishes this week, as the Buccaneers shook off an ugly first half to put up 24 unanswered points in the second half. Freeman too was shaky, starting the game 2-for-6 with one interception and a second pass that should have been picked.
The Bucs' much maligned offensive coordinator Greg Olsen finally figured out how to get his young quarterback on track — run the football. The Bucs pounded out 134 yards on the ground, taking the pressure off Freeman, and giving their defense a chance to catch a breath.
While the defense bent with yardage, they held the Seahawks to just seven points and made Matt Hasselbeck look like David Hasselhoff. The defense forced five turnovers off the veteran quarterback, including four picks and ill advised attempted lateral in the red zone that was recovered by Buccaneer linebacker Geno Hayes.
Freeman turned it on in the second half, but it was thanks to some safe play calling by Olsen. Olsen used short to medium passes to get the rookie some confidence, then went screen happy in the red zone. Freeman hit Cadillac Williams on a perfectly executed screen for a 22 yard score to give the Bucs a 13-7 lead.
Freeman would strike again on a brilliantly designed play, a pump fake to the right, spin, then dump it off on a screen to the left to Derrick Ward who walked into the endzone for an easy score.
You could just see the confidence pour back into Tampa Bay's rookie quarterback, as he began to hit laser beam 3rd down conversions to Kellen Winslow, Sammie Stroughter and Antonio Bryant.
The amazing things for the Buccaneers is that even at 1-12, they were playing their hearts out in this ball game. On the road in hostile territory and down by 4 at the half, the Bucs came out fired up on both sides of the ball and completed dominated the Seahawks in the second half.
It was a stark contrast from the Seahawks, who look like a team that's packed it in for 2009.
It may seem like a meaningless win at the end of a lost season, but you never know where a turnaround for a franchise can start. The Bucs looked the part of a real NFL team in the second half of this one. They ran the ball well, passed the ball well, and at one point in the third quarter, was outgaining Seattle 125 to -1 while outscoring them 18-0.
This coming from the same team that dreaded halftime because third quarter adjustments typically went in favor of the opposition.
If Raheem Morris can get a competitive performance from his team in New Orleans, facing a team that definitely is not mailing in the rest of the year, and follow it up with a victory at home against Atlanta, he may go a long way to being there when the Buccaneers select in April.