Tampa Bay Buccaneers Win Over Packers "Rings" Loud and Clear

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer INovember 9, 2009

Amid an old school sea of 1979 Orange on a balmy Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, an iconic superstar was honored and perhaps a new star was born.

Lee Roy Selmon, Tampa's greatest player and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, became the first member of the team's Ring of Honor.

On the field, the Buccaneers passed, ran, defended and special-teamed a ring around the Green Bay Packers and forged an amazing come-from-behind 38-28 victory to end the team's losing streak at seven.

It was a heart-pounding debut for rookie quarterback Josh Freeman who showed enough poise and field generalship to direct the fourth-quarter stunner. On this special day, Freeman hit three touchdown passes, two of them in that final quarter when the Bucs outscored Green Bay 21-7 to stun the Pack.

It was Freeman's debut and he was impressive at the least. "By the fourth quarter, he was a veteran quarterback," declared Michael Clayton.

The Buccaneers won this game because Freeman did nothing to lose it.

The Buccaneers won this game because they found big plays from all facets of the team.

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They won because Freeman managed the game the way so many hoped he would.

He threw only one interception on the day, was never sacked and the team had only two penalties in the amazing debut of the youngster who recently turned 21.

But Freeman was only one piece of the complete effort.

"So many players contributed, it's a blur right now," said Raheem Morris, who was presented the game ball from team captain Ronde Barber.

Barber was one of those contributors. He scored in the second quarter on a 31-yard return after linebacker Geno Hayes made a head-rattling punt block.

Clifton Smith was a key special teams player. He started the furious fourth quarter rally when he returned at kick 83 yards immediately after the Packers had taken a 28-17 lead.

That set up Freeman for the first of two TD passes of seven yards.

"Not bad," said Morris afterward of his young quarterback. "He was poised and patient. An impressive performance."

The defense finally had its day in the sun.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit a 74-yard touchdown bomb on the first Green Bay series to James Jones but after that, the Buc defensive line tormented him. Before it was all over, Rodgers was sacked six times and was nearly taken down for a safety.

He was intercepted three times, the final one a 38-yard pick and return for touchdown by Tanard Jackson. It put the icing on this cake of a win.

This game had a different feel, even before kickoff. The orange-clad crowd was excited about Selmon's induction but there was a talk of good karma from the presence of the '79 NFC Central championship team.

"I'm happy for our guys and it was a great tribute to the '79 championship team," declared Morris after his first win as a head coach. "Special teams were the driving force."

"We delivered a punch in the front of our home crowd," declared Clayton.

Indeed, Clayton, Kellen Winslow (touchdown catch), Sammie Stroughter (touchdown catch), and Derrick Ward (touchdown catch), made plays.

Hayes had a monster game. Return man Smith picked the perfect day to re-discover his Pro-Bowl form.

The secondary burned Green Bay more than it was burned.

The defensive line that has taken its lumps, brutalized Rodgers with those six sacks and held the Packers to 81 yards rushing.

In short, it was a complete team effort, an old-school effort with those marvelous orange jerseys on the backs of a team that was desperate for victory.

On his way out of the stadium, former Detroit head coach Wayne Fontes who coached the Buccaneer seconday in 1979 made a simple observation that perhaps put this one in proper context:

"It was sensational, wasn't it?" Fontes said. "It was great. And hey—keep the orange!"

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