Commentary | Lavonte David's blunder distracts critics of QB Josh Freeman

Jets show NFL best way to stop Bucs: force the pass

adell@bradenton.comSeptember 11, 2013 

Buccaneers Jets Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, center right, talks to coach Greg Schiano, second from left in foreground, in the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

MEL EVANS — AP

Does it just seem this way?

Amid the chaos surrounding the Lavonte David shove, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman slipped out the back door, avoiding his part in the loss to the wretched New York Jets.

It's doubtful any of Tampa Bay's offensive linemen are searching for him because they are too embarrassed to look him in the eye.

So as we duck the daggers being thrown at Bucs head coach Greg Schiano, we lose sight that even a mediocre performance from a mediocre quarterback could've saved the day.

Instead, Schiano's hot seat just got a fuel coals placed underneath it, and the Mike Glennon mob is hoisting margaritas, knowing his day is coming.

The Jets were the worst team in the NFL by consensus before Sunday. So where does that leave the Bucs and Freeman and Schiano?

Schiano looked as if he aged 10 years at his Monday presser, and for that he is lucky. He is officially the Bucs' scapegoat as empty seats and TV blackouts appear on the horizon.

But what about Freeman?

He threw for completed fewer than 54 percent of his passes against the Jets. His performance was calamitous.

Somehow he escaped the wrath of those toss

ing daggers at Schiano for keeping Freeman under wraps during the preseason in his personal cloak-and-dagger game.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan wasn't fooled and never hid anything about his game plan.

His defense was going to be basic, focusing on stopping running back Doug Martin and harassing Freeman.

It worked to perfection.

Freeman rode his roller coaster on a downward spiral. It might have been the worst game of Martin's young career. The second-year pro averaged 2.7 yards per carry, fumbled twice, dropped several passes and missed a couple of blocks.

Schiano said Martin was rusty. OK, we'll buy that; sitting out virtually all of the preseason games would decompose any running back.

So now the Bucs are worried about Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense.

Tampa Bay's offense should be the focus. Rex Ryan devised the plan to stop the Bucs, and his brother, Rob Ryan, is the Saints' new defensive coordinator.

Rex will be offering some brotherly advice this week, and it comes down to how Schiano and his Freeman-led offense respond.

Taking a veiled shot at his quarterback, Schiano says it's no mystery what opposing defenses will do.

"That (what the Jets did) is going to be the formula to stop our offense," he said. "We have to throw and catch. We were hurried. If people are going to do that, you're going to have to be able to throw the football effectively, consistently, accurately. We did at times, and at other times we didn't."

Does that sound like a head coach handing out an endorsement to his quarterback?

In defense of Freeman and Martin, the offensive line was abysmal. Guards Davin Joseph and Gabe Carimi failed to get any space for the run game. Jeremy Zuttah embarrassed himself; Donald Penn looks like he needs to go back to the dinner table and stuff himself to get big again; and Carimi was handled by Jets rookie Sheldon Richardson.

Joseph, who missed all of last season due to an injury, didn't mince words about how the Bucs' lack of efficient preseason work hurt.

"There were a lot of things that were happening in training camp that caught up with us. It kind of opened all of our eyes. And so we've got to fix it," Joseph said. "I don't think we did enough to be ready for (the noise). ... It caught up with us. We needed to be able to go to the silent count. We weren't focusing on that so it caught up with us."

This sounds like a blame game, which Schiano can't win unless Mike Glennon comes to his rescue.

Alan Dell, Herald sportswriter, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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