Alan Dell

Commentary | Buccaneers grow through desperation


Desperation often brings out the greatness in a person. They toss caution away and go into a survival mode.

The results can be astonishing as witnessed by a frenzied crowd at Raymond James Stadium Sunday.

In the first half Tampa Bay Buccaneers quar

terback Josh Freeman looked tentative to the point that some would say he was awful and perhaps should have spent the day in a sewing circle.

The Bucs' defense wasn't much better. It was pushed around by the Washington Redskins -- and their rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III -- missing tackles and disinterested.

The Bucs trailed 21-3 and looked anemic with 5:25 left in the first half. It would've been easy to pout and wave the white flag in their heads as they did so many times last year.

Then desperation kicked in and Freeman took his offense on a wild ride that ended without a smile, but left a lot of promise.

Roger Goodell's NFL world will show that the Bucs lost 24-22 on a Billy Cundiff 41-yard field goal with three seconds left.

But there was a lot to build on and if the Bucs can do that they can turn this loss into something positive.

Yes, it will sting for awhile. The pain will linger longer than usual, especially with no game to play next week.

But they can feel some good from it, though the players will do it in silence because moral victories are frowned upon in the NFL.

"Losing is not acceptable. There are not moral victories," Freeman said. "We didn't play well enough to win, but that's the goal. That's why we're all here. I am unhappy we lost the game. You can look back and point to any number of things. Call it what you want. We just didn't get it done."

In the first half Freeman looked tentative and off target. He received a round of boos when he slid on a run that might have netted his team a first down if he had fought for one more yard.

Fans couldn't tell if Freeman was heeding the advice of Bucs head coach Greg Schiano to slide or if he was a deer lost in the headlights

In the first half Freeman was 13 for 22 for 88 yards and an interception. After intermission, he was 11 for 17 for 211 yards and a touchdown.

He said nothing changed. That's hard to believe.

"More often than not, overwhelmingly, games are decided within seven points. So it's going to be a matter of playing four quarters," Freeman said. "You never know how a game is going to go. It's a matter of taking every opportunity and trying to maximize its potential."

With 4:24 left in the third quarter Freeman did just that. The Bucs came to life and scored on three of their next four possessions.

Freeman took out that expensive car he had sitting in his garage in the first half and hooked up with Vincent Jackson for a 7-yard touchdown and then a 54-yard pass that set up a two-yard touchdown by LeGarrette Blount.

Football was fun again and team owners had to be feeling good that all the money they spent on Jackson was being put to good use.

The Bucs have money in the bank with kicker Connor Barth, a miracle man if there ever was one.

He confirmed what we already knew; that he must have ice in his veins or be devoid of a conscious. Barth now has hit 25 consecutive field goal attempts. Against the Redskins, he connected from 50, 57 and then 47 yards out with 1:50 left in the game to give the Bucs the lead.

The comeback started when the restraints were taken off Freeman either by himself or Schiano.

Despite the heroics at the end, the Bucs are far from a finished product and can' be excused for creating their own problems. They had 10 penalties for 107 yards, some of them significant and showed why they are last in third down efficiency converting only three of 12 third down opportunities.

"Because you lose at the end you fail to finish, but we really didn't do a bunch of stuff before that to put us in a position to win," Schiano said. "We had penalties, we didn't play smart, we didn't create takeaways. Like most teams in the NFL, it's going to be tight ball games and we need to find a way to win.

"Every game has been decided by seven points or less. None of that matters. We need to get better. I need to coach better. You want to win and you're close, get better and you'll win."