Alan Dell

COMMENTARY | An ugly game turns into a thing of beauty for Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Bucs


For awhile it was ugly, two teams fighting to see who could draw the scariest Halloween picture to frighten the kids.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led Kansas City 7-3 at halftime and the most

horrified people in Raymond James Stadium had to be the offensive coordinators for both teams.

Then Josh Freeman realized he had all this beauty around him that he was ignoring; none more scintillating than the leaping catch Mike Williams made off cornerback Stanford Routt and took it 62 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.

The Bucs exploded for 31 second half-points while Kansas City's offense failed to get into the endzone for the second straight game with the Chiefs only points coming on a fumble recovery.

As he has often done this season, Freeman lost his GPS, couldn't find his receivers and then just forgot about them. Outside of Williams' TD catch, he completed 4 of 12 passes for 60 yards in the first half.

But Freeman is a smart guy and knows if he wants to remain the Bucs quarterback in the future he needs to take advantage of the talented receiving corps he has at his disposal -- weapons such as Williams and Vincent Jackson are precious commodities and Tiquan Underwood, the man Bucs' head coach Greg Schiano cut not too long ago, is a nice security blanket.

They did a lot to earn a free dinner from their quarterback with big yardage after catches and circus catches.

"We always make adjustments at halftime and are taught every ball is a great ball. When he throws it up we are supposed to get it," said Underwood. He did just that in out-fighting Routt for a ball he turned into a 62-yard reception that set up a 27-yard field goal, which gave the Bucs a 24-10 fourth quarter lead.

Freeman, who has been chastised for having tunnel vision, a scatter gun arm and less than average decision making skills, is seeing the light. Williams and Jackson combined for 8 receptions and 179 yards and Underwood caught two for 68 yards to account for most of Freeman's 328 passing yards.

"We have all the faith in the world in those guys. When we get a one-on-one matchup, we like to take advantage of it," Freeman said. "If you have one-on-one with a DB (with Williams) you just give him a high ball. I can't say I've ever seen or played with a guy with the ball skills like Mike Williams. It doesn't matter where you put it he's going to find a way to make a play."

That's a nice thing to say except that Freeman often can't get the ball to his playmakers either because of poor throws or poor field vision. It has earned him the wrath of some weary fans, but the quarterback says that doesn't concern him.

"Nothing anybody says outside of our building has an effect on us," Freeman said. "People will say they want to throw the ball deep or they want to run the ball, but we know who we are. We've got the talent, we've got the pieces, we just have to go out and play."

None of this would've been possible without a stellar defense that kept Jamaal Charles, the NFL's leading rusher coming into the game, to a season low 40 yards on 12 carries.

But Ronde Barber, the NFL's active leader in battle scars, came up with one of his specialties that provided the biggest spark of the game for the Bucs.

The 16 year veteran made everyone think the replacement refs were back when he grabbed a pass officials ruled never hit the ground, but bounced of E.J. Biggers and a falling Dexter McCluster. Replays showed it was a questionable ruling that Barber seems to have made a career of winning.

"It's just one of those things that happens one time in a million and that was the one," McCluster said.

He might be right except these things seemed to happen all the time to Barber. It was his ninth TD via an interception and his 15th return for a touchdown.

"I don't know why. If I could bottle it, I could sell it for a lot of money," Barber said. "I've always been ball aware and see the ball a lot. I am always around it. I can't tell you why."

Bucs cornerback Eric Wright, who joined the team this year, provided the best answer.

"It's Ronde Barber. He is a living legend and it's an honor to play with somebody like. He hustles and is always going to put himself around the ball," Wright said.