Bucs eye opportunity against Saints
A shot at ruining New Orleans’ perfect record is not the only reason the struggling Tampa Bay
Sunday begins a stretch in which the
They’ll also face the
“It’s perfectly planned for No. 5 (Freeman),” coach Raheem Morris said. “It’s a chance for him to get five opportunities against division foes that he’s going to face for the next 10 to 15 years, or whatever it is.”
The 21-year-old former Kansas State standout has been impressive in two starts, leading fourth-quarter rallies from double-digit deficits against Green Bay and Miami.
New Orleans coach Sean Payton is impressed with Tampa Bay’s improvement since Freeman became the third quarterback to start for the
“He has given them a spark,” said Payton, whose team has lost three of its last four meetings against Tampa Bay and hasn’t won at Raymond James Stadium since 2006, when New Orleans swept the season series.
“I think the players around him have responded, and he’s playing with confidence. Certainly we understand the strengths and weaknesses of when you play a younger player, but that being said, he’s a guy that’s elusive, can scramble to run and has a big arm. … We’ll have a challenge.”
New Orleans quarterback
After throwing two interceptions and losing one fumble in the first five games, Brees has thrown seven interceptions and lost three fumbles in wins over Miami, Atlanta, Carolina and St. Louis.
He’s also been sacked nine times in the last four games after going down four times in the first five.
“(Turnovers) will just kind of happen in spurts, just like a baseball player that hits a slump. You kind of hit a slump for a few games,” Brees said, adding the
“The games only get harder from here on out, no matter what the record of the team is you’re playing. I can definitely say that Tampa is a much better team than (its) record, as were the
Freeman has made plenty of mistakes the past two weeks, however, he’s played well when it matters most. He has the league’s third-best fourth-quarter passer rating (117.9) behind Brees (124.2) and
Overall, the 17th pick in this year’s draft has completed 50.8 percent of his passes for 417 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Ball security has been a concern with six fumbles, although the
“He’s going to make some mistakes,” Morris said. “But obviously, he is getting better and better every week.”
Teammates talk about the rookie’s presence in the huddle and poise in critical situations, yet the 6-foot-6, 248-pound Freeman scoffs at the notion he’s been the biggest difference in the
“I wouldn’t say it’s because of me,” Freeman said. “I think it was coming off the bye week, guys really got out of feeling like they were an 0-7 team. The attitude and mentality everybody has been bringing to practice is not reflective of our record.”
In addition to two games against the
Brees recalled his first go-around against a set of division opponents in 2002, when he was in his second NFL season and started every game for the San Diego
“I definitely remember those days. It’s a process. You have your good games and bad games,” Brees said.
“Inevitably, you just try to get better every day and worry about the things you can control, continue to just kind of play within yourself and play within the system.”