Grimes, Robinson still fear Bucs QB Freeman

The Atlanta Falcons are taking nothing for granted against Tampa

Bay quarterback Josh Freeman.

Despite a five-game winning streak over the Buccaneers and a 4-0

mark when facing Freeman, the Falcons didn’t exactly feel

comfortable in two matchups last year.

”It’s always tough, physical game,” Pro Bowl cornerback Brent

Grimes said. ”Nothing comes easy against those guys.”

Freeman last year became the first quarterback under the age of

23 to throw six or fewer interceptions with at least 200 attempts

in a season since Dan Marino in 1983. Two of his picks went to

Grimes in the fourth quarter of narrow Atlanta victories.

Grimes was covering Freeman’s top target, Mike Williams, on each

interception.

”I don’t play them any harder or any better than I do against

other teams,” Grimes said. ”It’s just the way the games have

gone.”

Freeman completed 20 of 29 passes in his first start against

Atlanta as a rookie, but the numbers in his last three games

weren’t too impressive – in 91 attempts, he completed just 50

percent of his passes with four touchdowns, three interceptions and

three sacks.

”I mean obviously the Falcons got us twice last year in two

close games, but each game is its own separate deal,” Freeman

said. ”So you’re going to have to go into it with the mentality

that you’ll execute the plays as best you can and try to win.”

At 6-foot-6, Freeman sees the field well and buys extra time

against the pass rush with a 248-pound frame that’s hard to bring

down.

Falcons starting cornerback Dunta Robinson knows Freeman, whose

team finished 10-6 last year and missed the playoffs as Atlanta won

the NFC South, is tired of losing.

After the Bucs were stopped by a goal-line stand last Nov. 7 at

the Georgia Dome, Freeman showed some frustration a month later in

Tampa.

Trailing by four late in the fourth quarter, Freeman converted a

fourth-and-12 with a 19-yard pass to Sammie Stroughter, but Grimes

picked him off on the next snap with a diving catch and a 33-yard

return that allowed Atlanta to run out the clock.

Freeman was flagged for a personal foul as the play ended.

”We didn’t exactly blow them out last year,” Robinson said.

”The thing is all of their receivers do dirty work. They don’t

have a guy where you say, `Oh, this guy just goes across the middle

or this guy just goes deep.’ All of their receivers do everything

they can to help move the chains.”

Freeman was intercepted twice last week at Minnesota, but Tampa

Bay overcame a 17-point halftime to win 28-24. It marked the eighth

time that Freeman led a comeback victory in the fourth quarter or

overtime.

He has plenty of healthy targets even though Stroughter is

sidelined with an ankle injury:

– Williams, who has caught touchdowns in three straight games

against the Falcons, is aiming for a sixth consecutive game overall

with a TD;

– Preston Parker is coming off a career-best six catches for 98

yards last week;

– Arrelious Benn, a second-round draft pick last year, caught a

25-yard pass last week, and tight end Kellen Winslow can cause

matchup problems if he reaches the third level of a defense.

”Big receivers, very physical, they can run any routes and they

love jump balls because of their height, so it’s going to be a test

for us because they’re much taller than us,” Robinson said.

”We’ve got to use our speed and quickness and just try to get them

at the line of scrimmage as much as we can.”

Robinson needs to be careful with his tackling technique after

the NFL fined him $40,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jeremy

Maclin in last week’s win over Philadelphia.

Robinson insists he’s not a dirty player and says he will appeal

the fine. Another violation, however, could lead to a possible

suspension and higher fines. The league considers Robinson a repeat

offender after his hit last year on Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson

resulted in concussions for both players.

The Falcons’ defense can’t afford to lose more key pieces.

Starting tackle Jonathan Babineaux has an injured knee and could

miss another four weeks. Reserve cornerback Kelvin Hayden is out

with a strained hamstring.

”We have to play smart,” Grimes said. ”But if we hold true to

our assignments, don’t try to do too much and make some plays, we

should be OK.”