Youthful Bucs feel they’re getting better
Rookie coach Raheem Morris rejects the notion that a culture of
losing has settled into Tampa Bay’s locker room during a year-long
stretch in which the Buccaneers have dropped 15 of 16 games.
Going 0-4 last December cost the team a playoff berth and
prompted the firing of former coach Jon Gruden. The Bucs (1-11)
have found multiple ways to lose during a miserable start under
“We haven’t had the success you would like, but there is no
passive, it’s OK type of mentality,” the NFL’s youngest coach said
Monday. “Those guys are hurting. They want to win those
Sunday’s 16-6 loss to Carolina was especially agonizing because
the Bucs gained a season-best 469 yards – Tampa Bay’s highest total
in 20 years – yet failed to score a touchdown because of miscues by
rookie quarterback Josh Freeman.
Although the first-round draft pick threw for a career-high 321
yards in his fifth professional start, he was intercepted five
times. The Bucs settled for two field goals on eight possessions
inside the Panthers’ 30.
Three of the picks stopped drives inside the Carolina 8.
“He had 400 yards of offense, the fifth-best total offense
around here in (franchise) history, and you had six points to show
for it,” Morris said, attributing some of the mistakes to the
growing pains of a young quarterback.
The 33-year-old coach stressed, however, that he and his players
will not use Freeman’s inexperience as an excuse for losing.
“You’re talking about young guys who are going to bring you
through this thing. … You’re talking about young guys who are
going to get better and better … and grow together,” Morris
“If we were around here and were a veteran team and we had (an
acceptance of losing), it would be a problem. But right now, we’re
a bunch of babies that are going to grow up together and get better
Freeman was 23 of 44 passing, including five completions for 116
yards to Antonio Bryant, who had been seeking a larger role in the
The 21-year-old quarterback’s difficulties near the goal line
were caused by bad decisions and a tendency he has to lock in on
receivers before delivering the ball.
“Most rookie quarterbacks, they kind of look at their intended
receivers. That gets better over time,” said safety Chris Harris,
who had one of Carolina’s interceptions. “But, yeah, you were able
to see where he was throwing the ball because he would stare down
his intended receivers.”
Seven of Tampa Bay losses have been by 10 or more points.
They’ve lost three times on an opponent’s final drive.
Against Carolina, the Bucs failed to take advantage of
short-handed NFC rivals relying on backup quarterbacks for the
second straight game.
Atlanta lost quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael
Turner to injury on the way to beating Tampa Bay two weeks ago. The
Panthers played without Jake Delhomme and leading rusher DeAngelo
Nevertheless, Morris believes the Bucs are improving.
“There’s progress in the games and how we’re playing. We’ve
just got to make better decisions at the end and we’ve got to make
better plays at the end,” the coach said.
“We’re still looking for that guy to stand up and be the
closer. We’ve got one at quarterback. He just didn’t have a good
day yesterday in the red zone.”
Running back Cadillac Williams, who rushed for 92 yards on 17
“Right now we’re losing close games and it doesn’t look like
we’re getting it together. But if guys just stay patient and
continue to believe in what these coaches are preaching …
eventually it’s going to be a really really good football team,”
“Folks see no progress because we’re not winning. But once you
break down film and look at things, the progress is there. This guy
Freeman has come a long way, and he’s only going to get
AP Sports Writer Mike Cranston in Charlotte contributed to this