Lions, Bucs Postmortem: Matthew Stafford Out-duel's Josh Freeman

Josh Freeman had strong words about the Quarterbacks drafted ahead of him in 2009, but Matthew Stafford made a stronger statement with his play.

Maybe it's a good thing that the Lions at Buccaneers game was blacked out in Tampa Bay. 

As you have by now certainly heard, the Buccaneers were crushed by the Detroit Lions at home on Sunday, losing 27-20 in a game that did not seem as close as the final score indicates. While the Buccaneers defense may take some blame for the loss, with its complete lack of coverage on Lions star Calvin Johnson, the truer tale of the tape will show that the Bucs inability to move the ball on offense was what eventually did in the club. 

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman and the Buccaneer offense failed to convert a first down until deep into the second quarter, and were repeatedly held to quick three and outs that failed to give a weary defense any time to recover. While only trailing by two scores at the worst, offensive coordinator Greg Olsen inexplicably abandoned the running game, giving runningback LeGarrette Blount just 5 carries in the game, while forcing Freeman to try and win a game while throwing the ball a whopping 43 times; a tall task, that he was unable to complete. 

Fair or not, Freeman will always be linked to Detroit Lions franchise signal-caller Matthew Stafford. Stafford, out of SEC powerhouse Georiga and the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, was taken 16 picks before the Bucs selected Josh Freeman out of Kansas State. Freeman was not too pleased to have been the third quarterback picked in that draft, behind Stafford and USC's Mark Sanchez to the New York Jets, and had strong words on the subject in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times following the draft snubbing.

"I think it comes down the school I went to, I mean, I've worked out with both those guys. I think they're really good. I'd take me over them. I think it comes down to they went to Georgia, which is a good, competitive team in the SEC and Mark Sanchez went to USC, who pretty much wins the Pac-10 every year. I think it really came down to them going to better schools and winning more games and stuff like that, that had me going 17th or dropping this low.

"Like I said, they're good quarterbacks. I don't take anything away from them. If I had a pick, I'd take myself.

"I feel I'm the better quarterback but they're getting more of the hype. I have the rest of my career to prove that I'm the best guy and I'm looking to do everything in my power to make that so.''

That's quite a demonstrative statement from the usually soft-spoken Freeman. However, Stafford made a statement of his own Sunday, expressing his feelings on the matter on the field.

After struggling with injuries during the first two seasons of his career, Stafford showed Sunday just what he is capable of when healthy, and the reason he was taken with the first overall pick. Stafford completed 24 of 33 passes on the day, for 305-yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He was efficient, he was smart, and he was accurate, showing his talent in the face of continued pressure from a Buccaneers defensive line that got after Stafford but were repeatedly unable to land the shot.

Meanwhile, Freeman was stymied by the Lions defense, notching just one late touchdown to a leaping Mike Williams in the back of the endzone, while passing for 259-yards on 28 of 43 attempts. Freeman was also getting knocked around by the Lions defensive line, getting sacked twice, and had to miss a series in the third quarter with what the team later called cramping, although Freeman was showing holding his shoulder after the play that knocked him from the game. Poor play calling certainly had something to do with the offensive struggles, but in a straight quarterback competition Freeman came out on the short end of the stick.

The comparison between these two quarterbacks may be unfair, but it is something that is likely to continue for years to come as their NFL careers develop, and on this day, Stafford got the better of Freeman; a difference that ultimately lead to the final numbers on the scoreboard, and the L in the standings.

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