The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not need any fourth quarter magic today from comeback-kid Josh Freeman as they defeated the Carolina Panthers 31-16 in a game in which they never trailed. While the game was closer than the score may indicate the Bucs dominated all facets of the game as their offense got on track in a big way and the defense stifled the Panther offense led by rookie Jimmie Clausen.
The Buccaneer defense has struggled to generate any kind of pass rush all season and had totaled a league low 7 sacks coming in. Today however, they were able to get constant pressure on Clausen, sacking him twice and also forcing a fumble. As time was running out in the game the Panthers were handed an opportunity in the red zone to cut the deficit in half but the Buccaneer Defense held Clausen out of the end zone on two straight quarterback sneaks from the 1 yard line to end the game.
Josh Freeman had a big day, throwing for 241 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. As Buc fans have become accustomed too, he also made plays with his feet picking up third downs and moving the chains scrambling a number of times. Kellen Winslow was Freeman’s favorite receiver on the day, catching six catches for 65 yards and his season’s first touchdown late in the 2nd quarter. Rookie Mike Williams caught 4 balls for 68 yards and Arrelious Benn had a touchdown on 2 catches for 29 yards.
Running back LeGarrette Blount put on another show on the ground, running for 91 yards on 19 carried and a dramatic hurdling touchdown in the first half. Most of Blount’s yardage came in the first half, 70 of it on one drive. Cadillac Williams also scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to essentially ice the game by making it a two score lead for Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers move to 6-3 and will head out west next week to take on the struggling San Fransisco 49ers. While the Niners have been having a difficult season a west coast trip is a challenge for any team and the Buccaneers will have to show the same resiliency they showed earlier this season when they defeated the Cardinals in Arizona.