Against the Washington Redskins in Week 4, Freeman was 3-of-3 for 141 yards on passes of 20 yards or more. Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 6, Freeman was 3-of-5 for 160 yards and a touchdown on deep balls.
The coaching staff seems to have made a large shift in how they are allowing Freeman to move the ball. During the first three games, Freeman threw the ball just 80 times. In his next two he attempted 65 passes.
Freeman is also throwing the ball downfield more. After not trying a pass of 20 yards or more against the Carolina Panthers, and being forced to throw six in a shootout with the New York Giants, Freeman notched 11 long passes in his first three games.
Against the Redskins and the Chiefs, he posted eight passes of 20 yards or more.
Freeman has been called upon to throw deep more often, quite frankly because he’s good at it and the plays seem to be working.
Freeman’s 19 attempts of deep passes of 20 yards or more rank 21st in the league. But his 11 completions place him eighth on the list. Furthermore, Freeman has logged 464 yards through the air on deep balls, more than any quarterback in the NFL.
Let’s look at Freeman’s three completions of 20 yards or more against the Chiefs.
First Quarter, 0:30
It’s first down and the Buccaneers are lined up in 21 Personnel with Mike Williams wide left and Vincent Jackson on the right.
Both Williams and Jackson are being played tight at the line of scrimmage and ran go routes, perfect calls for the situation.
Freeman takes a five-step drop and launches towards Williams, who catches the ball at the 39-yard line. The ball was in flight for 28 yards and was placed in a perfect spot for Williams to go up and win a jump-ball situation.
After Stanford Routt (the Kansas City cornerback covering Williams) stumbled, Williams kicked it into high gear and blew past the pursuit and help from the safety Kendrick Lewis.
Williams added 39 yards after the catch to Freeman’s throw and scored Tampa Bay’s first touchdown of the game, a 62-yard strike (the flight yards (28) and yards after the catch (39) don’t add up to 62 because Freeman was five yards behind the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball).
Second Quarter, 6:47
Tampa Bay has the ball on its own five-yard line and lines up in the same formation—21 Personnel with Mike Williams to the left out wide and Vincent Jackson to the right out wide—as it did when Freeman hit Williams at the end of the first quarter for 62 yards.
Williams and Jackson both run go routes again and Freeman hits Williams at the 36-yard line with a perfect throw. Brandon Flowers brings Williams down before he can do much damage running the ball, but the play still worked for a gain of 36 yards.
It’s also important to note that not only has Tampa Bay used this deep attack from the middle of the field (Williams’ touchdown in the first quarter), but the coaching staff is now comfortable enough to use it out of their own end zone.
Fourth Quarter, 13:04
On 3rd-and-11, the Buccaneers come out in 20 Personnel with Tiquan Underwood out wide to the left, Jackson in the slot to the right and Williams split outside of him.
Underwood is sent deep on a go route, Jackson ran a post pattern while Williams ran an out.
This play didn’t go as smoothly as it was written up, but the Buccaneers gained 68 yards on the broken play anyway. Routt actually got his hand on the pass and batted it up into the air. Fortunately for the Bucs, the ball fell to Underwood who stayed on his feet, while Routt fell down.
Where Underwood caught the ball, had he been stopped (or fallen making the acrobatic grab) would have gained 26 yards. But he recovery and run for 42 yards after netted a huge gain.
Freeman is using the deep ball more frequently, which is a true strength to his game. His strong arm and very accurate flight path on long passes make this play call a very viable option moving forward.
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