Lots of room for Bucs to improve

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (left) and Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman shake hands...

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (left) and Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman shake hands after their game in Tampa on Sunday. (Reuters)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:17 PM ET

TAMPA - Some Monday morning musings on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday evening:

• The stat that boggled the mind was that Josh Freeman’s successful quarterback sneak inside the one-yard line in the second quarter that proved the Bucs lone touchdown of the day was the first rushing TD of Freeman’s three-year career.

The thing is at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Freeman is a giant, looking more like a tight end than a quarterback. He’s like a big old oak tree back there and does not hesitate to take off and run out of the pocket when the opportunity presents itself.

It’s just hard to believe that when the Bucs have been down close to the goal line, Freeman hasn’t called his own number prior to Sunday.

With his size, he looks like he could barrel in about any time he wants.

• This has nothing to do with Sunday’s game but I have to get it off my chest. Every time I see a shot of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan with his helmet off I immediately think of a young Jim Carrey. Check out a mug shot of Ryan and then put it up against Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and you have twins, separated at birth. The last time I hooked up another sports figure with a look-a-like twin was a few years back when I thought Jays lefty Gustavo Chacin was the second coming of Benito Mussolini.

• Putting double coverage on big tight ends seems to be the rage these days. A week ago in Foxborough, the Patriots put the squeeze on Chargers tight end Antonio Gates which took away one of Philip Rivers primary targets. On Sunday, the Buccaneers did the same thing with the Falcons Tony Gonzalez, a favourite target of Ryan. In the game, Ryan threw Gonzo’s way eight times but just two of the passes were complete, albeit one of them a big one as Ryan found Gonzalez in the end of the end zone for a TD strike.

• The major defensive game plan of the Bucs was to put the clamps on Atlanta’s running game, particularly Michael Turner and force the Falcons to beat them through the air. That plan worked like a charm. Turner gained just 20 yards on 11 carries while the Falcons running game totalled an embarrassing 30 yards on 15 carries.

With Gonzalez blanketed, that forced Ryan to focus on White and rookie speedster Julio Jones who caught six passes for 115 yards.

The Falcons put veteran corner Aqib Talib on Jones, which left E.J. Biggers to cover White as the nickel back. White got his catches and yards but Biggers came up big on two tosses into the end zone to White, breaking both up and forcing the Falcons to kick a field goal.

“We put a lot of pressure on him,” Bucs veteran corner Ronde Barber said of Biggers. “E.J. is still a young corner. To put him in man situation against their best wideout, I think he stood up. He did what he had to do.”

• Before they get all giddy over their win, their first over Atlanta in the last six meetings, the 2-1 Bucs need to improve in certain areas.

Before they move into the upper tier of teams — their goal after coming off a 10-6 season and missing the playoffs is to make it into the post-season — they will have to jazz up their offence. It’s not like they can count on holding teams to 13 points every week.

In Sunday’s game, Freeman never took a shot downfield, not once. All his passes were dumps to running backs or tosses in the 10-to-15-yard range. The problem is they don’t have a real burner to run deep routes with Mike Williams their biggest threat at wide receiver.

The Bucs also are saddled with just an average running back in LeGarrette Blount. For most of the game Blount was three yards and a cloud of dust but in the final quarter he showed a little more life and second effort and wound up with 81 yards on 24 carries.

Blount, though, is no tank running between the tackles and is not the best at finding the hole at the line of scrimmage. He also has just average speed so he’s no breakaway threat.

• Finally, if the Falcons have designs as repeating as division champs, they will have to tighten up defensively. They’ve given up too many yards and not made enough plays on the defensive side of the ball.

They, like the Bucs and also the no-defence Saints, are still a work in progress.

No team is pulling away in the NFC South.


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