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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Bucs offense has big night in win against Colts

TAMPA - The post-game, on-field interviews with sideline reporters Wendi Nix and John Sutcliffe weren't enough. ESPN wanted more. They wanted an encore. What quarterback Josh Freeman did in leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 24-17 victory over the Colts was downright historic, after all, and such performances are worthy of encores. So, as Monday night turned into Tuesday morning, ESPN called Freeman out of the locker room for a chat with analysts Trent Dilfer and Steve Young, two former Bucs quarterbacks whose Tampa Bay offenses were never as prolific as Freeman's was against the Colts. Though the Bucs failed to cash in on all their scoring opportunities, Freeman and the offense ran up 466 total yards against Indianapolis, the most in franchise history by a Buccaneers team in a home game.
That total also was the sixth highest by a Bucs offense in any game, home or away, which was one reason Freeman was still smiling broadly more than an hour after the game was over. "It really wasn't pretty at all times, but that's kind of us,'' he said. "Whatever the adversity is, we fight through it and persevere. That's kind of how we've been getting it done this year.'' This time, the adversity was largely of their own making. Tampa Bay was penalized 14 times for 106 yards against Colts, and that lost yardage wasn't even the most costly part of the penalties. Two penalties wiped out scores as an illegal touching call on receiver Arrelious Benn for stepping out of bounds before he caught the ball erased his 62-yard touchdown, and a penalty for having too many men on the field negated a field goal on the final play of the first half. The Bucs also left three points on the field when kicker Connor Barth clanged a field-goal try off the right upright in the first half. "We've got some things we have to clean up this week,'' coach Raheem Morris said. "But it's hard to apologize for wins. They're hard to get, so you might as well enjoy them.'' The Bucs had several reasons to enjoy this one. They have their first three-game winning streak since 2008 and are tied with the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South at 3-1. It also was one of their more balanced victories of the season. Though the defense gave up two big scores on passing plays by quarterback Curtis Painter and receiver Pierre Garcon, it was otherwise dominant. Tampa Bay produced four sacks – two by end Michael Bennett and one each by end Adrian Clayborn and tackle Gerald McCoy – and held the Colts to just 62 yards rushing on 18 carries. That marked consecutive games in which the Bucs produced four sacks and limited the opponent to fewer than 100 yards rushing – Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked four time and the Falcons rushed for 30 yards in Tampa Bay's 16-13 victory on Sept. 25 – and left Morris smiling afterward. "I'm fired up about those young guys,'' Morris said of the defense front. "Every week I see improvement. The way they're hitting the quarterback and getting after people, we'll be a better football team because of that.'' They will need to be in the coming weeks. With one less day to prepare than usual, Tampa Bay flies to San Francisco to face an improved 49ers team on Sunday. They Bucs return home to play the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 16 before flying to London to play the Chicago Bears. It figures to be one of the more difficult stretches of the season, and Freeman is aware of the price for playing sub-par football. "That first week (of the season) we felt like we let one get away,'' Freeman said of the 27-20 loss to Detroit on opening day. "If we had played better football that day, been faster out of the gate, we could be sitting pretty at 4-0 right now.''

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