On a day when cornerback Myron Lewis became the 10th different rookie to start a game for the team in 2010, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are once again letting their young players lead the way.
Tampa Bay took a 14-10 lead into halftime against the Detroit Lions Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Both Buccaneer touchdowns were scored by rookies, as WR Mike Williams caught a game-tying 24-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter and RB LeGarrette Blount followed with a thrilling, tackle-breaking 39-yard scoring run.
Detroit scored first on Nate Burleson's 10-yard catch in the first quarter and cut into the Bucs' lead late with Dave Rayner's 41-yard field goal.
The Buccaneers gained 244 yards of offense in the first half, with creative second-year QB Josh Freeman leading the way. Freeman completed 11 of 18 passes for 141 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, often avoiding Detroit's excellent pass rush to keep plays alive. Blount supported Freeman's passing efforts with 62 yards on eight carries and RB Cadillac Williams added 61 combined rushing and receiving yards.
The Bucs won the toss and chose to receive. Micheal Spurlock took a short kick on one bounce and got it out to the Tampa Bay 27. Blount took his first carry around left tackle to start the drive and powered for four yards. Freeman's first pass of the game, on second-and-six, was a bit behind Mike Williams on a quick slant and incomplete but he converted the third down with a precise 15-yard out to TE Kellen Winslow. A pass over the middle to Cadillac Williams two plays later earned another first down at the Detroit 43 but the Bucs faced another third down at the 39 moments later. Winslow worked his way open in the middle of the field but the throw was too high and the Bucs had to punt.
After a fair catch at the 20, the Lions got a quick 12 yards on a pass to Johnson with CB E.J. Biggers slipping in coverage. Maurice Morris found a seam for eight more on the next play then took a pitch around left end for another first down at the Bucs' 45. A well-timed run blitz by CB Ronde Barber caused a loss of one yard on Stefan Logan's first-down run, and Morris lost a yard as well on a short pass when LB Barrett Ruud closed ground on him quickly. On third-and-12 QB Drew Stanton nearly hit WR Bryant Johnson at the sticks but Biggers was able to force Johnson out of bounds before he got his feet down. The Lions punted and trapped Spurlock at the Bucs' 16.
Blount dragged a Lions tackler five yards on a first down run but a short pass to TE John Gilmore was incomplete. The pocket collapsed quickly on Freeman on third-and-five and Freeman was eventually sacked for a loss of three by DE Cliff Avril after eluding several other defenders. Rookie P Robert Malone helped out by blasting a 50-yard punt that was fair caught at the Detroit 32.
Another run blitz by Barber allowed RB Jahvid Best to be dropped for a loss of two but Calvin Johnson worked wide open on second down to catch a 20-yard pass over the middle. A pitch to Logan worked as well, as he got the right corner for a gain of 13 to the Bucs' 37. Two more Morris runs moved the ball to the Bucs' 26, and a Calvin Johnson buttonhook was good for 16 more to the Bucs' 10. Stanton then found Burleson open in the right flat and he powered the ball into the end zone for the game's first score.
A nice spinning return by Spurlock got the ball out to the Bucs' 40 to start the next drive but Winslow was hit with a hands-to-the-face penalty to make it first-and-20. A second-down completion to Mike Williams picked up 12 yards and led to a manageable third down but a false start by Derek Hardman backed it up five yards. Freeman made an incredible play to convert the third-and-13, first corralling an errant snap with one hand and then immediately throwing a dart to Cadillac Williams, who turned it upfield for a gain of 18. That was the last play of the first quarter, and the first play of period two was a misfire deep over the middle in Mike Williams' direction. Cadillac Williams fought for nine yards on a second-down carry but the Bucs got a delay-of-game penalty before third down. After a four-yard draw by Williams, the Bucs went for it on fourth-and-two from the Lions' 37, with Freeman rolling right and finding WR Arrelious Benn at the 24. On the next play, Freeman took a shotgun snap and fired a perfect seam pass to Mike Williams for the touchdown. Three Buc receivers ran verticals and Williams got open on the outside with a nice out-and-in move on the Lions cornerback.
The Lions got off to a good start on their next drive with a 12-yard catch over the middle by TE Brandon Pettigrew, but an offensive pass interference call on Pettigrew two plays later made it second-and-19 at the 34. LB Geno Hayes shot the gap on a second-down draw by Logan and dropped the back for a loss of two. The Bucs flushed Stanton on third down and though he found some room to run the play came up six yards short to force a punt that was fair caught at the Bucs' 23.
On the second play of the drive, the Bucs tried a stop-and-go to Benn on the right sideline but when the DB didn't bite Benn broke it off and Freeman found him for a gain of 11. A four-yard catch by FB Earnest Graham and a six-yard blast up the middle by Blount gained another first down at the Bucs' 46, but a holding call erased another good run by Blount and made it first-and-17. Freeman made one of his trademark sack escapes on first down and ran for eight yards, much of it stumbling after his foot was clipped from behind. On the next play, Freeman had DT Ndamukong Suh hanging from him as he threw across the field to Graham, who made a leaping catch and found the sideline for a gain of 14. On the very next play, Blount went on his winding journey downfield, bouncing off tacklers before breaking into the open on the right side. The 39-yard score was his longest TD run of the season, and it was helped greatly at the end by Mike Williams' downfield blocking.
Pettigrew got open again to start the next drive, picking up 13 yards to the Detroit 29. Two plays later, Calvin Johnson split the Bucs' defense on a slant and gained 30 yards, with only Biggers' leg tackle saving a touchdown. Barber nearly sacked Stanton on the next play but the QB just got an underhand toss away before hitting the ground. After an incompletion made it third-and-10, Stanton went to Johnson on another slant and that too worked, picking up 17 yards to the Bucs' 13. A holding penalty backed the Lions up 10 yards and a long fade to Bryant Johnson just missed. Biggers had perfect coverage on Burleson on second down, and a great blitz by Hayes forced an errant third-down throw. The Lions had to settle for Dave Rayner's 41-yard field goal.
The Bucs had 49 seconds to work with when they started up again at their own 26 and got nine yards on a Cadillac Williams draw before using their first timeout. The same play two snaps later converted a third down and put the ball at the Bucs' 45 before a second timeout with 30 seconds to play. A pass over the middle two plays later to Winslow picked up eight yards just over midfield but also forced the Bucs to use their last timeout with 12 seconds left in the half. Another Winslow catch two plays later ran out the clock.