LeGarrette Blount and Josh Freeman helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rule both the land and the skies in last Sunday's 38-15 obliteration of the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday. Fittingly, that Buccaneer duo is now in the running for the NFL's "Ground" and "Air" Players of the Week for Week 16.
After each week's slate of games, the league nominates three quarterbacks and three running backs, respectively for its Air and Ground NFL Players of the Week. Obviously, the former honor is for an outstanding day of passing ("air") and the latter for a big day running the ball ("ground"). Rarely have the Buccaneers had a passer and a runner perform so magnificently on the same day.
In fact, Freeman and Blount are the first tandem in franchise history to combine a five-touchdown-pass effort with a rushing output of 160 or more yards. Moreover, that combination of performances has only been achieved by three other pairs of teammates since the 1970 NFL merger.
Freeman's competition for the Air award consists of Cincinnati's Carson Palmer and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Blount will battle for the Ground award with Chicago's Matt Forte and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. Freeman was the only passer to throw five touchdown passes this past weekend, and Blount led all NFL players in rushing yards in Week 16.
The award winners will be determined by fan voting on Buccaneers.com, which has already begun and will continue through Friday at noon. Click here to visit NFL.com and cast your vote; the balloting page includes video highlights of each nominee's performance to help fans make their decisions.
Freeman compiled one of the finest days by a quarterback in Buccaneer history in the win over Seattle, completing 21 of 26 passes (80.1%) for 237 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 144.2 and led the team on a series of seven drives that produced six scores and one blocked field goal.
Freeman's five TD passes tied a single-game record for the Buccaneers, first set by Steve DeBerg in 1987 and later tied by Brad Johnson in 2002. He avoided throwing an interception for the third straight game and the sixth time his last seven outings. He has now tossed 23 scoring passes in 2010 against just six interceptions, and could join Johnson as the only players in team history to have a 3,000-yard, 20-TD season while throwing 10 or fewer interceptions. Freeman also improved his 2010 passer rating to 93.6, fourth among all NFC quarterbacks and, if maintained, the highest mark ever by a Buccaneer who started all 16 games in a season.
Blount punctuated his thrilling 164-yard day with runs of 48 and 53 yards, and on the former he pulled out his signature hurdle move again to produce one of the most impressive plays in the entire NFL in Week 16. After breaking into the open around right tackle in the third quarter, Blount leaped completely over Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy and landed in full stride as he continued on to the Seattle eight-yard line.
Blount topped himself in the fourth quarter with a 53-yard run on the first play of a 72-yard march that ended in Freeman's final touchdown toss. He finished the day with those 164 yards on 18 carries, averaging a robust 9.1 yards per tote. That's the fourth-best single-game rushing average in franchise history, and the best since Warrick Dunn's 9.5-yard average against Dallas in the 2000 season. Blount leads all NFL rookies in rushing with 941 yards and needs just 59 more to reach 1,000, despite having just 103 yards after the first six games of the season.