There is no sport more popular in the United States than NFL Football, and for many sports fans in Central Florida, there is no passion greater than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of media sources for information on these fans' favorite topic, from the inside access provided here on Buccaneers.com to the information disseminated by local and national newspapers, television networks, radio stations and internet sites.
The question is no longer, is there adequate coverage out there for my favorite team? Now the question is, with everything out there being said about the Buccaneers, did I miss anything?
That's why we are bringing you the "Word on the Street" about the Buccaneers every week during the 2011 season. Every Friday, we'll recap some of the national coverage about your Bucs that you may have missed, and provide you with the links so you can check it out yourself.
This week, our five Word on the Streets links include a breakdown of Josh Freeman's fourth-quarter magic complete with input from an anonymous NFL scout, as well as an interesting perspective on the team from a displaced fan. You may, of course, have already read about some of these topics, but this is a chance to get another perspective and find out how the Buccaneers are viewed in communities other than our own.
So, without further ado, the Word on the Streets:
1. Bucs Offense Runs on Blount Force
SI.com columnist Chris Harry visited Buccaneers headquarters this week and focused his attention on running back LeGarrette Blount. Harry identifies the play call that led to Blount's 27-yard touchdown in Minnesota as "19 Weak" and opines that this play, and others like it, are the true identity of Tampa Bay's offense. The piece also looks into the Bucs-Falcons rivalry and Tampa Bay's need for a faster start, but comes back to writer's main point: The Bucs' 250-pound running back needs to be the driving force on offense. Harry gets input on the topic from Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris and running back Earnest Graham, as well as Falcons top man Mike Smith. (If you want to read up on the Bucs' next opponent while on SI.com, you may want to check out this piece by Jim Trotter on how the Falcons' offense is coming together.)
Excerpt: "Every great offense in this league has a flow," backup tailback Earnest Graham said. "We hit our flow when LeGarrette is running the ball really, really well and [Freeman] is hitting play-action passes. That's what you saw in the second half [at Minnesota]. Once LeGarrette got going and those play-action passes started hitting, our confidence just shot through the roof."
2. Freeman Channels Superhero Streak in Crunch Time
If you play fantasy football on Yahoo.com, as so many do, you may have come across the link already. It's hard for a Buccaneers fan to miss, as it is accompanied by a big picture of Josh Freeman and a title that includes the word, 'Superman.' If you haven't already read it, check out Jason Cole's analysis of Freeman's work under pressure. Cole gets some rather interesting input from an anonymous NFL scout, who says that he sees no limits on the Bucs young passer in terms of football play and leadership ability.
Excerpt: "You watch him when the pressure is on and it's a whole different energy level, you can see the focus," a scout from an AFC team said. "I love his ability, I love everything I see. I've watched him and [Atlanta quarterback] Matt Ryan and I'd rather have Freeman. I wouldn't think twice about it and Ryan ain't too shabby."
3. A Tale of Two Punters
ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas runs a daily blog on the four teams in the NFC South and, among national writers, is one of the more frequent visitors to One Buccaneer Place. Obviously, with two NFC South teams pitted against each other this weekend, Yasinskas is looking at the Bucs-Falcons matchup from a variety of angles. On Wednesday, he compared the work being done so far by the two teams' respective punters/kickoff specialists. Knowing that Buccaneers punter Michael Koenen was until recently a Falcon, Yasinskas looks into the decision-making by both teams in regards to Koenen's move across the division. (While you're on Yasinskas' blog, also check out this post on Freeman's ranking in ESPN's Total QBR this past week, and how it rates among the rest of the NFC South QBs.)
Excerpt: "There's irony here because the guy who now punts and kicks off for Tampa Bay used to do it for Atlanta. That's Michael Koenen and he's having exactly the kind of impact the Bucs imagined when they made him their marquee free-agent signing. Through two weeks, Koenen is averaging 49.3 yards gross on punts and 45.2 yards net. As a kickoff specialist, five of his nine kicks have gone for touchbacks and opponents are averaging 8.5 yards on returns.
4. McCoy's Small Plays Look Big to One Observer
Not only did the Minnesota Vikings hold a 17-0 lead over the Buccaneers in last Sunday's game at Mall of America Field, but they had the ball to start the second half. Tampa Bay desperately needed to grab the momentum early in the second half, and they could hardly afford to give up another long drive. Not surprisingly, the Vikings gave the ball to running back Adrian Peterson on the first two snaps, figuring he could quickly add to his 83 first-half yards. However, Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy had other ideas. He stopped Peterson short on first down for a gain of just one, then hustled downfield on the next play to stop the runner's six-yard run from turning into something worse. Given that three Buccaneer touchdowns and a successful onside kick would follow during Tampa Bay's amazing second-half comeback, those two plays understandably didn't garner much postgame attention from the majority of the media. However, the folks at the Sports XChange noticed and gave the Bucs' second-year defender his due earlier this week. The note is a short one, but it's followed by interesting bits on Preston Parker and that aforementioned onside kick. Also, check out additional Sports XChange posts this week on rookie LB and the strategy and personnel decisions being made by the Bucs and Falcons this week.
Excerpt: "Bucs DT Gerald McCoy stepped up in a big situation to set the tone for the Bucs' comeback Sunday at Minnesota. McCoy made consecutive stops of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson to start the second half. The first, a 1-yard gain up the middle, the second a tackle after six yards that prevented Peterson from reaching the second level. They weren't plays that will be celebrated in a game of many big plays, but McCoy provided the spark that the defense needed."
5. Fan's Take: Bucs Can Win South
We return to Yahoo.com one more time, but in this case it's not for more analysis from the site's football experts. Rather, Yahoo brings us an interesting take on the Buccaneers from a displaced Tampa Bay fan named Lisa Mason. Mason, who was born and raised in Tampa, now lives in Texas, where she keeps a close eye on her favorite team. Yahoo.com commissioned Mason to break down the Buccaneers and their chances to win the division, and she finds reasons for hope in the team's balanced offense and its belief in Head Coach Raheem Morris. While there, you can also read Mason's reaction to the Bucs' comeback win over the Vikings, which is probably quite similar to the reaction of many Buc fans around the nation.
Excerpt: "While he may be the youngest coach in the NFL, Raheem Morris is the perfect choice to lead the youngest team in the NFL. He believes in his players and the players trust in him. This type of solid player-coach bond is needed to take a team to the top. I have been there before as a youth coach of the underdog team. When my team believed in me, we saw results that no one expected."