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Green Bay at Tampa Bay

Rookie Freeman guides Bucs to first victory in initial NFL start

CBSSports.com wire reports

TAMPA, Fla. -- Wearing one of those ghastly creamsicle jerseys that are an ugly reminder of Tampa Bay's past, rookie Josh Freeman gave the struggling Buccaneers plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future.

The third quarterback selected in this year's NFL Draft led the previously winless Bucs to a 38-28 victory over the Green Bay Packers in his first start Sunday, ending the league's longest losing streak at 11 games.

Playing with poise that belied his inexperience, Freeman passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns, including a 7-yard throw to Sammie Stroughter on fourth-and-4 for the go-ahead TD with under 5 minutes to play.

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"I felt really relaxed," said Freeman, the 17th pick in the draft and the third quarterback taken behind Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez.

"I didn't get too high or two low," the 21-year-old said. "I can't say I did anything spectacular. I just played within myself, and when we had opportunities I took them."

Freeman became the youngest quarterback to start a game for the Bucs, who have had 10 different players start at the position since winning the Super Bowl seven seasons ago. He's the third this year.

"That's a great start to how we want to be, how we want to work, how we want to play," said the 33-year-old Raheem Morris, who has known Freeman since the rookie was a freshman at Kansas State and Morris was the defensive coordinator there.

"However you do it, it's impressive. His age really doesn't matter at this point. ... He's got to lead us to where we've got to go."

Freeman completed 14 of 31 passes with just one interception. A critical second pick by Green Bay's A.J. Hawk was wiped out by an illegal contact penalty against Hawk during Tampa Bay's go-ahead drive.

Three plays later, Freeman threw 29 yards to Michael Clayton to set up his second TD pass of the day.

"He kept his composure and made plays," Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said.

The Bucs (1-7) are the last team in the NFL to win this season, ending a skid that was the franchise's longest since 1976-77 when they dropped an NFL-record 26 in a row wearing the uniforms the team donned against the Packers.

Aaron Rodgers threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns for Green Bay (4-4). The league's top-rated passer also threw three interceptions and had one returned for a TD that put the game out of reach in the final minute.

Rodgers was also sacked six times, hiking Green Bay's NFL-worst total to 37 in eight games.

"It's pretty frustrating," Rodgers said. "I think our offense and special teams put our defense in a tough position."

In addition to wearing retro uniforms, the Bucs made Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon the first inductee into the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. They trailed 21-17 during the halftime ceremony, but Freeman refused to let them lose.

The rookie threw second-half TD passes to Kellen Winslow and Stroughter, a seventh-round draft pick who was wide open in the right corner of the end zone with 4:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Freeman's 2-point conversion pass to Clayton put the Bucs up 31-28. The defense, which had all of its sacks after halftime, ensured victory when Tanard Jackson picked off Rodgers and -- instead of going to the ground with under a minute left -- weaved 35 yards to a clinching TD.

Rodgers threw a 74-yard TD pass to James Jones on Green Bay's second play from scrimmage, then led an 11-play, 69-yard march that Ryan Grant finished with a 3-yard run that made it 14-7 late in the opening quarter.

Cornerback Elbert Mack, beaten badly on Jones' long touchdown, returned one of Tampa Bay's interceptions 36 yards to the Packers 8 to set up Freeman's first pro TD pass, a 6-yarder to Derrick Ward.

Trailing 14-7, Tampa Bay's Geno Hayes blocked a punt that Ronde Barber scooped up and ran 31 yards for his 14th career touchdown. Freeman led a 74-yard field goal drive just before the half, trimming Tampa Bay's deficit to 21-17.

Rodgers looked like he might have put the game away when he scrambled 12 yards on third-and-goal to give Green Bay a 28-17 lead.

But Clifton Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to set up Freeman's 7-yard TD pass to Winslow and spark the comeback.

The loss was the second straight for Green Bay, which fell to Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings the week before.

"It doesn't feel good. This one definitely hurt," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I'm disappointed in the way we played. We have some recurring problems that we have not cleaned up yet."


  • Bucs WR Antonio Bryant was inactive because of a sore left knee.
  • Jones finished with four receptions for 103 yards for Green Bay. Grant rushed for 96 yards on 21 attempts.
  • Packers RT Mark Tauscher (knee) played for the first time this season, but was not able to finish the game.
Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Sun. Nov. 8Final
Pass: A. Rodgers (17-35, 266) J. Freeman (14-31, 205)
Rush: R. Grant (21-96) C. Williams (16-56)
Rec: J. Jones (4-103) K. Winslow (4-57)
Scoring Summary
TDJames Jones, 74 Yd pass from Aaron Rodgers (Mason Crosby kick is good), 12:15. Drive: 2 plays, 80 yards in 0:55.
TDDerrick Ward, 6 Yd pass from Josh Freeman (Connor Barth kick is good), 8:45. Drive: 2 plays, 8 yards in 0:47.
TDRyan Grant, 2 Yd run (Mason Crosby kick is good), 2:39. Drive: 11 plays, 69 yards in 6:06.
TDRonde Barber, 31 Yd blocked punt return (Connor Barth kick is good), 11:59.
TDDonald Driver, 32 Yd pass from Aaron Rodgers (Mason Crosby kick is good), 7:38. Drive: 8 plays, 76 yards in 4:21.
FGConnor Barth 38 Yd, 0:06. Drive: 12 plays, 74 yards in 2:26.
TDAaron Rodgers, 12 Yd run (Mason Crosby kick is good), 12:54. Drive: 9 plays, 62 yards in 3:36.
TDKellen Winslow, 7 Yd pass from Josh Freeman (Josh Freeman 2 Pt. Conversion pass to Kellen Winslow failed), 11:34. Drive: 3 plays, 17 yards in 1:20.
TDSammie Stroughter, 7 Yd pass from Josh Freeman (Josh Freeman pass to Michael Clayton for 2 Pt. Conversion), 4:14. Drive: 8 plays, 72 yards in 3:01.
TDTanard Jackson, 35 Yd interception return (Connor Barth kick is good), 0:35.
Players of the Game

J. Freeman
Att 31
Comp 14
Yds 205
TD 3

J. Jones
Rec 4
Yds 103
Avg 25.8
TD 1
Green Bay
A. Rodgers17/3526623
R. Grant2196120
A. Green645026
A. Rodgers326112
J. Kuhn1303
B. Jackson1000
J. Jones4103174
D. Driver471132
G. Jennings561021
A. Green110010
B. Jackson1909
J. Kuhn1707
D. Lee1505
Tampa Bay
J. Freeman14/3120531
C. Williams165608
J. Freeman420011
D. Ward4503
C. Smith1000
K. Winslow457122
D. Ward354138
M. Stovall346021
M. Clayton129029
S. Stroughter31919
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
PIT 28 Final
DEN 10
DAL 20 Final
PHI 16
TEN 34 Final
SF 27
SD 21 Final
NYG 20
DET 20 Final
SEA 32
CAR 20 Final
NO 30
MIA 17 Final
NE 27
KC 21 Final
JAC 24
HOU 17 Final
IND 20
BAL 7 Final
CIN 17
ARI 41 Final
CHI 21
WAS 17 Final
ATL 31