Buccaneers rally to drop struggling Colts to 0-4
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Call it ugly. Call it sloppy. Call it anything you want.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't care. Close games, rallies, penalty-filled performances, as long as they end with celebrations, the Bucs will take them all.
Josh Freeman threw for 287 yards and a touchdown, LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards and a score, and the Buccaneers rallied to beat the winless Indianapolis Colts 24-17 on Monday night.
"It's supposed to be pretty? It's an orchestra?" cornerback Ronde Barber said.
This one was music to Tampa Bay's ears.
Freeman picked up the tough yards, Blount had the highlight play and the defense ended the night with four sacks. Together, they helped the Buccaneers win their third consecutive game.
Freeman, who ran for a touchdown early in the game, scrambled for a huge first down on the winning drive. Two plays later, Blount found a gaping hole, bounced to the outside and scampered 35 yards for a touchdown. He carried defensive back David Caldwell the final few yards before diving for the pylon.
Freeman wasn't done with the dirty work, though. Needing a yard to move the chains, extend the drive and deny the Colts a chance to tie the game, Freeman picked up the first down on a fourth-and-1 play.
"It really wasn't pretty the whole time, but that's us," Freeman said.
The Buccaneers (3-1) kept pace with New Orleans in the NFC South. The Colts fell to 0-4 for the first time since 1998, Peyton Manning's rookie season. Manning has watched all four losses, unable to play because of a neck injury.
Curtis Painter started this one, filling in for injured backup Kerry Collins, who's out because of a concussion, and played better than most expected.
"It's always a little easier when you know you're going to get some playing time," Painter said. "We got off to a good start and put some points on the board. But obviously we have to find a way to put more points on the board and move the ball a little bit better."
Painter completed 13 of 30 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns, both long ones to Pierre Garcon. He wasn't nearly as effective down the stretch, partly because the Colts lost starting offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana to injuries. Guard Ryan Diem was inactive.
"It's one of those things where we have to move some things around and make some adjustments," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's not a good situation, but nevertheless one that you have to work through."
The Colts were up 17-10 after Garcon's second score, but it was all Tampa Bay in the final 20-plus minutes.
"It's always good to win on a national stage," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "Everybody wants to have a better performance, but it's hard to apologize for wins, so we're excited about them all. They're hard enough to get, so you might as well enjoy every single one you do."
Freeman was 25 of 39 passing, buying time in the pocket and picking apart Indy's zone defense. He got the Bucs on the scoreboard with a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter and tied the game at 10 with a 13-yard pass to Preston Parker late in the third.
Blount put them ahead for good with his longest run of the season. Freeman kept them there with his fourth-down plunge into the line with 1:10 remaining.
Tampa Bay's biggest problem — aside from giving up the two long TD passes — was penalties. The Buccaneers were flagged 14 times for 106 yards.
"That was an ugly win," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Too many penalties, both sides of the ball. We've got to be better. We've got to be better, but we got the W."
The Bucs also botched a scoring chance at the end of the first half. Robert Mathis sacked Freeman on third down and the Bucs, without a timeout, had to scramble to get the field goal unit lined up.
They did, and Connor Barth's kick was good from 37 yards. But the Bucs had 12 men on the field, so they went to the locker room trailing.
It mattered little against the Colts.
"We just showed what this team is. It's a very resilient football team," Barber said. "We never feel like we're out of anything. ... When you've got Josh Freeman as your quarterback and you're calling defenses and guys are standing up and winning when they have to, that's pretty exciting to be part of."
Notes: Colts DT Eric Foster injured his right ankle late in the second quarter, was carted off the field and taken to a nearby hospital. He will stay overnight for observation and have season-ending surgery. ... Garcon had 149 yards receiving in Indy's first three games, but had 146 yards on two touches Monday. ... Painter said he hopes for a chance to start next week, but added that it's "out of my hands."