Last week's examination of Josh Freeman's game film was a big success, and we're likely to make it a weekly feature going forward -- at least for as long as Freeman remains the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starter. Gur wasn't available to do it this week, however, so I took it upon myself to go through Freeman's film myself.
Freeman's statistics against the New England Patriots were, of course, disastrous. 19 of 41 for 236 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and a sack. That's just isn't remotely good enough. But those statistics hide what was probably Freeman's best game on the season. The Buccaneers could easily have won this game, had Freeman's receivers held up his end of the bargain.
That's not to say that Freeman played perfectly, because he didn't. The familiar issues -- accuracy, a little slow in his dropback and seemingly slow in his reads -- are still there. But he just wasn't helped by his receivers nor by the game plan against the Patriots. There's no shame in pointing that out. That's not "making excuses". It's just looking at what happened.
|Pass Attempt||Down & Distance||Result||Notes|
|1||2nd&7||28 yards to Mike Williams||Evades quick pressure|
|2||1st&10||8 yards to Mike Williams|
|3||1st&10||incomplete to Mike Williams||Play-action, looks right, resets left, overthrows Williams. Jackson fell down on right.|
|4||2nd&15||incomplete to Vincent Jackson||Bobbled & dropped on quick slant - would have been long gain after catch.|
|5||3rd&15||13 yards to Doug Martin||Good throw two yards short of sticks, gets team in field goal range.|
|6||1st&10||Sacked||No one open downfield, but Freeman steps up into pressure instead of breaking pocket.|
|7||3rd&9||19 yards to Vincent Jackson||Back shoulder fade to Jackson on Talib|
|8||2nd&8||13 yards to Mike Williams||Seems a beat late with throw but good accuracy|
|9||1st&10||Incomplete to Doug Martin||Dropped by Martin, throw is a little hard|
|10||3rd&2||3 yards to Vincent Jackson||Easy completion on rollout with pressure in his face|
|11||2nd&4||Defensive Pass Interference on incomplete to Mike Williams||Williams is never making this catch, lucky that Arrington committed DPI.|
|12||1st&10||Incomplete to Mike Williams||Bad throw into double coverage|
|13||3rd&2||Incomplete to Tim Wright||Dropped in endzone by Tim Wright|
|14||1st&10||Sacked||Coverage sack, couldn’t find Ogletree in middle|
|15||2nd&5||12 yards to Mike Williams|
|16||1st&10||Incomplete to Doug Martin||Ever so slightly overthrown, tough catch for someone Martin's size|
|17||3rd&5||Incomplete to Brian Leonard||Overthrown, hit as he threw, but had no chance of converting for first down. Should have looked downfield.|
|18||4th&5||Incomplete to Mike Williams||Overthrows Williams who is held|
|19||1st&10||22 yards to Eric Page||Perfect back shoulder throw|
|20||1st&10||4 yard scramble||No one open, breaks pocket, scrambles for yardage|
|21||3rd&1||Incomplete to Vincent Jackson||Great throw but Jackson drops the touchdown.|
|22||2nd&5||Incomplete to Kevin Ogletree||Miscommunication - Ogletree runs a stop, Freeman throws a fade|
|23||3rd&5||6 yards to Tim Wright||Easy, quick completion for a first down|
|24||1st&10||Intercepted by Aqib Talib||Bad decision, bad throw on an out route. Too far inside, Jackson wasn't open.|
|25||1st&10||12 yards to Jackson||Inaccurate throw behind Jackson, still complete|
|26||2nd&8||Sacked||Receivers are blocking, no one looks for throw. Broken play?|
|27||3rd&15||Incomplete to Kevin Ogletree||Really inaccurate throw|
|28||2nd&5||Incomplete to Doug Martin||Thrown away with pressure in face, no one open|
|29||3rd&5||3 yards to Eric Page||Low throw taking away any possibility of yards after catch & first down|
|30||2nd&4||1 yard to Erik Lorig||Dumpoff with pressure|
|31||3rd&3||4 yards to Mike Williams||Good throw into tight window|
|32||2nd&1||3 yards to Nate Byham||Escapes sack on rollout, finds dumpoff|
|33||1st&10||15 yards to Kevin Ogletree||Slightly behind Ogletree, forcing him to slow down|
|34||1st&10||7 yards to Doug Martin|
|35||2nd&14||Incomplete to Eric Page||Slightly inaccurate on slant route|
|36||3rd&14||Incomplete to Ogletree||Horrible throw, low and inside on back shoulder.|
|37||4th&14||Incomplete to Ogletree||Perfect throw on rollout under pressure, dropped by Ogletree|
|38||2nd&9||Incomplete Page||Beat late on back shoulder fade, good location|
|39||3rd&9||Incomplete to Doug Martin||Martin fell down on the route|
|40||2nd&2||20 yards to Kevin Ogletree||Good timing/location on back shoulder fade|
|41||1st&10||30 yards to Eric Page|
|42||1st&10||17 yards to Brian Leonard|
|43||1st&10||Incomplete to Kevin Ogletree||Overthrown|
|44||2nd&10||Incomplete to Mike Williams||Overthrown|
|45||3rd&10||Incomplete||Thrown away with pressure|
|4th&10||Incomplete||Under pressure, thrown up for grabs on final play|
Are you counting with me? That's five drops three throw-aways, one broken play, one miscommunication and two receivers falling down. On 41 attempted passes (and 45 dropbacks), that's nearly a third of his plays. Yes, all quarterbacks have to deal with those issues to some extent -- but not on 30% of their dropbacks. Sometimes it's just a bad day for your quarterback.
How much do those drops matter? Well, without the drops on plays 4, 13 and 21 Freeman's statline would look closer to 22 of 41 for 310 yards, two touchdowns and one interception -- not to mention that they're likely to at least add a field goal on their first drive, if not a touchdown. And those are just three of the five drops, with none of the receivers making a particularly difficult catch on the day.
More objective analysts came to the same conclusion. Pro Football Focus gave the quarterback a positive grade on the day. Football Outsiders, which does not compensate for drops and merely looks at the outcome of plays, even thought his day wasn't as horrible as it seemed -- 20th overall. Had there not been so many drops, he would have ranked much higher.
Watching the tape, though, Josh Freeman's accuracy issues also stood out at times. Now, no quarterback is always going to make perfect throws, and there were only a few real misses -- but there were also a few too many plays where he eliminated yards after catch because his ball placement was off even if the throw was completed.
At the same time, I don't think I've seen any other NFL quarterback consistently asked to make so many difficult downfield throws. This offense is not easy for any quarterback because it doesn't create open receivers through scheme -- they just ask their players to line up, run downfield routes and make contested catches. That's the design of the offense, and it's just hard to be a consistent player in an offense like that.
Josh Freeman is asked to make the hardest throws in the NFL on just about every play. Wide receivers are asked to make those tough catches.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) September 23, 2013
Give Jim Harbaugh a pair of wideouts like Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams and he would be destroying the league on offense -- even though Colin Kaepernick often isn't asked to make reads, if we can believe Greg Cosell. But the 49ers schemed completions and easy reads for Kaepernick last season, and that's just not something the Buccaneers do.
That doesn't mean that Freeman has been great this season. He clearly hasn't, and I wouldn't re-sign him at this point -- I haven't seen enough progress from him. But the issues with this offense don't start and end with him, and to pretend otherwise does a disservice to Tampa Bay's beleaguered quarterback. While Freeman was far from perfect against the Patriots, he played well enough to score at least 17 points. His statline simply isn't a fair reflection of his quality of play against the New England Patriots.