Battle of the Bays: Tampa Bay Bucs Beat Green Bay Packers
FRED GOODALL | 11/8/2009, 5:50 p.m.
Rookie Black coach and quarterback get their fist win of the season
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saluted their past, then rookie Josh Freeman gave the struggling franchise hope for the future. Freeman passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns Sunday, including a 7-yard throw to Sammie Stroughter on fourth-and-4, leading the previously winless Bucs to a 38-28 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
In his first pro start, the 17th pick in the draft out of Kansas State completed 14 of 31 passes with just one interception. A critical second pick was wiped out by a Green Bay penalty during the go-ahead drive.
The Bucs (1-7) are the last team in the NFL to win this season. It was also the first victory for the league's youngest head coach, 33-year-old Raheem Morris, who replaced Jon Gruden after Tampa Bay went 0-4 in December and missed the playoffs last year.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns for the Packers (4-4). He 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 takedowns in eight games.
The Bucs wore throwback creamsicle uniforms and 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 Michael 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 - weaved 35 yards through the Packers to a clinching TD with 35 seconds left.
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.
The Bucs intercepted the Green Bay quarterback twice, and Elbert Mack - beaten badly on Jones' long touchdown - returned one of the picks 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 17-14.
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.