Time For Change In Tampa Bay

When the Tamp Bay Buccaneers are blown out 35-7, after weeks of losing close games, it signals a time for change. Maybe now is the perfect time.

It's time for the Bucs to make the move to Josh Freeman.

With about 9 minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 35-7 loss to the Patriots in London, Freeman began his NFL career.

The Bucs made the switch to Freeman after starting quarterback Josh Johnson threw three interceptions - including two in the first quarter to safety Brandon Meriweather.

At 0-7 and entering a bye week to prepare Freeman for the Nov. 8 game against Green Bay at Raymond James Stadium, the move to the rookie from Kansas State could be a permanent one.

Coach Raheem Morris wouldn't commit following Sunday's game to starting Freeman against the Packers. But even Johnson, who watched Meriweather return his pass intended for Sammie Stroughter on the fifth play of the game 39 yards for a touchdown, sounded resigned to it.

"I told (Morris), 'You don't have to say anything. I understand,'" Johnson said. "Just the same situation as Byron (Leftwich). If we don't win games, maybe Josh is going to play.

"It's about taking advantage enough, and if we are not winning football games, I'm not taking advantage of that opportunity. That's what it all boils down to. We are an 0-7 football team. So somebody has to step up and do something about it."

Not that Freeman did anything but get his feet wet Sunday.

He went 2-of-4 passing for 16 yards, was sacked twice and scrambled once for 5 yards in two garbage-time series.

"That's not my call," Freeman said of his chance of starting against the Packers. "It's not something I'm really going to think about."

But Johnson, making only his fourth NFL start, has become something of a turnover machine with eight interceptions.

"Most of the turnovers have been when I try to do too much, trying to get big plays," Johnson said. "And me being a mobile guy, that's the thing that's most frustrating because I can do things with my feet but I'm just trying to do things down the field and give guys opportunities to make plays."

The Bucs trailed 21-0 before Patriots quarterback Tom Brady really got warmed up. The sad thing is Tampa Bay's defense didn't play that badly in the first half. They intercepted Brady twice and forced three punts.

But the Bucs simply could not cover receiver Wes Welker on screens and crossing routes.

Brady targeted Welker 10 times Sunday and he caught all 10 for 107 yards and a touchdown.

"I went to him after the game and told him, 'Hey man, get out of the game.' Because he's a problem," Morris said of Welker.

TRENDING: CB Aqib Talib is establishing himself as one of the top cover corners in the NFL. He had three interceptions against Washington. At Philadelphia, he held DeSean Jackson to one catch and followed that up by holding Carolina's Steve Smith to one reception. On Sunday, Talib intercepted Patriots QB Tom Brady for his fourth pick of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 - QB Josh Johnson has thrown eight interceptions INTs in four games, including two that have been returned for touchdowns.

NOTES:
-- DE Stylez White had a sack and drew a holding penalty Sunday against the Patriots.
-- WR Antonio Bryant had a TD reception and a huge drop on third-and-6 from the 35-yard line.
-- RB Clifton Smith, who suffered a concussion last week after an illegal hit by Dante Wesley, was inactive for Sunday's game.
-- QB Josh Johnson threw three more INTs Sunday to give him eight in four games.
-- CB Aqib Talib recorded his fourth INT of the season against the Patriots.
-- CB Tanard Jackson had his second INT in as many games Sunday against the Patriots.


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