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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Deficit again brings out best in Bucs' Freeman

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 11:08 PM
MINNEAPOLIS -

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Sean Jones pondered the question for only a second.

How tough must it be to face Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman?

"I'm just glad he's on my team,'' the veteran said after Freeman rallied the Bucs to yet another comeback victory Sunday, 24-20 against the Vikings.

For those keeping score, that's eight comeback victories in the fourth quarter or overtime in 27 NFL starts for the third-year pro out of Kansas State.

"He doesn't blink,'' coach Raheem Morris said.

"We all blinked as a team last week, as a unit. But Josh, that's who he is. He's going to come out and control his game, control his people and win football games.''

Freeman has won 14 games since taking over as the Bucs' starter two seasons ago. More than half have been of the comeback variety, but this one, Morris said, may have been the biggest of all.

"It's No. 1 right now, because it's the last one,'' Morris said.

Freeman's latest victory kept the Bucs from falling to 0-2, something of a death knell in the NFL. A year ago, no team in the league that started out 0-2 reached the playoffs.

After going 10-6 and missing the postseason in 2010, the Bucs have designs on making the playoffs this year. Freeman helped keep the goal within reach on Sunday, completing 22 of 31 passes for 243 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

"Josh is the man,'' running back LeGarrette Blount said. "He's earned that label, 'Comeback Kid.' It's not just once that he's done this. He does it over and over again.''

Freeman's latest comeback was highlighted by a 15-for-20 second-half passing effort in which he threw for 191 yards and a touchdown. His only blemish in the second half was an interception in the end zone on a late throw off his back foot intended for tight end Kellen Winslow.

Not even that derailed Freeman or the Bucs offense. It didn't alter anyone's confidence in the young quarterback, either.

"We have the utmost confidence in Josh,'' left tackle Donald Penn.

Freeman, however, refuses to take much of the credit.

"My job is to make plays and move the chains and so I just put the ball in the hands of my playmakers,'' he said. "If you continue to do that, then you're going to be in pretty good shape.''

The Bucs are in much better shape today after the victory. At 1-1, they are on top of a division Morris hopes they will win in their effort to reach the playoffs. Not that Freeman is gloating.

"We still have a lot to prove and a lot of improvements to make,'' he said. "We're happy coming out of here with a win. We're fortunate we were able to wake up in time and find a way to win.''

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