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Tom McEwen

The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.

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A very good win in D.C. for these Bucs

Posted Dec 12, 2010 by Tom McEwen

Updated Dec 12, 2010 at 08:22 PM

The Buccaneers’ 17-16 win over the Redskins in Washington Sunday afternoon was as significant and close as the score suggests. Yes, it certainly was.

That is not yet entirely true, but will be because these very young Buccaneers will surely count it as vital to their hopes of making a trip to the NFL playoffs, which they have not yet claimed, but in time, it will surely be true. And after that, you can go into the details of special plays and events that affected the game’s outcome, for Lordy, Lordy, this late-season victory over a solid Washington squad was a nail-bitter until the very last play.

Briefly, a Buccaneer team showing its youth and a leaky defensive front permitted the Redskins to jump out front and apparently on the way to a victory. But Coach Raheem Morris made changes at halftime that worked to shut down Washington and to score for the Bucs themselves the 17 vital points it took to win. Yes, this game was in Washington, the Bucs’ second road victory in their last three tries. That is a feat indeed in these times.

With a running back named Ryan Torian running all over the Bucs in the first half Sunday, it looked for all the world as if they were going to be losers and not likely to make the playoffs. No more. These Buccaneers shut down Washington in the second half and rode the foot of kicker Connor Barth on three field goals and a Josh Freeman touchdown and a two point conversion.

If you weren’t watching, you will want surely to see the highlights of that second half which we believe, in the long run, will be so significant on this trip to the playoffs. One giant play was a touchdown pass by QB Josh Freeman to Kellen Winslow for as important a contribution as that tandem has supplied this season. It is not likely to be the last involving tight end Winslow and Freeman.

In the postgame interviews, Coach Morris said of his quarterback, “He is getting better every game and maturing every game, I am so proud of his progress.” Freeman is a find of Morris and Mark Dominik. The size of QB Freeman (6-foot-6, 248 pounds) is a vital characteristic and when he turns upfield, many cornerbacks quake. He is a load. He is unafraid and relishes contact. He is on his way, for now anyway, to an NFL career.

These Buccaneers also won Sunday because of their adaptation to crisis. They had been unable to stop Torian the first half when he rushed for 158 yards, but in the second half, they adjusted and pretty much stopped him in his tracks. Meanwhile they adjusted offensively, creating running lanes for running backs Cadillac Williams and LeGarrette Blount. Like Freeman, Blount is getting better each time he touches the ball.   

A negative for the Bucs Sunday were continuing injuries to key people in already thinned position ranks. Defensive lineman Gerald McCoy, a starter, went down and out with a torn triceps. Quincy Black broke his right forearm. He is probably lost for the season.

This game seemed to establish a few more characteristics of these Buccaneers that are emerging. They played fast and furious in the first half and just as fast and furious in the second half. They are growing tougher and relishing the wins they are putting on the board. They have not yet made the playoffs but they are likely contenders with each win, barring injuries, that will better qualify them for that higher stage. They won’t talk about playoff possibilities, but it is clear they are on their way.

By the way, so often forgotten in these accounts is the play of the defensive secondary. Let us mention it now, even though its star, Aqib Talib, despite missing Sunday’s game through injury, is surely on his way to bigger times, those already being enjoyed by nine-year veteran Ronde Barber. Barber could well be on his way to All-Pro acclaim once again this year.


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