KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman had an efficient first NFL preseason game.
The Kansas City Chiefs were too busy rumbling, stumbling, bumbling and fumbling.
Freeman completed 9 of 13 passes for 73 yards during one-plus quarter of action as the Bucs blanked the mistake-plagued Chiefs 25-0 Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Freeman had never played in a football game at Arrowhead, just a short drive down the road from where he starred in high school at Grandview.
Freeman made the most of the opportunity, basking in the glow of playing against his hometown team while leading the up-and-coming Bucs.
“It was pretty cool, especially driving up,” said Freeman, a record-setting quarterback at Kansas State (2006-08). “I grew up going to games here, so it was a great experience.
“I got a chance to go home (in Grandview). We had a lot of time off (Friday afternoon), so I ran home and hung out with some family and friends. It was great being back.”
With the Bucs coming off a 10-6 season, Freeman showed his leadership by staging offseason workouts while the league lockout was still unresolved.
It is something that has carried over on the practice fields at the Bucs’ training camp as he’s the undisputed leader on offense.
“We’re staying composed,” Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams said. “Josh (Freeman) out there, he always get everyone down and ready to run the plays.
“With limited plays, it can be hard to get in a rhythm, but it felt good.”
Freeman said he gradually found his rhythm.
“A couple of the first throws were a little bit off, but for the most part, it felt great,” he said. “I felt I saw the field clearly and made the plays and it felt great to be out there.”
One of his primary targets against the Chiefs was former Kansas wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who had four catches for 60 yards.
“He’s really doing a great job,” Freeman said of Briscoe. “In the absence of Arrelious (Benn), he’s really stepped up into a key contributor in camp and again (on Friday).”
Once rivals, Briscoe and cornerback Aqib Talib find themselves on the same team as Freeman.
“When I first came in, there was a bunch of controversy with the Kansas and Kansas State thing, but we’ve done a lot of bonding,” Briscoe said. “We’re pretty good friends now.”
Freeman shrugged off any notion of anything else.
“I like those guys, man,” Freeman said. “Dezmon and Aqib are two of my best friends on the team.”
As for the Chiefs, it was an exhibition stinker, although they weren’t playing with a full deck against the Bucs. Running back Jamaal Charles never ran the ball, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe never caught a pass and quarterback Matt Cassel never threw a pass and was unimpressive in three possessions before making an early exit.
“We’ve got one under our belt,” Chiefs head coach Todd Haley said. “It didn’t go exactly the way we wanted it to go.
“Every time we come out here, especially in our own stadium, we’d like to come out on the winning end. That didn’t occur tonight for a number of different reasons.”
Cassel fumbled the ball away on the opening play of their second possession, the first of two lost fumbles in a tone-setting first quarter for the Chiefs.
“The No. 1 was turning the ball over early, which will get you beat most times in the NFL — a good lesson learned there for a bunch of these guys,” Haley said. “Not being able to protect your quarterback will get you beat most times, not tackling will get you beat most times in the NFL. “I thought those were the most glaring deficiencies out there tonight. Turning the ball over is a problem, so we have a lot of work to do. We knew we had a lot of work to do coming into this game.”
Cassel’s fumble came deep in Kansas City territory at the 9-yard line and quickly led to the first touchdown of the night. Freeman scored on a 5-yard scramble for a 7-0 lead with 11:16 left in the first quarter. On the play, he dropped back to pass and sat in the pocket before coasting down the left sideline on a bootleg and stretching his right hand across the goal line for the score.
Cassel played one more series before leaving the game. It was highlighted by 8- and 17-yard runs by running back Thomas Jones, his only carries on the night.
But running back Jackie Battle fumbled near midfield at the end of a 5-yard gain on second-and-10 and the Bucs recovered. Battle initially was ruled down by contact, but Tampa Bay appealed the play and it was reversed. Replays clearly showed the ball came out before Battle went down.
The Bucs would marched 42 yards in eight plays to make it 10-0 after cornerback Elbert Mack’s recovery of Battle’s fumble. Freeman’s third-and-1 pass incompletion at the 7 preceded the first of two field goals by Connor Barth, a 25-yarder, for a 10-0 lead at the 4:35 mark in the first quarter.
Barth also had a 40-yard field goal with 11:19 remaining in the second quarter for a 13-0 lead.
Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko alternated with rookie Ricky Stanzi in a battle for the backup position that never materialized on this night. Palko was sacked in the end zone with 4:48 left in the half to make it 15-0.
That lead held up until halftime before the Bucs scored 10 second-half points as both teams substituted liberally.
Without question, Haley said he was disappointed with his team’s showing.
“I don’t think you ever see that coming,” he said. “You don’t want to do that, especially on your home turf. That being said, that’s the first one, not the last one.
“What’s important is that our guys recognize they have a lot of work ahead of them and a short time to do it. Our goal is to be ready to go on Sept. 11th here in Arrowhead (against the Buffalo Bills) and we have a lot of things to work on and a short time to do it.”
National Football League
At Arrowhead Stadium
Kansas City, Mo.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25,
Kansas City Chiefs 0
Tampa Bay 10 5 7 3 — 25
Kansas City 0 0 0 7 — 0
TB—Freeman 5 run (Barth kick), 10:26.
TB—FG Barth 25, 4:35.
TB—FG Barth 40, 11:18.
TB—Team safety, 4:56.
TB—Spurlock 3 pass from J. Johnson (Rogers kick), 6:08.
TB—FG Rogers 46, 11:44.
First downs 18 6
Total Net Yards 353 137
Rushes-yards 34-139 24-86
Passing 214 51
Punt Returns 7-75 3-(minus-1)
Kickoff Returns 1-11 1-13
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 20-31-0 8-16-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 3-17 6-17
Punts 6-46.5 7-48.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 4-2
Penalties-Yards 7-60 0-0
Time of Possession 39:27 20:33
RUSHING—Tampa Bay, J.Johnson 5-57, Lumpkin 6-24, Blount 5-18, A.Allen 4-18, Bradford 8-10, Madu 5-7, Freeman 1-5. Kansas City, Battle 13-40, Jones 2-25, Stanzi 3-11, McCluster 2-6, Bannon 2-2, Palko 1-2, Cassel 1-0.
PASSING—Tampa Bay, J.Johnson 7-12-0-108, Freeman 9-13-0-73, Carpenter 4-6-0-50. Kansas City, Palko 4-8-0-34, Stanzi 4-8-0-34.
RECEIVING—Tampa Bay, Briscoe 4-60, Hardy 2-37, Gant 2-28, Spurlock 2-18, Stroughter 2-13, Lumpkin 2-10, Purvis 1-20, Graham 1-13, Overbay 1-11, D.Lewis 1-10, Blount 1-6, Taylor 1-5. Kansas City, Battle 3-27, Copper 2-15, Baldwin 1-14, Horne 1-7, O'Connell 1-5.