|Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2-0)||7||17||7||7||38|
|Arizona Cardinals (3-4-0)||7||7||14||7||35|
University of Phoenix Stadium
Date: Sunday, October 31, 2010
1:15 p.m. Mountain Time
Type Of Turf: Natural
Meeting Of The Year: Only
Tampa Bay 4-2-0
Season Record Vs. Spread:
Tampa Bay 2-3-1
Tampa Bay (R) 2-0-0
Arizona (H) 2-0-0
Home/Road Record Vs. Spread:
Tampa Bay (R) 2-0-0
Arizona (H) 1-1-0
Record On Natural Turf:
Tampa Bay 3-2-0
Record On Natural Turf Vs. Spread:
Tampa Bay 1-3-1
Buccaneers-Cardinals PreviewBy MATT BEARDMORE
2010-10-28 19:07:31 -
Josh Freeman is not highly rated in terms of completion percentage, yards or touchdown passes. But when the game is on the line, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback has been one of the best in the NFL.
Freeman could lead the surprising Buccaneers into a share of the NFC South lead Sunday when they visit an Arizona Cardinals team still unsure who will start under center.
The third quarterback taken in the 2009 draft behind Matthew Stafford (Detroit) and Mark Sanchez (New York Jets), Freeman has completed just 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,255 yards and seven TDs. He ranks 19th or worse among NFL starters in those categories.
The former Kansas State standout, though, is the league's second-highest rated quarterback (117.1) when the game is within seven points in the fourth quarter, and he is tied for second in the NFL with four fourth-quarter TD passes.
That's a big reason the Bucs (4-2), coming off a 3-13 season, can tie for the division lead with a victory this week while first-place Atlanta is on a bye.
Freeman found Cadillac Williams for a 1-yard score with 10 seconds left last Sunday as Tampa Bay rallied from a 14-point deficit to defeat St. Louis 18-17.
"There's no other person I want out there when I'm coming from behind," coach Raheem Morris said of Freeman, who has led three fourth-quarter rallies in Tampa Bay's four wins. "... I have so much confidence in the young man."
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt feels the same about undrafted rookie Max Hall, but it is uncertain if the former BYU star will play this week after leaving last Sunday's 22-10 loss at Seattle with a concussion suffered on a blindside sack.
Hall practiced Wednesday and said he's "good to roll" for Sunday.
"We can't make too much of what happened," Whisenhunt said, referring to Hall completing just 4 of 16 passes for 36 yards and an interception.
"He's a rookie quarterback. We can't lose sight of that. You know that you're going to have some things that you have to go through the first time. This is his first start on the road in a tough environment and it didn't go very well. But what I've seen of Max he'll bounce back and he'll improve."
If he can't go, Derek Anderson will lead the league's worst offense (237.8 yards per game) in his first start since Week 4 at San Diego.
Whoever takes the snaps needs to improve as the Cardinals (3-3) have a league-low three TD passes and none since Sept. 26 versus Oakland. Arizona has been held to two offensive touchdowns in the last three weeks, with one coming on a 2-yard fumble return by offensive tackle Levi Brown in a 30-20 home win over New Orleans on Oct. 10.
Four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is on pace to have his worst season since 2006 due greatly to Arizona's inconsistent quarterback play, but he could find more opportunities Sunday with No. 2 receiver Steve Breaston expected to return after missing four games with a knee injury.
Tampa Bay continues to get solid play from rookie wide receiver Mike Williams, who has a team-high three TDs and leads all first-year players with 60.8 yards per game.
Facing the Cardinals' second-worst run defense (157.7 yards per game), the Buccaneers could get a lift this week from undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount, who ran 66 of his career-best 72 yards in the second half last Sunday. Morris would like to see Blount improve on pass protection, but the team sees him as a solid complement to Williams, who is averaging a career-worst 2.5 yards per carry.
"He's got tremendous strength and power, so we're excited," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said of Blount. "We think he'll get better as we go along."
Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells should continue getting most of the carries for Arizona. The tandem combined for 113 yards last week after averaging 42.0 in the previous two games.
Tampa Bay, which has won four straight on the road dating to last season, will try to win its first three games away from home for the first time since 2003. Arizona tries to open 3-0 at University of Phoenix Stadium for the second time in three years.
These franchises have split 16 all-time meetings, though the Bucs have lost their only two visits to Arizona since 1992.
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