FOXBOROUGH – Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of the Buccaneers, giving Tampa Bay a hefty sum of credit for the team's effort in its first two games, both of which were losses.
"It's a good, explosive team," Belichick said with a straight face. "A team we've really got to be careful of all the little things. Because those can lead to big things and those big things can lead to big plays and nobody makes them more than these guys do. It's going to be a big challenge this week getting ready for them."
The Buccaneers lost to the Saints in Week 2, 16-14, missing a 47-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Lindell with 1:10 left in the game. On their final drive, quarterback Josh Freeman connected on 2 of 3 passes, both to Vincent Jackson, for 38 yards to get the Buccaneers down to the Saints' 46-yard line. But then Tampa Bay opted to run Doug Martin six straight times to end the drive, including on second-and-6 and third-and-6 after no gain, leading to Lindell's 47-yard attempt.
Freeman's ability to get the Buccaneers into a position to win, despite finishing 9 of 22 passing for 125 yards with a touchdown and interception, was the subject of much of Belichick's praise.
"I just see a guy who can make all the throws," he said. "He can throw the deep ball. He can throw the sideline routes. Again, I thought in that last drive against New Orleans, they had a third and 10, a third and 8, whatever it was. He made big throws in critical situations to move the team down, to use up most of the clock there before they had that last field goal. Same thing against the Jets, he put them back in field goal position to go ahead in that game with whatever it was, 30 seconds to go in the game.
"He can scramble," Belichick continued. "He does a good job on bootleg passes on the run, throws well in the pocket, utilizes all of his receivers – the outside receivers, the tight ends, the backs. I think he's got plenty of skill."
Freeman has completed 45 percent of his throws and has two touchdowns and two interceptions so far. He has a 63.0 quarterback rating.