Bucs using 2009 season to develop Freeman

QB Josh Freeman (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

The Bucs coach's future is linked to his rookie quarterback, and Freeman is going backward. Freeman threw three interceptions Sunday, including one on the first plays of the game by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.

The Bucs were held to 15 total yards in the first half and did not get a first down until an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jets linebacker Bart Scott with 9:11 left in the third quarter.

Josh Freeman was intercepted five times in a 16-6 loss at Carolina last week. He was 14 of 33 passing Sunday for 93 yards with three picks and a passer rating of 12.1.

"It didn't shatter my confidence or take any confidence away. I was just, 'Oh, how could you do that, Josh?' That's what I was thinking," Freeman said of his first pass.

"Yamon Figurs had a good (kickoff) return, got us good field position to start play. I went and kind of wasted a possession. We won the toss, elected to receive and that's the captains putting the ball in my hands to start the game. Me giving it right back, it's completely unacceptable."

The loss dropped Tampa Bay -- which was beaten by a backup quarterback for the fourth time in five games -- to 1-12 overall under Morris. Despite his struggles -- 11 interceptions in the last four games -- Freeman will remain the starter for the foreseeable future.

"We're definitely playing for the maturity of Josh Freeman," center Jeff Faine said. "This definitely hurts, the experiences we're getting. But these are things he's going to be able to draw upon in the future. I said something on the sidelines to (offensive line coach) Pete Mangurian, 'Hey, he's learning now, but it's too bad it's at our expense.' Hopefully, we'll be here to see the maturation process come complete. But it's just part of it right now."

With three games remaining, Bucs players finally stated the obvious -- the whole season has been about the development of Freeman.

"It's one of those things in this situation, it's tough," linebacker Barrett Ruud said. "He's been our best quarterback and he had a bad game. You can't deny that. But we've got to have the confidence in him as a team and an organization to play his way out of it. Sometimes, it's not fair to him, really. Sometimes it's not fair to the team. But I think he has shown that we need to trust the guy."

BY THE NUMBERS: 2.2-2.3 -- This is not what they mean by a balanced offensive attack: The Bucs averaged 2.2 yards per rushing play and 2.3 yards per pass play Sunday.

TRENDING: The Bucs have been beaten by four backup quarterbacks in the past five weeks: Chad Henne, Chris Redman, Matt Moore and Kellen Clemens.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--LB Geno Hayes (ankle) did not play Sunday.

--LB Adam Hayward made his first career start for Geno Hayes at weak-side linebacker.

--CB Ronde Barber recorded his second forced fumble of the season and the 12th of his career, leading to a Bucs field goal.

--CB Aqib Talib recorded the first fumble recovery of his career Sunday against the Jets.

--K Conner Barth made a 43-yard field goal against the Jets and is now 8-for-12 this season in FG attempts.

--DT Roy Miller made his first career start Sunday.

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