NEW ORLEANS -- As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left the Superdome a few hours ago, they remained in the playoff picture.
They did their part by defeating the Saints, 23-13. But the Bucs (10-6) didn’t get the help they needed as the Packers and Giants won their games. The Packers ended up with the No. 6 seed.
There’s no playoff berth for the Bucs even though they reached what Raheem Morris constantly referred to as “the race to 10’’ wins all season. Ten wins usually mean a playoff berth, but it didn’t happen for the Bucs.
Still, you have to look at their season as a big success. Even in the New Orleans locker room, the Bucs were receiving high praise.
“I think Raheem Morris should be the coach of the year,’’ Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said.
That’s pretty high praise from an opponent. Let’s throw out some other superlatives about the Bucs.
The 10-6 season following last year’s 3-13 record marks the biggest turnaround in franchise history. The previous record came when the Bucs went from 5-11 in 2004 to 11-5 in 2005.
Freeman finished the season with 3,451 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. The only other quarterback in franchise history to reach 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions in a single season was Brad Johnson in 2002. Freeman also finished with a 95.9 passer rating. That’s the second-best mark in franchise history. Griese had a 97.5 rating in 2004.
Rookie receiver Mike Williams had an 18-yard touchdown catch against the Saints. That gives Williams 11 receiving touchdowns, which is a new franchise record. Joey Galloway had the previous record, 10 touchdown catches in 2005. Williams also finished with 964 receiving yards. The only rookie to have more receiving yards in franchise history was Michael Clayton (1,193) in 2004.
LeGarrette Blount became only the third rookie in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Cadillac Williams did it in 2005 and Errict Rhett in 1994. Blount finished with 1,007 yards and he did it on only 201 carries. In Williams’ rookie season, he carried 290 times and finished with 1,178 yards. Rhett carried 284 times for 1,011 yards.
With the Bucs' victory, the NFC South finished with three teams with 10+ wins this season (Atlanta – 13-3; New Orleans – 11-5; and Tampa Bay – 10-6). It marks just the second time since realignment in 2002 that a division has had three teams with double-digit wins in the same season (also the AFC South in 2007).