They each have completed 22 passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That ties them with Baltimore’s Joe Flacco for the league lead.
But Freeman is ahead of Manning and Flacco, and every other quarterback in the NFL, in another related category that’s very important. Freeman has 912 passing yards on throws of more than 20 yards. No other quarterback is even close. New Orleans’ Drew Brees is second with 744 yards on such throws. Manning has 713 yards and Flacco has 710 yards.
Freeman is thriving in this area for several reasons. First off, he’s got a big arm and the Bucs are taking advantage of it. He’s never going to be a guy who completes around 70 percent of his passes, like Brees. But that’s not Freeman’s style.
From the day coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan arrived, they made it clear the offense was going to be designed to run the ball a lot and take shots down the field in the passing game. They signed receiver Vincent Jackson, who had a long history of making things happen down the field.
It’s all coming together because the Bucs are letting Freeman play to his strengths.