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November 18, 2012 @ 8:00 pm
Current rating: 4.50 Stars/2 Votes

Freeman's Heroics Lead Bucs To 27-21 OT Victory In Carolina

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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UPDATED: QB Josh Freeman connected with WR Vincent Jackson on a 24-yard TD pass and a two-point conversion to tie the game and a 15-yard TD strike to TE Dallas Clark in overtime to rally the Bucs to a 27-21 win in Carolina. Tampa Bay has now won four straight games to improve to 6-4 on the season and put itself into playoff contention.
The Buccaneers shocked the Panthers in overtime with a 24-yard touchdown pass and a two-point conversion pass by Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson to tie the game at 21-21 with 12 seconds left. After winning the coin toss, the Bucs marched down the field to win the game, 27-21, with a 15-yard touchdown catch by tight end Dallas Clark, who finished the day with seven catches for 58 yards.

“Dallas did an awesome job of selling the flat route – we ran a lot of those – and then taking it up, making the catch and getting his feet down,” Freeman said.

The victory, which was Freeman’s 10th career fourth quarter comeback, was Tampa Bay’s fifth in a row and sixth out of the last seven games to put the Bucs into the NFC playoff picture.

“Really impressive – that was a laser,” Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said of Freeman’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Jackson, who caught the ball in between two defenders. “There wasn’t a lot of room for it to get in there.

“Our guys executed really, really well. They trusted their training and they trusted each other.”

“Vincent just did a great job of running, the middle linebacker was running with him and the safety was coming to overlap … our guys did a great job of protection and I was able to step it up and let it go,” Freeman said.

Freeman sucked in Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly on a play-action fake to Bucs rookie running back Doug Martin and that allowed Jackson, who had six catches for 94 yards, to slip behind him on a slant pass for the two-point conversion. After the game, Schiano credited offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan with great play-calling, especially on the two-point play.

“Sully was great. He said, ‘This was it’ and he was right,” Schiano said.

Freeman overcame two early interceptions, one of which was a momentum-changing 74-yard pick-six by Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, to complete 25-of-46 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns – the last two of which tied the game and won it for the surging Buccaneers. Freeman also scrambled for 27 yards on five carries, picking up two first downs with his legs.

“He kept his composure and he executed,” Schiano said of Freeman. 

In overtime, Martin rushed for 48 of his 138 yards in overtime, including a 27-yard jaunt that put Tampa Bay into Carolina territory after the Bucs won the coin toss in overtime. Martin atoned for a fourth quarter fumble at the goal line that was recovered by Kuechly in the end zone for a touchback. Even though it looked like Martin had crossed the plane of the goal line before he lost the ball, the play was reviewed with instant replay and the ruling on the field was surprisingly upheld.

“I felt like I had [the touchdown], but it was the ref’s call,” Martin said.

“At the end of the day we need to take care of the football,” Schiano said. “We cannot fumble the football.”

That call sparked the Panthers to an 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that culminated in a 29-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Brandon LaFell. The Bucs added a field goal in the fourth quarter to draw within eight points, but the Panthers picked up a key first down and were able to chew up three minutes of clock time before punting the ball back to the Buccaneers with just 1:02 left on the clock.

Tampa Bay’s special teams helped get the Buccaneers off to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Linebacker Jacob Cutrera forced a fumble on punt returner Captain Munnerlyn that was recovered at the Carolina 29 by Dekoda Watson. That led to a 3-yard touchdown catch by tight end Nate Byham. Tampa Bay’s next possession ended with a 51-yard field goal from Connor Barth.

But the Panthers answered as Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman threw his first interception in his last 161 pass attempts and Munnerlyn returned it 74 yards for a touchdown to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 10-7 in the first quarter. That play gave the Panthers momentum they needed to add two more touchdowns to build a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter before a 40-yard field goal from Barth and Freeman’s

“For those guys to keep fighting says a lot,” Schiano said.

With 138 yards on the ground, Martin has now rushed for 1,000 yards in his rookie season in Tampa Bay.

“That’s cool,” Martin said after eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark. “That’s a nice stat to have, but I’d rather have more W’s.”

The Bucs have six wins on the season and will host the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons next week at Raymond James Stadium in a huge NFC South divisional clash that will now have playoff ramifications for both teams thanks to Tampa Bay’s comeback victory in Carolina.

First Quarter – Bucs 7, Panthers 0

Jacob Cutrera forced a fumble by punt returner Captain Munnerlyn that was recovered by Dekoda Watson at the Carolina 29. Doug Martin rushed for 10 yards and Josh Freeman ran for two yards on a QB sneak and scrambled for seven yards down to the Carolina 3-yard line. On the next play, Freeman hit backup tight end Nate Byham in the back of the end zone for a touchdown to put Tampa Bay up 7-0.

First Quarter – Bucs 10, Panthers 0
A 19-yard catch by Vincent Jackson gave Tampa Bay a first down at the Carolina 33. A holding penalty on Jeremy Zuttah set the Bucs’ offensive possession back and forced a field goal. Connor Barth’s 51-yard kick increased the Bucs’ lead to 10-0.

First Quarter – Bucs 10, Panthers 7
Munnerlyn picked off an errant pass from Freeman to tight end Dallas Clark and returned the ball 74 yards for a touchdown to cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 10-7.

Second Quarter – Panthers 14, Bucs 10
Jonathan Stewart rushed for 11 yards and then caught a 30-yard screen pass from Cam Newton to drive the ball down to the Tampa Bay 36. On third-and-2 at the Tampa Bay 28, Newton hit Steve Smith for a 17-yard gain down to the Tampa Bay 11. On third-and-10 from the 11, Bucs rookie safety Mark Barron was flagged for pass interference in the end zone against tight end Greg Olsen. On the next play, Stewart’s 1-yard touchdown run gave Carolina a 14-10 lead.

Fourth Quarter – Panthers 21, Bucs 10
After Doug Martin fumbled into the end zone for a touchback, Carolina marched 80 yards to take a commanding 21-10 lead. Newton was 4-of-4 for 75 yards and his 29-yard touchdown to Brandon LaFell put the Panthers up by 11 points. Newton hit LaFell for gains of nine and 20 in addition to his 29-yard score.

Fourth Quarter – Panthers 21, Bucs 13
A pass interference call on Josh Thomas gave the Bucs 13 yards to the Carolina 45. A 22-yard catch by Vincent Jackson set up Tampa Bay at the Carolina 45. On fourth-and-5 from the Carolina 40, Freeman threw a 10-yard pass to Mike Williams for a first down to the Carolina 30. The drive stalled at the Panthers 22 where the Bucs had to settle for a 40-yard field goal by Connor Barth.

Fourth Quarter – Panthers 21, Bucs 21
With 1:02 left in the game, Freeman marched the Bucs downfield, completing 4-of-7 passes for 80 yards, including a 24-yard scoring strike to Jackson, who also caught a 17-yard pass on the play prior to the touchdown. Tiquan Underwood hauled in an 18-yard gain on second-and-10 at the Tampa Bay 20 and was hit by linebacker Thomas Davis, who drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for hitting Underwood in the head. Jackson’s touchdown came against Kuechly, as did his two-point conversion catch to tie the game, in which Freeman used play action to freeze the rookie linebacker and allow Jackson to come free behind him. The game went into overtime tied at 21-21.

Overtime – Bucs 27, Panthers 21
The Bucs won the coin toss, received the ball and drove 80 yards for a touchdown. Freeman was 3-of-3 for 32 yards on the final drive and threw a game-winning, 15-yard touchdown pass to Clark. Martin ran for 48 yards in overtime, including a 27-yard run to get the Bucs into Panthers territory.

Buccaneers defensive end Michael Bennett recorded his team-leading seventh sack of the season. Fellow defensive end Da’Quan Bowers also recorded his second sack of the year and the fourth of his career. … Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman had his first multi-interception game since the Bucs’ Week 2 loss at New York, throwing two picks. But Freeman also posted his 10th career fourth quarter comeback on Sunday in rallying the Bucs to a win in Carolina. Freeman’s streak of 161 passes without an interception was snapped on Sunday. … Bucs defensive lineman Daniel Te’o-Nesheim had his best game as a pro, registering a career-high seven tackles, which was second on the behind linebacker Lavonte David’s nine. … Tampa Bay’s defense had 10 tackles for loss on Sunday to push its season total to 69, which is three more than the defense recorded all of last year. … Bucs running back Doug Martin rushed for 138 yards and posted his seventh-consecutive game with over 100 yards from scrimmage. That tied the team record set by James Wilder in 1984. Martin, who has rushed for 1,000 yards this season, is 179 yards away from the single season rushing yardage mark by a Buccaneers rookie, which is 1,178 yards set by Cadillac Williams in 2005. Martin also has 1,320 total yards from scrimmage, which is 120 yards behind Warrick Dunn’s mark of 1,440 yards set in 1997. … Tight end Dallas Clark had his best game in Tampa Bay, catching seven passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. … Tight end Nate Byham recorded his first NFL touchdown in the first quarter on Sunday. ... Running back LeGarrette Blount was healthy, but didn't play a single down on Sunday for Tampa Bay.

Quarterback Josh Freeman completed 25-of-46 yards for 248 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in Tampa Bay’s 27-21 overtime victory at Carolina. Sunday’s game marked the 10th fourth quarter comeback of Freeman’s quarter. Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime, which is the most yards he has ever thrown during a comeback attempt in the fourth quarter.

Freeman, who shook off two interceptions, has now thrown 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions in the 2012 season. He is on pace to finish with 33 scoring strikes this year, which would top his career-best of 25 TD tosses in 2010. For his valiant efforts, Freeman is this week’s PewterReport.com Bucs MVP.

Bucs' inactives against the Panthers were: WR Chris Owusu, RB Michael Smith, LB Najee Goode, S Keith Tandy, CB Danny Gorrer, DTs Matthew Masifilo and Corvy Irvin.

Panthers’ inactives against the Bucs were: QB Jimmy Clausen, WR David Gettis, DE Antwan Applewhite, G Jeremy Bridges, S D.J. Campbell and LB Jason Williams.

Bucs left tackle Donald Penn injured his right ankle in the first half and missed a couple of plays before returning. Demar Dotson moved over from left tackle to right tackle to replace him, while Jeremy Trueblood was inserted at right tackle for a few plays.

In the second quarter, reserve defensive end Aaron Murray injured his right shoulder and had to leave the game.

Cornerback Eric Wright's Achilles injury flared up in the third quarter and he did not return. Wright was replaced on the field by LeQuan Lewis.

• Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman threw an ill-advised interception off his back foot under duress that was returned 74 yards for a touchdown. That pick-six changed the course of the game and gave the Panthers momentum after the Bucs had a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.

• On third-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 11 in the second quarter, Bucs rookie strong safety Mark Barron was flagged for pass interference on tight end Greg Olsen in the end zone. The result of the play was a first-and-goal at the 1 and Jonathan Stewart scored a touchdown on the next play to give Carolina a 14-10 lead.

• After the Bucs snuffed out a Panthers fake field goal attempt to take over in Carolina territory, Freeman threw his second interception of the game on another errant pass.

• Tampa Bay’s play-calling and execution on third down was abysmal outside of its final touchdown drive of the fourth quarter and the overtime possession. The Bucs were just 5-of-16 (31.2 percent) on third downs during that time period before finishing the game 7-of-18 (39 percent) thanks to those two third down conversions on Tampa Bay’s final scoring drives.

Tampa Bay (6-4) returns home to face the Atlanta Falcons (9-1) on Sunday, November 25 at 1:00 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox if the game sells out or reaches the 85 percent tickets sold threshold.

Last modified on Monday, 19 November 2012 02:17

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  • avatar

    People talk about how bad our CBs are and thats a fact that no one can dispute. These corners outside of Johnson probably wouldnt have jobs on any other team in the league. That said lets think of the job Ron Cooper and Sheridan are doing to cover those obvious holes enough to hold Steve Smith relatively in check. Playing with Biggers, Myron Lewis, Lequan Lewis, and Johnson for the majority of the game and giving up only 14 points to an explosive Carolina team is a coaching miracle. We know this personnel will get changed in the offseason but take a minute and acknowledge the great coaching thats taking place to band aid a secondary that is easily the league's least talented group.
  • avatar

    with our secondary as pathetic as it is, it is amazing this team has won as many games as it has. I am still amazed that they keep playing Biggers and #23 whatever his name is. I am so tired of watching those two miss play after play that I have blocked that guys name out of my memory bank. What this team could be like with 2 good defensive backs.
  • avatar

    Wow!!! What a ride! You gotta believe; I know I do.
  • avatar

    Great Win BUCS! Wow johngruden, thinks we have a QB now????? I remember how bad he wanted Tebow!! Look how good he's doing??? Way to go Josh keep getting better. GO BUCS!!!!!! Get Better!!!!!
  • avatar

    Heave- I'm flattered you can remember that far back for my opinion, Horse didn't want D. Martin or lavonte David saying "they were to small" so we hit or miss sometimes
  • avatar

    Wow! Takin just got burned for a 43 yard td pass by Luck . Guess unloading him AND getting a 4th rounded for him is making Schiano look good!
  • avatar

    BucDiesel, Talib also had a pick 6 a couple series later.
  • avatar

    Not a great game, but what a great win. They did everything they needed to do, when they needed to do it in the last 4 minutes of that game. For this game that's all that mattered to win it. BS call by the refs though not overturning that touchback by D. Martin. That could have cost us the game!
  • avatar

    It was painfully obvious the refs were trying their best to give this game to the Panters. The fumble call is obvious because Stevie Wonder AND Ray Charles could see could see Dougetron had the ball all the way over the line before he fumbled. Then not calling Carolina on the same exact penalties they called against us. They were on the payroll. Sullivan needs to see Josh is a perfect pressure qb and needs to mix more no huddle offense for Josh because that seems to be when he plays his best . They tried to steal the win from us but we said Get your hands out of our pockets! One of the greatest wins I have ever witnessed! GOD touched them today!
  • avatar

    What a last 50 seconds of regular time!!! Then in OT, no suspense. The Bucs played at least 5 minutes of top notch football - and still won.
  • avatar

    Great Comeback Win!!!!!!......GO BUCS!!!!!!
  • avatar

    Great Win! Amazing! But only 4 wins in a row,till next week.
  • avatar

    Freeman overcame a bad day at the office in the first three quarters to lead his team to victory with two masterful drives. He is as cool as the best in the league when the game is on the line and he shows leadership and great decision making in the process and these are qualities of a franchise qb. Doug Martin is an amazing rb as he continues to destroy defenses and carries his team with his toughness and will to win, very impressed by this young man and I personally think he already crossed the goal line for the td before he fumbled but oh well doesn't matter anymore. We will beat the Falcons next week they are terrible against the run and Martin will destroy them.
  • avatar

    It's all about 5. You could see it in his eyes. That's what the great ones have--the capacity to will a win, even after playing poorly for most of the game. Sign him to an extension now. He's elite! Of course it doesn't hurt to have Martin, Jackson, Williams, and Clark. Pick your poison. If the Bucs don't sell out this week, then we don't deserve a team.
  • avatar

    This team plays with heart. Despite Freeman looking horrendous most of the game, he stepped up big when it mattered most.! I hope fans will start showing up to the stadium for Buc home games to support this hard working, overachieving team. Look how many injuries they have overcome! Our secondary and oline are in shambles concerning the players starting week 1 vs. today. Despite that, these guys just find a way to win.
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