Trailing 21-10 after floundering offensively through the better part of three quarters, Josh Freeman led the Buccaneers on an improbable comeback over the final six minutes of the game, engineering two scoring drives. With 1:02 remaining and trailing 21-13 with no timeouts, he led the team 80 yards, finding Vincent Jackson for a 24-yard touchdown with 12 seconds remaining. A play action pass to Jackson tied the game on the ensuing two-point conversion.
It was a different and unexpected script for a story that looked to be a disappointing one for Buccaneer fans. After a controversial Doug Martin fumble ruling on the goalline with 10:34 left in the game, Carolina took the ball 80 yards, culminating the drive with a Brandon LaFell touchdown catch that put the Panthers up by eleven and seemed to be the coup de grace for the Bucs winning streak.
That’s when Freeman and the offense came to life, and just in time.
After tying the game, the Bucs won the coin toss and opted to receive. Less than five minutes and 80 yards later, Freeman found Dallas Clark on an out-and-up route for the game-ending 15-yard touchdown, setting off a wild celebration on the field and clinching a season sweep of the slumping Panthers, who have lost seven of their last eight games.
The Bucs’ streak of five games with 28 or more points ended, but Josh Freeman continued an impressive streak of his own. In leading ten go-ahead victories in the fourth quarter and overtime over his career, Freeman has avoided throwing an interception, while throwing nine touchdowns and completing 66.6% of his passes in that stretch, according to the Bucs’ public relations department.
Freeman finished 13 for 21 with 152 yards and 2 TDs in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The win overshadowed a number of problems that led to a 10-0 first half lead disappearing quickly. The offensive line had a difficult day, which saw Donald Penn leave the field briefly with a leg injury and return shortly thereafter. The Bucs, which had allowed the second-fewest quarterback hits in the NFL coming into Sunday, saw Freeman under pressure for much of the game before the team rallied in the fourth quarter.
However, Freeman ultimately did what Newton couldn’t — close out a football game. As a result, the Bucs are 6-4 and very much in the thick of the NFC playoff race, with the Falcons coming into to Raymond James Stadium this Sunday.
- Doug Martin rushed for 138 yards. Per NFL.com, he entered the game with 872 rushing yards, making him the team’s third back since the start of the 2005 season to break the 1000-yard rushing barrier (Cadillac Williams – 2005; LeGarrette Blount – 2010).
- Martin’s 1320 yards from scrimmage is the second most for a rookie in team history, with 6 games left to play.
- Michael Bennett picked up his team-leading seventhsack of the season. DaQuan Bowers recorded his second sack of the year, driving Panthers LT Jordan Gross straight backwards in the process.
- The Buccaneer defense limited Carolina to 97 yards rushing on 34 carries, an average of 2.9 yards per carry.
- Dallas Clark had undoubtedly his best game as a Buccaneer, grabbing 7 passes for 58 yards and the game-winning score.
- TE Nate Byham pulled in his first touchdown as a Buccaneer in the back of the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.