Buccaneers work overtime to finish off Panthers
Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Josh Freeman found Dallas Clark down the left sideline for the deciding touchdown to lift the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 27-21 overtime win against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Freeman finished the game 25-for-46 passing for 248 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Vincent Jackson had six catches for 94 yards and Doug Martin carried the ball 24 times for 138 yards, including 48 yards on the decisive drive for the Bucs (6-4), who have won four straight.
"All wins are satisfying, but this one was fun," said Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano. "It is rewarding to those guys. It is so hard to win in the National Football League, every win is great."
Cam Newton was 16-for-29 passing for 252 yards and a touchdown while Brandon LaFell caught five passes for 93 yards and a score for the Panthers (2-8), losers in two straight and seven of their last eight.
"This is as bad as it gets. We had every opportunity to win," said Carolina coach Ron Rivera. "Wen you have an opportunity to close it out with a four- minute offense you can't take negative plays and unfortunately we did. You have an opportunity to stop them and for whatever reason you don't recognize the formation and don't make the play.
Trailing 21-13 with just 1:02 left in regulation, Freeman orchestrated a 7-play, 80-yard drive to tie the game. Freeman found Jackson up the middle for a 17-yard completion to put the ball at the Carolina 24. Freeman then spiked the ball to stop the clock, and on the next play found Jackson in the end zone for a touchdown.
Freeman then turned back to Jackson for the two-point conversion to knot the game at 21-21 to force overtime.
Three consecutive runs by Martin to open up the overtime period put the ball at the Panthers' 41 and Freeman found Mike Williams for a 13-yard completion. Following two more Martin rushes and a 4-yard completion to Jackson, Freeman tossed it to the sure-handed Clark for the game-winning 15-yard touchdown pass.
Clark's defender tripped on the play and the tight end waltzed into the end zone untouched.
After a three-and-out on their first touch the Bucs were forced to punt, but Captain Munnerlyn fumbled on the return and Tampa Bay capitalized on the miscue six plays later when Freeman found Nick Byham for a 3-yard touchdown reception.
Freeman dropped back and the pocket immediately collapsed, but Freeman tossed it to the back of the end zone and Byham seemingly came out of no where and made the catch to give Tampa Bay the early 7-0 lead.
Connor Barth's 51-yard field goal gave the Buccaneers a 10-0 cushion with 5:21 left in the first quarter.
Munnerlyn made up for his special teams blunder and picked off Freeman before returning it 74 yards for a touchdown. Freeman was wrapped up by two Carolina defenders and was being dragged down when he threw the ill-advised pass.
Stewart's 1-yard touchdown run capped an 8-play, 77-yard drive to put the Panthers up 14-10 with 8:53 left in the second. Earlier, Newton hit Steve Smith for a 17-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-2 to put the ball at the Tampa 11. The Bucs were then flagged for pass interference on 3rd-and-10 to set up Stewart's plunge.
Justin Medlock missed a 40-yard field goal at the 2:42 mark in the second quarter that would have extended the Panthers' lead to seven points.
The Bucs had an opportunity to take a 17-14 lead early in the fourth after getting inside the Panthers' 10-yard line, but Martin fumbled on 4th-and-1 resulting in a touchback for Carolina.
Martin broke the first tackle, but the ball came lose just before he crossed the goal line.
The Panthers went up 21-10 when Newton found LaFell for a 29-yard touchdown pass. Earlier, Newton found LaFaell for a 20-yard gain before a 17-yard completion to Smith got the ball down to the Tampa 29 before dialing up LaFell on the next play for the score.
The Bucs kept their hopes alive with Barth's 40-yard field goal to cap a 10- play, 58-yard drive.
Freeman has thrown at least two touchdowns in six straight games ... The last time Tampa Bay won four straight was the 2008 season ... Carolina is 1-3 against NFC South opponents this season.
11/18 20:54:18 ET