Final/OT

Buccaneers 27

(6-4, 3-2 away)

Panthers 21

(2-8, 1-5 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, November 18, 2012

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 OT T
TB 10 0 0 11 627
CAR 7 7 0 7 021

Top Performers

Passing: C. Newton (CAR) - 252 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: D. Martin (TB) - 24 CAR, 138 YDS

Receiving: V. Jackson (TB) - 6 REC, 94 YDS, 1 TD

Josh Freeman, Bucs rally late, stun Panthers in OT

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are starting to look and talk like a legitimate playoff contender.

The Bucs had to work a little extra to keep their playoff surge alive Sunday.

Josh Freeman threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Clark in overtime to cap the Buccaneers' 27-21 comeback win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

It was Freeman's third touchdown pass of the game for the Bucs (6-4), who have won five of their last six to pull into playoff contention.

But rather than celebrating their dramatic win, Clark talked afterward about learning from it.

"We learned a lesson today that we can't just show up and win a game," Clark said. "I hope guys will get it. We're lucky it's not a loss. I hope we go back and look at the film and say, 'Hey we didn't play well.' Sure, we played well enough to make some plays to win at the end, but to get where we want to go, that's not good enough football."

Meanwhile, the Panthers (2-8) would love to have a win any way they can get it.

Carolina has lost seven of its last eight. The Panthers held a fourth-quarter lead in five of their last six defeats before fading in the final seconds.

"It's been the story of our season," said Cam Newton, who threw for 252 yards and a touchdown to fall to 8-18 as an NFL starter.

When asked where this loss ranked among this season's meltdowns, Newton snapped, "I'm not answering no more questions about where this one ranks."

Carolina appeared to have the game in hand when Newton connected on a 29-yard touchdown strike to Brandon LaFell to go up 21-10 with six minutes left in regulation.

But after a 40-yard field goal by Connor Barth, the Panthers' offense couldn't put the game away and had to punt.

Freeman quickly led the Bucs 80 yards on seven plays in 50 seconds, despite not having any timeouts. Along the way, the Bucs benefited from a personal foul penalty on linebacker Thomas Davis for hitting a defenseless receiver.

Freeman finished the drive with a perfectly thrown 24-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson between three defenders with 12 seconds left. He went back to Jackson for a 2-point conversion on a slant route to send it into overtime.

In overtime, the Bucs won the coin toss and moved quickly down the field with Freeman finding an open Clark on a wheel route along the left sideline for the winner.

"You've got to love it when the linebacker swears as you're heading up field," Clark said with a laugh.

Freeman said it was a play the Bucs worked on all week, and he's glad that was the call.

"When we got to overtime we stepped into the huddle and everybody was ready to go and we started talking like, 'Hey let's just execute one play at a time and do our jobs and try to get out of this thing with a touchdown,'" Freeman said.

The Bucs came in as one of the hottest teams in the league, having scored an average of 35.6 points per game during the past five games. Freeman had thrown 13 touchdown passes and only one interception in those games.

But after Tampa Bay jumped to a 10-0 lead, the Panthers' defense shut them down for most of the remainder of the three quarters, forcing three turnovers. A 74-yard interception return for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn and a key fumble by rookie Doug Martin on a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line loomed large.

Trailing 14-10, the Bucs appeared ready to take the lead after driving 15 plays to the Carolina 1.

But on fourth down, coach Greg Schiano went for the touchdown instead of the field goal and linebacker Davis plowed into Martin, forcing the ball out near the goal line. Fellow linebacker Luke Kuechly, the team's first-round draft pick, recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

Officials reviewed the play to see if Martin got in, but the call stood.

The Panthers seized the momentum when Newton led the team 80 yards for a score to build a 21-10 lead.

But again, the Panthers couldn't finish.

Second-year coach Ron Rivera, whose seat only grew hotter after the loss, said the game was all about missed opportunities. Rivera said the loss "is right up there at the top" in terms of toughest ones to swallow.

"This is about as bad as it gets," he said. "The bad part is when you have opportunities to close someone out with a four-minute offense, but you can't take negative plays. That's a tough one."

Game notes


Freeman has now thrown 16 touchdown passes in the last six games. ... Wide receiver Steve Smith injured his hand and defensive end Charles Johnson his head during the game, but both returned. ... Martin had 138 yards rushing for the Bucs. ... Carolina had 97 yards rushing after being held to 10 in the last meeting with the Bucs in the season opener.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
TB
CAR
1st Downs2518
Passing 1st downs
1210
Rushing 1st downs
97
1st downs from penalties
41
3rd down efficiency
7-189-17
4th down efficiency
1-20-1
Total Plays7765
Total Yards403331
Yards per play5.25.1
Total Drives1413
Passing236234
Comp-Att
25-4616-29
Yards per pass
5.07.5
Interceptions thrown
20
Sacks-Yards Lost
1-122-18
Rushing16797
Rushing Attempts
3034
Yards per rush
5.62.9
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Penalties6-5011-91
Turnovers31
Fumbles lost
11
Interceptions thrown
20
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01
Possession32:3031:50

Passing Leaders

TBC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Freeman25/462485.4321-12
CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Newton16/292528.7102-18

Rushing Leaders

TBCARYDSAVGTDLG
Martin241385.8027
Freeman5275.4013
CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Stewart15432.9111
Newton11403.6016

Receiving Leaders

TBRECYDSAVGTDLG
Jackson69415.7124
Clark7588.3115
CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
LaFell59318.6129
Smith56112.2017

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERTBCAR
tbTD8:52Nate Byham 3 Yard Pass From Josh Freeman (Connor Barth Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 29 yds, 3:33
70
tbFG5:25Connor Barth 51 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 5 plays, 19 yds, 2:19
100
carTD0:48Captain Munnerlyn 74 Yard Interception Return (Justin Medlock Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 21 yds, 2:15
107
SECOND QUARTERTBCAR
carTD8:58Jonathan Stewart 1 Yard Run (Justin Medlock Kick is Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 77 yds, 4:09
1014
FOURTH QUARTERTBCAR
carTD6:06Brandon Lafell 29 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Justin Medlock Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yds, 4:34
1021
tbFG4:06Connor Barth 40 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 58 yds, 1:57
1321
tbTD0:20Vincent Jackson 24 Yard Pass From Josh Freeman (Josh Freeman Pass to Vincent Jackson For Two-Point Conversion is)
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yds, 0:50
2121
OVERTIMETBCAR
tbTD10:48Dallas Clark 15 Yard Pass From Josh Freeman
Drive info: 8 plays, 80 yds, 4:20
2721

Research Notes

Cam Newton was 5-of-17 in the first half with nine of his 12 incompletions resulting from overthrown passes. In the second half, Newton was completed 11-of-12 passes with a touchdown and did not overthrow one receiver.
Doug Martin gained 79 of his 138 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime, including 48 yards on Tampa Bay's 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime. Martin got stronger as the game progressed, averaging 3.6 yards after contact per rush in the fourth quarter and overtime after averaging 2.6 yards after contact per rush in the first three quarters.
Josh Freeman completed all four of his passes at least 10 yards downfield on the Buccaneers' last two possessions, including a 24-yard touchdown to Vincent Jackson at the end of regulation and a 15-yard touchdown to Dallas Clark to win the game. Entering the final drive, Freeman was 2-for-12 on those throws and was off-target on seven of his 10 incompletions.
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