Tampa Bay was down 21-13, 80 yards away from the end zone with about a minute remaining against Carolina.
The Buccaneers couldn't have felt too confident, but then again, Josh Freeman is becoming the kind of quarterback that always gives his team a chance to win.
Freeman led a great drive at the end of regulation, hit Vincent Jackson for a 24-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left, then hit Jackson again for a game-tying two-point conversion to tie the game. In overtime, Freeman completed all three of his passes for 32 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to Dallas Clark to win the game 27-21 in overtime.
With that, Tampa Bay improved to 6-4 and is still very much alive in the NFC playoff race, thanks in large part to poise of its young quarterback.
Tampa Bay seemed like it would fall victim to a controversial call in the fourth quarter. Doug Martin fumbled, but replays seemed to show he crossed the goal line with the ball. The fumble stood after the replay review, and Carolina scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to take a 21-10 lead.
The Buccaneers kept plugging away, and got the ball back . An unnecessary roughness penalty by Carolina on the game-tying drive helped. Freeman hit Jackson for 17 yards, spiked the ball to stop the clock, then hit Jackson for the touchdown. The touchdown was thrown well by Freeman and was a spectacular catch by Jackson, who San Diego general manager A.J. Smith seemed to think was expendable.
In overtime, the Buccaneers needed to score a touchdown on their first possession to end the game, and Freeman went for the kill. His throw to Clark was another beauty, and Clark tip-toed in the end zone for the score.
Freeman's horrible 2011 season seems like a long time ago. His promising 2010 season, when he threw 25 touchdowns and six interceptions, doesn't seem like the outlier anymore.
The Buccaneers are amassing a nice stable of young offensive talent. The NFL is a league dominated by quarterbacks, and Tampa Bay seems like it has that piece of the puzzle in place. He might even get the Buccaneers to the playoffs.
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