Buccaneers 27, Panthers 21, OT

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It took most of the game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get rolling against the Carolina Panthers, and they responded just in time Sunday afternoon.
The Buccaneers scored eight points in the waning seconds of regulation and won it on the opening drive of overtime on Josh Freeman's 15-yard pass to tight end Dallas Clark, beating the Panthers 27-21 at Bank of America Stadium.
After the Panthers let their defense do most of the damage for three-plus quarters, the Buccaneers notched consecutive 80-yard drives.
The outcome extended Tampa Bay's winning streak to four games and gave it a season sweep of the Panthers, who it also defeated in the season opener. Carolina (2-8) has lost five consecutive home games.
Tampa Bay (6-4) rallied from an 11-point deficit in the last 4 1/2 minutes of regulation.
Freeman's 24-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson with 12 seconds left set up a critical two-point conversion play. They connected again to tie the score.
Freeman completed 25 of 46 passes for 248 yards with two interceptions. All except 96 of those yards came after the third quarter. He completed all three of his throws in overtime.
Running back Doug Martin rushed for 47 yards in overtime.
Carolina was on the verge of holding the Buccaneers to three points across the last three quarters until the last drive of regulation.
Trailing 14-10, the Buccaneers were poised to go ahead with less than 11 minutes remaining. On fourth-and-1 at the Carolina 2, running back Doug Martin was hit by Thomas Davis at right about the goal line, with the ball popping loose and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly recovering for what was ruled a touchback.
Carolina took advantage with a seven-play, 80-yard drive, capped by Cam Newton's 29-yard touchdown strike to Brandon LaFell with 6 minutes remaining. Newton threw for all except five of the yards on the drive.
On its next possession, Tampa Bay converted on one fourth-down play and then opted for Connor Barth's 40-yard field goal with 4:03 left, trimming its deficit to 21-13.
The Buccaneers didn't get the ball back until the 1:02 mark with no timeouts. By the 20-second mark, they moved to the Carolina 24 courtesy of three completions and a personal foul penalty.
Newton finished 16 of 29 for 252 yards through the air, including a clutch third-down pass to Louis Murphy to maintain possession with about 3 minutes remaining.
Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn atoned for an early miscue by returning an interception 74 yards for a touchdown to put the Panthers on the board after Tampa Bay held a 10-0 lead.
The Panthers scored the next time they had the ball, with Jonathan Stewart's 1-yard touchdown run with 8:53 remaining, leading to a 14-10 edge. It was Stewart's first rushing touchdown of the season, coming one play after a defensive pass interference penalty on Mark Barron in the end zone.
The Panthers missed a chance to extend the margin when Justin Medlock missed a 40-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
The Panthers didn't pay for a botched fake punt at the end of the first series of the second half. That's because Haruki Nakamura intercepted Freeman on the next play.
The Buccaneers scored first on tight end Nate Byham's 3-yard catch of Freeman's pass on a 29-yard drive set up when Munnerlyn fumbled on a punt return.
Barth, returning to his home state, booted a 51-yard field goal in the first quarter as the Buccaneers built a 10-0 lead.
Notes: Munnerlyn's three touchdowns on interceptions in his career are one shy of the franchise record. ... Panthers receiver Steve Smith has caught a pass in 85 consecutive games. ... Tampa Bay cornerback Eric Wright left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. ... Buccaneers defensive end Aaron Morgan didn't return after suffering a second-half shoulder injury. ... Richard Rodgers was in his first game as special teams coordinator for the Panthers after last week's firing of Brian Murphy from that position. ... The Panthers added offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges to the roster during the past week, but he was placed on the inactive list for the game.

What to Read Next