Buccaneers vs. Panthers game recap: Tampa Bay stares a loss in the face, but pulls off 27-21 overtime win

Streeter Lecka

The Buccaneers came from behind to force overtime, then grabbed their fourth consecutive victory

In an ugly NFC south battle, the Carolina Panthers did all they could to douse the red-hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Josh Freeman and the Bucs stole victory from the jaws of defeat and nabbed a walk-off 27-21 win in overtime.

Down 21-13 with 20 seconds left on the clock, Josh Freeman, who had been awful for the first 59 minutes of the game, shook off his past and connected with Vincent Jackson for a touchdown that gave the Bucs a chance to send it to extra time.

On the two-point conversion, Freeman buried the ball in the belly of Doug Martin, then pulled it back and found Jackson again, sending the game to overtime with his sleight of hand.

Minutes later, Tampa Bay took the ball first in OT, and Freeman orchestrated an eight-play, 80-yard drive where he connected with Dallas Clark from 15 yards away for the game-winning score.

The Buccaneers late heroics were particularly surprising considering that the game appeared to be well in hand for the Panthers early in the fourth quarter. After an 80-yard drive, Martin went up and over the left side of the line for what appeared to be a Tampa touchdown, but the ball popped out of his hands right on the line and found the arms of the Panthers in the end zone.

The would-be score that would have given Tampa Bay a 17-14 lead instead turned into a huge momentum swing for the Panthers when Cam Newton connected with Brandon LaFell for a 29-yard score that gave Carolina a 21-10 margin.

But Tampa Bay - and Josh Freeman - were far from buried, and now after a late charge fell short five weeks ago against the Saints - one that was very similar to the game-tying drive against the Panthers - the Buccaneers have won four straight games and find themselves firmly in the heart of the playoff run.

Fantasy studs: Doug Martin had an awesome day with 138 yards rushing and 23 yards receiving, but he did lose a fumble. Vincent Jackson also continued his hot streak with 94 yards and touchdown. Brandon Lafell had an excellent day for Carolina, catching five passes for 93 yards and a score.

Fantasy duds: Josh Freeman was close to making this list, but threw for two late touchdowns to redeem his value, but otherwise the biggest dud was maybe Steve Smith, who only had 61 receiving yards.

Did they cover?: The Bucs were 1.5-point favorites, and covered thanks to the OT score.

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