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Week 11 Game Recap: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, Carolina Panthers 21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Josh Freeman, Pass: 25 - 46 - 248 - 3 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 5 - 27 - 0

Josh Freeman was harried and hassled by the Panthers' pass rush for the majority of this game, resulting in mistimed throws, poor reads and a couple of picks, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Freeman did a decent job standing up to pressure in the pocket, but it started to fluster him. As the pass rush bore down on him, he threw a pass up for grabs into the right flat that was picked off by Captain Munnerlyn and taken to the house. It was a poor decision on his part. Later in the game, a corner route intended for Vincent Jackson was thrown far too short of where it had to be, making it an easy read for the FS. Freeman more than made up for his errors, however. Facing a free rusher up the middle and in his grill, Freeman fired a pass to the back line of the end zone for his first touchdown pass to back-up TE Nate Byham. Freeman knew he would take the hit, but held strong anyway. His second touchdown was an amazing throw down the seam to Vincent Jackson in crunch time. The pass was so well-placed that there was nothing the three defenders in the vicinity could do to stop it. Freeman continued to click with his receivers as the game went into overtime, clearly in a groove. In the final act, Freeman found his TE Dallas Clark wide open at the front pylon of the end zone after the trailing LB fell down in coverage. It was a great performance by Freeman, who overcame a poor first half riddled with miscommunication and pressure to deliver in the final moments.

RB Doug Martin, Rush: 24 - 138 - 0, Rec: 4 - 23 - 0 (5 targets)

Doug Martin had to work hard for his yards against a rather stingy Panthers defense. Up until a big run in overtime, Martin had pounded away with little joy as he was stuffed for three to four-yard gains each time. Martin showed off his powerful leg drive as he pushed the pile for extra yards on more than one occasion. His tackle-breaking ability was also on show and his vision to see the cutback lane and hit it was outstanding. Martin fumbled the ball on a goal-line plunge, although there was a review to determine if the ball had crossed the plane before it was knocked out. In the end the original ruling of fumble was decided, taking a touchdown off the board. Martin broke the Panthers' backs in overtime with a 25+ yard run as he glided behind his pulling linemen on a well-designed stretch play. Martin was pulled on some third down plays, but featured on third and manageable down and distance. 'The Muscle Hamster' is turning into one of the most exciting and all-around backs in the league.

RB Danny Ware, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0, Rec: 3 - 23 - 0 (3 targets)

D J Ware spelled Doug Martin on third downs on a consistent basis in this contest, but the extent of his involvement was a few catches as a check down option when the pass rush bore down on Freeman in the pocket.

WR Vincent Jackson, Rec: 6 - 94 - 1 (11 targets)

Vincent Jackson thrived in the fourth quarter as the Bucs managed to put together a game-tying and subsequent game-winning drive on the back of his catches. The Panthers' pass rush caused a lot of problems in the first three-and-a-half quarters, but they tired in the waning moments. As a result, Freeman had more time to find Jackson on quick slants, deep outs and the key play of the game. With less than twenty seconds remaining, Jackson ran a skinny post pattern. Freeman tossed a beautiful pass between three Panther defenders just underneath the goalposts. Jackson caught it in traffic and tapped both feet in a wonderful show of hands and body control. The pass was incredible, but the catch was a thing of beauty. Up against rookie CB Josh Norman for most of the day, Jackson used his route-running savvy to get open, but the rookie held his ground as well. It was an impressive display from the veteran.

WR Mike Williams, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0 (9 targets)

Mike Williams was blanketed by Carolina's surprisingly strong CB play for most of the game, helped in large part by the Panthers' pass rush. Josh Freeman had very little time to work with behind a patchwork offensive line, and timing patterns like back shoulder fades simply were not connecting between he and Williams. In the fourth quarter, Williams got free on a dig route on fourth down to keep the game-tying drive alive. He also drew a flag for pass interference on a deeper target earlier in the game. However, for the most part he was kept quiet. It was Vincent Jackson who had the larger part to play in the Bucs' passing attack.

TE Dallas Clark, Rec: 7 - 58 - 1 (11 targets)

Dallas Clark appears to be having a miniature career revival in Tampa Bay. Clark had the decisive play in this contest, and made what was a difficult catch look surprisingly easy. The linebacker in coverage on Clark fell over on the overtime play, allowing him to slip to the outside. Freeman found him at the front pylon of the end zone and Clark, showing great awareness and footwork, tapped both feet in and reached the ball over the goal line. Besides the decisive touchdown, Clark was a safety blanket for Freeman and always showed soft hands on underneath patterns. Most of the time he was able to get open with ease; the pass rush simply did not allow Freeman enough time to find his targets on a consistent basis.

TE Nate Byham, Rec: 1 - 3 - 1 (1 targets)

Nate Byham's lone contribution in the passing game was a significant one -- a touchdown catch in the red zone. With the pass rush bearing down on Josh Freeman, he released a pass to the back line of the end zone, where Byham had escaped man coverage. The big tight end made it count, securing the football before going out of bounds.

Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, Pass: 16 - 29 - 252 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 11 - 40 - 0

Cam Newton showed some signs of improvement from last week's rather inauspicious display against Denver when he was sacked seven times. The offensive line is the root of all the Panthers' problems, but Newton was more willing to escape the pocket and felt pressure much better this week. He stepped up and delivered the football on time -- not all were completions, but the progression was there to see. Newton had a turnover-free day, but a key completion on third down in the fourth quarter on an out pattern to Louis Murphy was a very risky throw and could easily have gone the other way for six. Newton's bad habits still haunt him to an extent -- poor footwork, lazy mechanics and by extension, accuracy. Newton went back to his bread and butter in this game, simply running the ball himself when no receiver came open. On one 13-yard scramble, Newton juked a defender out of his shoes and left him for dead. It was reminiscent of 2011 Newton. Newton thrives off play action, and this is how his only touchdown pass of the day came about. Brandon LaFell got a clean release in the slot, and the pause that the fake gave the linebackers allowed Newton to fire a laser to LaFell over their heads. Newton's comfort level seemed to improve as the game progressed; he found Steve Smith with an accurate, zipped pass as he rolled out of the pocket. Newton's main issue is his offensive line, which is giving him little time to survey the field. However, part of that is on him; he must release the football more quickly. Overall, it was an encouraging display from Newton despite the loss.

RB Jonathan Stewart, Rush: 15 - 43 - 1, Rec: 1 - 30 - 0 (1 targets)

Jonathan Stewart had an injury scare in this contest and his return was called questionable at one time. However, he came back into the game following the ankle ailment and seemed no worse for wear. Backfield mate DeAngelo Williams gobbled up some of the carries Stewart would normally have gotten, however. Stewart was still the primary back in the offense from the get-go, although the Panthers continued to run zone read concepts, with Newton often misreading the unblocked defender, leaving Stewart to be tackled immediately for a loss. The Buccaneers' number-one ranked run defense bottled up the Panthers' rushing attack for the majority of the game, in truth. Stewart had very few clear rushing lanes, and when he did, he was tackled at the LB level. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, to his credit, went back to a more traditional running attack in the second half, employing I-formation and under center plays. Stewart plunged in for a touchdown on the 1-yard line out of the I, showing great second effort and leg drive. Stewart is the more potent receiver out of the backfield as well; the screen game is becoming more and more a part of Carolina's offense. Stewart broke off a nice 30-yard play on a screen in the second quarter.

RB DeAngelo Williams, Rush: 7 - 18 - 0

With Jonathan Stewart hobbled slightly by an ankle injury, DeAngelo Williams came on in relief. Williams struggled to find any creases behind a reconstructed offensive line that was up against the best run defense in football. Williams' burst seems to be there in spurts, but it is not consistent enough. He seemed unwilling to bounce runs to the outside when the opportunity presented itself. Williams was pulled on passing downs as per normal. Ultimately, the poor blocking and lack of opportunity cost Williams.

WR Brandon LaFell, Rec: 5 - 93 - 1 (7 targets)

Brandon LaFell had a predominantly quiet afternoon against the Buccaneers. Besides a pair of receptions in long yardage third down situations when he settled down in zone, his impact was minimal in the first half. After the interval, LaFell showed his savvy on a couple of plays, including one Newton scramble. Seeing his quarterback in trouble, LaFell cut off his shallow crossing pattern short and adjusted his position to allow Newton an easy completion. LaFell finished strong with a touchdown on a skinny post pattern from the slot, unwilling to settle for anything but six points.

WR Steve Smith, Rec: 5 - 61 - 0 (7 targets)

Steve Smith was not on the same page as his quarterback in the opening couple of series, as the duo failed to link up on a curl route, and later on a deep target. However, their connection blossomed as the game wore on. Newton completed a variety of timing throws to Smith -- the quick slants into tight windows in particular were impressive, mainly due to Smith's clean release and strong hands. Smith had a touchdown pass in his hands on a 20-yard pass in the red zone, but he clearly pushed off the defensive back and it did not count. It should be noted that Smith's production began to pick up in the second-half after an injury to CB Eric Wright. The connection between Newton and Smith isn't quite where it needs to be to allow Smith to hit the century mark each week.

TE Greg Olsen, Rec: 2 - 42 - 0 (6 targets)

Continuing to operate as the clear number two option behind Steve Smith in the progressions of quarterback Cam Newton, Greg Olsen was his usual steady self. Newton has eyes for Olsen in the red zone and had the trust in him to throw up a pass as Olsen made a beeline for the back pylon. Defensive pass interference was called on SS Mark Barron, who couldn't adjust to the ball, but Olsen would have caught it otherwise. Olsen was utilised in bunch sets quite often in an attempt to 'rub' defenders in man coverage; this formation worked a treat on a 32-yard seam pattern. Olsen ran by the covering defensive backs like they didn't exist and boxed out the FS by making a tremendous leaping grab. Where Olsen served as a safety valve for his quarterback last season, this season he has developed into a multi-faceted weapon.