When the Buccaneers got the ball back in the fourth quarter on Sunday in Charlotte, after Cam Newton’s 29-yard TD pass to Brandon LaFell, there were exactly six minutes left on the game clock. At that point, Tampa Bay was trailing by 11 points, had a total of 213 yards of offense and hadn’t scored since there were five minutes left in the first quarter.
Thanks to an incredible comeback, the Bucs would end up with three more drives before the game was over, one in overtime, and on those three possessions would get 190 yards and 17 points.
RB Doug Martin, WR Vincent Jackson, WR Tiquan Underwood and TE Dallas Clark would all turn in critical plays during that stretch to keep the Bucs’ hopes for victory alive. Leading the way in an unshakably calm manner, however, was 24-year-old franchise quarterback Josh Freeman.
In one of the greatest backs-against-the-wall performances in Buccaneers franchise history, Freeman somehow pulled a 27-21 victory out of dire circumstances, and in the process resurrected the “clutch” reputation he had begun to build in his first full season as an NFL starter, 2010.
That year, Freeman was at the helm for five games in which the Buccaneers rallied in the fourth quarter and/or overtime for come-from-behind victories. Counting two similar games in his 2009 rookie season and two more last year, and Freeman has now engineered 10 such victories. And, while he has obviously had some significant help from the likes of Doug Martin, Freeman’s passing statistics in crunch time in those 10 games are phenomenal.
For instance, in the fourth quarter and overtime of Sunday’s game in Charlotte, Freeman completed 13 of 21 passes for 142 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. That spanned four drives, three of which produced points and one of which was within millimeters of doing so before Martin’s goal-line fumble.
Here are Freeman’s game-by-game totals in those 10 comeback wins:
|11/18/12-CAR||13-21||152||2||0||W, 27-21, OT|
|12/27/09-NO||4-6||79||0||0||W, 20-17 OT|
Check out those combined totals in the 10 comeback wins: 66 of 99 passing (66.7%) for 880 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. Those numbers produce a passer rating of 125.0. Obviously, this is a bit of cherry-picking, combining the fourth-quarter stats from only the games in which he has produced comebacks, but it still shows a propensity for getting the job done when the stakes are highest. Freeman has started a total of 50 games in his NFL career, and an incredible 20% of them have ended in him leading a fourth-quarter and/or overtime comeback win.