With eight minutes and 20 seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were tied 7-7 Sunday at Bank of America Stadium. For just a second, it looked like Tampa Bay’s chances of starting 2-0 were in trouble, and it looked like the Panthers might have found a pass rush for the first time in the post Julius Peppers era.
For just a second.
Facing a third-and-17 from his 25-yard line, Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman made the decisive play of the week in the NFC South and probably the most impressive play of his career so far. By all rights, Freeman should have been sacked -- twice.
But the 6-foot-6, 248-pound Freeman shed individual tackle attempts by Charles Johnson and Eric Norwood and continued rolling to his right. When he finally was free, he squared his shoulders and threw a frozen rope down the sideline to tight end Kellen Winslow, who was well covered. But Freeman put the ball in the one spot where Winslow could get it and the tight end did.
On the next play, Freeman threw a touchdown pass and the Buccaneers took the lead for good.