Those "thuds" you heard with six minutes left in the Bucs-Panthers game Sunday in Charlotte were the "bandwagoners" falling hard off this 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneer bandwagon.
You must admit that things looked pretty dismal for the guys up there in Bank of America Stadium.
About four and a half minutes earlier, everyone's hero, Doug Martin, had done the unthinkable. He fumbled in the Carolina end zone on his way to a touchdown that would have put his team up 17-14. Dougie doesn't fumble; he runs, he scores, he's the man. Yet there he was, sitting on the bench, his head hung low enough to smell the ground as the two-win Panthers took a 21-10 lead.
Things would have had to be better to qualify as dismal.
It was rough all around. Josh Freeman had thrown two interceptions, one was that dying quail that landed softly in the arms of Captain Munnerlin. He ran it back 74 yards for a touchdown with 35 seconds left in the first quarter. The play destroyed Buccaneer momentum, and it was the play that put the Panthers in charge—well, in charge right up until the final minute.
At that moment, Freeman and Martin picked themselves up off the proverbial canvas. Like two fighters who had been beaten, battered, blasted and nearly counted out, they cleared their heads as did the rest of the Tampa Bay offense.
What then happened may have been one of the finest comebacks in the history of the franchise. I've been here for every one of the 36 Buccaneer years and it would be hard to find anything as sensational as what you witnessed on Sunday.
If you're not convinced that Josh Freeman is an elite quarterback in the making, then maybe you should become a New York Jets fan. If you're not convinced that Doug Martin is an elite running back in the making, then maybe you should just go watch the Dolphins.
Freeman and Martin, the arm and the legs of the Buccaneers, made some magic, so did the millionaire, Vincent Jackson. With an offensive line that has been repaired more times than a Chevy Vega, Freeman led a magnificent drive with no timeouts left and just 62 seconds to go.
With just 12 clicks of the clock remaining, Freeman threw what Schiano described as "a laser" to Vincent Jackson from 24 yards out to get the Bucs to 21-19.
Then it was time for a two-pointer, talk about pressure?
"Sully said 'I think this is it" and he was right," Schiano would later say about Freeman short bullet, once again to V-Jax.
Tie ball game.
Finally, momentum was Tampa Bay's girlfriend again. You could see it on the Panthers' faces.
Give props to Andrew Economos. Why? He called tails on the overtime coin toss. Tails?
Tails is it.
The rest is history. Freeman brought 'em home. Dougie did what Dougie does and next thing you know, there's Dallas Clark wide open on the goal line.
Anyone out there still longing for Kellen Winslow?
Didn't think so.
This big win kept these Bucs thick in the playoff hunt.
Huge? Could any task be bigger than the one they pulled off on Sunday?
That commotion you hear now is the doubters piling back on the wagon.
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