CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In a season in which they've found different ways to lose games, the Carolina Panthers found a new way Sunday.
Leading by 11 points with less than five minutes remaining, the Panthers squandered the lead and wound up losing 27-21 to Tampa Bay in overtime at Bank of America Stadium.
Dallas Clark caught a 15-yard pass from Josh Freeman in overtime to seal the victory. The Panthers never had the ball in overtime, allowing Tampa Bay to go 80 yards in eight plays for the victory.
It left the Panthers with a 2-8 record going into a Monday night at Philadelphia on Nov. 26.
Keyed by an interception return for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn and a fumble recovery by linebacker Luke Kuechly in the end zone, the Panthers were in position to atone for their season-opening loss at Tampa Bay.
Instead, they collapsed in the fourth quarter.
Needing one stop to win, the Panthers allowed the Bucs to go 80 yards in seven plays, scoring a touchdown on a 24-yard pass fromFreeman to Vincent Jackson with 12 seconds remaining. The Bucs then tied the game on a two-point play, Freeman again finding Jackson in the back of the end zone.
Linebacker Thomas Davis was called for a personal foul penalty on the drive, allowing the Bucs to move into Carolina territory.
It was a dramatic turn of events in a game the Panthers were on the edge of winning in regulation.
What seemed to be a game-changing play came early in the third quarter when the Bucs elected to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Carolina 2-yard line. Bucs running back Doug Martin went up the middle but fumbled near the goal line.
Davis made the hit and Luke Kuechly made the recovery in the end zone. After a video review, the fumble call was upheld, giving the Panthers possession at the Tampa Bay 20-yard line.
Working through the air, Newton guided the Panthers sharply downfield. He found receiver Brandon LaFell three times in the drive, the final completion a 29-yard touchdown reception that pushed the Panthers ahead by 11 with 6 minutes remaining.
Connor Barth cut the Panthers lead to 21-13 with a 40-yard field goal with 4:33 to play.
It was a bleak start for the Panthers in front of a less than full stadium.
Munnerlyn lost a fumble on a punt return early in the first quarter, giving the ball to the Bucs at the Carolina 29-yard line. Munnerlyn would soon atone for his mistake.
However, the Bucs capitalized on the mistake, turning it into a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Freeman to tight end Nate Byham for a 7-0 lead.
On the same week the Panthers fired special teams coach Brian Murphy, special teams problems continued. On the kickoff following the Tampa Bay touchdown, Carolina's Jordan Seen was penalized, forcing the Panthers to start from their own 16-yard line.
After a Connor Barth field goal gave the Bucs a 10-0 lead, the Panthers were wobbling. It got worse when starting defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy collided. Hardy would eventually return to the game but Johnson was taken to the locker room and did not return.
The game flipped when Freeman hurried a pass and Captain Munnerlyn intercepted it, returning it 74 yards for a touchdown, his second pick-six this season. Tampa Bay's Ted Larsen was also penalized 15-yards for an unsportsmanlike hit on Panthers defensive lineman Dwan Edwards.
Suddenly recharged, the Panthers forced a Tampa Bay punt then took a 14-13 lead on an eight-play, 77-yard drive. The march included a 30-yard screen pass to Jonathan Stewart, a 17-yard Steve Smith reception and a pass interference penalty in the end zone that set up Stewart's 1-yard touchdown.
The Panthers had a chance to extend their lead late in the half but Justin Medlock missed a 40-yard field goal attempt, his third straight miss.