Bucs’ Rookie Punter Saves the Day in Week 17 Victory
Between Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Anthony Nelson, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Devin White, the Bucs had plenty of big contributors in Sunday’s 30-24, division-clinching victory over the Panthers.
But one of Tampa Bay’s biggest saviors on the day was rookie punter Jake Camarda. The game he made in the last minute saved the Bucs from a very nervous situation, as they were only six points ahead.
Camarda was ready to kick the ball away with 42 seconds left, grabbed a bad snap, sprinted left while avoiding Carolina’s rush and got a desperation punt. That desperation punt rolled inside the Panthers’ 5-yard line.
The kick ultimately didn’t count, as the Bucs were flagged for an ineligible kick in the field. That meant a re-kick, which sent the rookie to the Panthers’ 8-yard line. But if Camarda had fallen on the loose ball or been tackled, the Panthers would have almost taken over in center field and needed a touchdown and an extra point to win and spoil the Bucs’ celebration.
Not only that, but the game also took more time from the clock. By the time Carolina took over on the 8-yard line on the re-kick, there were 26 seconds left. The Bucs held on from there, improving to 8-8 and winning the NFC South.
“I’ve never seen a punter make such an athletic game,” head coach Todd Bowles said after the game. “No, I really don’t. He did great at that.”
Instincts may have helped Camarda save Bucs’ season
Football moves fast, and when the Bucs’ rookie punter made that play, it almost seemed like he’d done it before. That’s not the case, Bowles said Monday.
“That was all instinct on his part,” Bowles said. “We don’t practice to mess up a punt. It happens, but you don’t practice messing up a punt, especially running to the sidelines and taking a kick like he did. Very instinctive of him to do that. It was a great play.”
Hailing from the University of Georgia, Camarda has previously amazed with his athletic prowess. He ran a 4.56-second 40-yard sprint at the NFL Scouting Combine last spring and showed that speed against the Panthers.
“Just about what was going through my head [to] find a way to, I think, go to an open field,” Camarda said Monday. “A lot happened, and I can’t say I was thinking much. It was just based more on — I think instinct as you would say — and just, running a little bit to the left, found a little bit of a gap, and I knew I wasn’t going to get a scoop-down, so I just thought, ‘I’m going trying to get a little foothold here and see what we can do.’”
As much as Camarda’s play saved the game late on, he didn’t want to take too much credit when asked about the magnitude of his game.
“Yes, you know, I look at it this way: you can look at it that way too. You could say that, but no game is really going to change everything in my book that way,” Camarda said. “It’s a team game, it’s a team effort and – just look at the game for example. Look what Tom [Brady] and Mike [Evans] did, right? We’re not going to win that game without those guys, you know what I mean?
“So I feel like some people have definitely said some of those things about me, but we’re not going to win this game if everyone else on that field hasn’t performed. So I certainly don’t want to take that credit.”
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