NFC South Reporter
Buccaneers punter Jake Camarda’s superb scramble to keep away from catastrophe on a low snap within the closing minute of Sunday’s recreation helped Tampa Bay safe not solely a win however a division title, however he’ll admit there wasn’t time to suppose a lot in that immediate.
“Pretty much what was going through my head was, ‘Find a way to get to some open field,'” the rookie from Georgia advised reporters Monday. “A lot was happening. I can’t say that I was thinking a ton. It was kind of just based on instinct.”
The Bucs led 30-24 with 42 seconds left Sunday, punting from Carolina’s 44 however figuring out a landing might beat them. Zach Triner’s snap was low and bounced earlier than it bought to Camarda, who rushed to choose up the free ball. Had he merely fallen on it — to keep away from the possibility of Carolina scooping it up and scoring — or had he simply been tackled for a turnover on downs, the Panthers would have taken over in Bucs territory, a lot nearer to a possible game-winning landing.
However Camarda deftly scrambled to his left, eluding cornerback T.J. Carrie and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe, turning upfield as he neared the sideline and discovering room to punt the ball down the sector, the place it bounced and was downed by teammate Zyon McCollum on the 3-yard line. The Bucs had been flagged for a penalty for having an unlawful man downfield earlier than the kick, but it surely averted a detrimental play, and on the re-kick, Camarda hit a punt that was downed on the Carolina 8-yard line.
“I have never seen a punter make an athletic play like that,” coach Todd Bowles mentioned after the win. “I really haven’t. He did a heck of a job doing that.”
The Bucs thought sufficient of Camarda to draft him within the fourth spherical in April, and he has been excellent, rating fourth within the NFL with a median of 48.7 yards on 74 punts. He is additionally tied for probably the most touchbacks on punts, so his internet common is not as sturdy, however he confirmed his poise on a key play Sunday to assist the Bucs shut out a vastly essential victory.
Needing 10 yards for a primary down, Camarda mentioned he knew he had no shot to run for a primary down and by no means considered a desperation throw, so he simply centered on discovering a lane to get off a kick, no straightforward process working left and kicking along with his proper foot.
Camarda — 6-foot-1 and 193 kilos — has extra athleticism than most punters, with a background as a centerfielder in baseball, and whereas specialists do not need to be timed on the NFL Mix, he ran final 12 months and was timed impressively at 4.56 seconds. Requested the final time he needed to elude an opponent on a play, he pointed to a pretend subject purpose at Georgia when he took off as holder for a primary down in opposition to Baylor within the Sugar Bowl, additionally on Jan. 1, three years earlier to the day.
NFL groups observe and put together for every kind of situations in a recreation, however Bowles mentioned Monday that the Bucs had by no means practiced a foul snap and tips on how to deal with it, so what Camarda did Sunday was merely intuition and athleticism.
“That was all instinct on his part,” Bowles mentioned. “You don’t practice botching a punt. It happens, but you don’t practice botching a punt, especially running to the sideline and making a kick like he did. Very instinctive of him to do that and a heck of a play.”
Camarda additionally had a special-teams deal with in Sunday’s win and has six such tackles this season, probably the most for any NFL punter in 10 years. He made a degree to say that Triner is “an incredible snapper” who has performed “an unbelievable job” this season, so he wasn’t anticipating something however an everyday snap on the play.
Video of Camarda’s play went viral Sunday, making him an unsung hero within the Bucs’ win, however he mentioned the crew gained for a lot of causes, particularly the three landing passes from Tom Brady to Mike Evans.
“It’s a team game, a team effort,” he mentioned. “Look at what Tom and Mike did. We’re not going to win that game without those guys. I feel like some people have said things, but we don’t win this game without everybody else’s effort on that field. I definitely don’t want to take that kind of credit.”
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Greg Auman is FOX Sports activities’ NFC South reporter, protecting the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He’s in his tenth season protecting the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Occasions and The Athletic. You possibly can observe him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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