Despite being a game featuring below .500 teams, the Bucs and Panthers were playing for control of the NFC South on Sunday in Tampa, with a win securing the division once again for the Bucs, while Carolina could throw a wrench in everything with a win that would have created a three-way tie at the top at 7-9.
For much of the game it looked like we were headed for chaos in Week 18, but Tom Brady found Mike Evans for three long touchdowns and a Sam Darnold fumble inside the 10 allowed Tampa to go up by nine points. After a quick field goal to cut the lead to 6, Carolina had all three timeouts with just under a minute to go and forced a Tampa punt after three unsuccessful running plays got them only to the Panthers 40. Still, Carolina needed a miracle and nearly got it when the Bucs’ long snapper bounced one to Jake Camarda, but the rookie out of Georgia produced one of the greatest punts that didn’t count in NFL history as he somehow outran the Panthers rush to the edge and got off an awkward running punt that was downed inside the 5.
Bucs punter Jake Camarda saves a potential disaster of a punt!
— NFL (@NFL) January 1, 2023
While that didn’t count because of an ineligible man downfield on the punt, because it was such a good punt the Panthers could only force another punt attempt to try and block it. On top of that, the play burned precious time off the clock despite the penalty, which only further helped the Bucs’ cause. Camarda got the second one off cleanly, pinning the Panthers at their own 10, and Carolina was unable to do anything but try a wild lateral play at the end from midfield that went nowhere.
It’s not often that the punter gets to play hero, but even on a day where Mike Evans had three touchdowns, Camarda might deserve the game ball for helping Tampa lock up the division title.