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Vita Vea or Jake Camarda? | Week 9 Game Ball

Brianna Dix and Scott Smith make their nominations for the Game Ball after the Bucs' thrilling win over the Rams Sunday, and the fans get to choose the winner from a total of four nominees

game ball vita

In a game pitting the two most recent league champions, the Super Bowl LV-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Super Bowl LVI-winning Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, 16-13, at Raymond James Stadium. The Buccaneers got the win in incredibly dramatic fashion, with Tom Brady hitting rookie tight end Cade Otton on a one-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining, capping a six-play 60-yard drive that took 35 seconds and had to be executed without a single timeout.

Obviously, Brady and Otton would be immediate candidates for a Game Ball after their game-winning play, but as Head Coach Todd Bowles told his team in the postgame locker room, the Bucs' victory was truly a full-team effort. Not only were there indispensable contributions from all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams – but there were many individual players worthy of singling out for praise.

Otton also kick-started the final drive with a 28-yard catch down the middle and finished with a team-leading 68 yards on five grabs. Wideout Scotty Miller became Brady's go-to target on the final two drives and ended up with seven catches for 53 yards. Brady himself extended his streak of consecutive passes without an interception to 373, the second-longest run in NFL history, and oh by the way, just happened to surpass 100,000 career passing yards along the way.

The Bucs' defense allowed only 206 yards of offense and forced nine three-and-outs by the Matthew Stafford-led Rams, with Vita Vea's two-sack effort leading the way. And the special teams crew featured such standouts as return man Jaelon Darden (82 yards on 8 punt returns), kicker Ryan Succop (3-4 field goals) and rookie punter Jake Camarda. If you were interested in, say, building a Game Ball argument for Camarda, you might want to read this first.

Hint, hint, Brianna. See, after every Buccaneer victory this season, Staff Writer/Reporter Brianna Dix and I are tasked with nominating two players for the singular honor of our Game Ball. Those two are then included in a list of four candidates…and then the final decision is up to you. After you review the cases we make for two of those players, you will find a link at the bottom of the page to place your vote.

Since we can't duplicate votes and getting the first pick could be important, we are going to alternate the order of our choices from week to week. Brianna gets to pick first this time, which makes me intensely jealous.

So, who should get this week's Game Ball? Here are our suggestions.

Brianna Dix: NT Vita Vea

As you mentioned Scott, both punter Jake Camarda and Cade Otton would be sure-fire candidates for the Game Ball with their production in Week Nine, however, since I wrote a postgame report on Otton already, I am going to go with Vita Vea for my nomination. Vea dropped Matthew Stafford twice on Sunday afternoon, with consistent penetration from the interior. The nose tackle menace currently leads the Buccaneers with 6.5 sacks – surpassing his previous career-high of 4.0 and Tampa Bay is only halfway through the 2022 slate. That level of production and pressure from a nose tackle, the player that typically is viewed as a run stuffer and commands double teams creating opportunities for teammates to have success, is a rarity in the NFL.

Against the Rams, Vea spearheaded the defensive effort at Raymond James Stadium. He was the main factor that allowed the Bucs to win their matchups at the line of scrimmage. Vea consistently put L.A. in a disadvantageous field position, which led to stalled drives. He was a bully inside, wreaking havoc up front for the Buccaneers. On his first sack of Stafford, Vea beat the double team and capped off the maneuver by converting speed to power. His second came off a lethal swim move to halt the Rams' drive. Vea was a disruptive force, showcasing physicality at the point of attack and burst off the snap. He fortified the defense and became the difference-maker, fostering success against the defending Super Bowl Champions. On Monday morning, you can bet an instant replay of the lawnmower celebration pervades the mind!

Scott Smith: P Jake Camarda

Well, what do you know! I'm no longer jealous, Bri, because you did not take my hint and choose Jake Camarda. Which means I get to nominate, with a straight face and absolute sincerity, a punter for the Game Ball in a week in which a Hall of Fame quarterback surpassed 100,000 passing yards and set a new NFL record for Game-Winning Drives.

Here's my guiding principle for this Game Ball-choosing process: When in doubt, take the player who was actually handed the game ball by the head coach in the postgame locker room. As Todd Bowles put it while handing over the ball in the middle of a mass of loudly-cheering players, Camarda kept the Buccaneers in the game all day long.

I've already written about Camarda's incredible Week Nine feats at length, and I invite you to review them here if you need more convincing. But just to summarize the key points, Camarda tied the all-time NFL record for gross punting average in a game with at least six punts, set new franchise standards for single-game gross and net punting averages and – I mean, get this – launched three of the eight longest punts in Buccaneers history. In one game! His 74-yarder in the third quarter got the Buccaneers out of a deep hole and tied for the longest punt in team annals.

The Buccaneers beat the Rams by the skin of their teeth and, for much of the first three quarters had difficulty sustaining drives. In a game that featured a combined 13 three-and-outs between the Bucs and Rams, Camarda kept the Buccaneers on the plus side of the field position battle every single time he was called on to do his job. I absolutely believe that the Buccaneers would not have won that game without the incredible performance of rookie punter Jake Camarda.

Who deserves the Game Ball for the Bucs' win over Los Angeles in Week Nine? Click here to cast your vote.

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