Jameis Winston scrambled 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage, desperate to escape from his own end zone.
As Bears linebackers Leonard Floyd and Willie Young closed in, tension surged through Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs, clinging to a 17-10 lead after allowing a Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of the first half, were going to melt down at home. Again.
Some horrible outcome — sack, safety, interception, fumble — felt inevitable.
Enter Caleb Benenoch.
I know what you're thinking: Dudes named Caleb don't play football. They wear fedoras and toss 16-ounce bean bags at the local craft brewery.
This Caleb, however, wears a helmet and tosses aside 250-pound linebackers. Benenoch, whom the Bucs chose in the fifth round of this year's draft, was active Sunday for the first time because starting left guard Kevin Pamphile had not passed through the NFL's concussion protocol.
First, Benenoch pushed Young to the ground. Next, he shoved Floyd, who rolled over Young.
Suddenly, Winston had space. He ran left, set and threw a jump ball to Mike Evans about 40 yards down the field. Evans fell to the ground with the ball in his hands, and the dread lifted. The Bucs turned a play that appeared doomed into the greatest of the season, and, perhaps, one of the greatest in team history.
That's football, Benenoch said. You can never stop playing, especially when Winston is your quarterback.
"I know Jameis, the way he plays football, he doesn't quit, so we can't quit as the offensive line," he said.
At the start of the play, the Bears' defensive front executed a stunt (also called a twist). Floyd originally lined up wide outside left tackle Donovan Smith. After the snap, he looped inside instead of rushing off the edge. Because Benenoch and Smith both blocked defensive end Cornelius Washington, Floyd ran unabated toward Winston.
"When you pull the ball down and the protection breaks down, the first thing you do is think, 'How can you extend the play and get out of here?'" Winston said. "The linemen, they just kept blocking. They didn't give up."
On the next play, another relative unknown stepped up. Freddie Martino, who had one catch in his previous six career games, caught a 43-yard touchdown pass to expand the Bucs' lead to 24-10. Tampa Bay tacked on 12 more points to win by 26, its largest margin of victory in almost a year.
Meltdown? Not this time.
After a five-day stretch in which the home crowd witnessed two losses and a lot of really bad football, the Bucs showed Sunday that they're not done yet, and their fans shouldn't be, either.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.