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Jones: How Bucs punter Bryan 'Banger' Anger saved day vs. Saints

TAMPA — Quarterbacks get credit for winning games. Defense gets credit for winning championships. Heck, even the field-goal kicker gets carried off the field now and then.

But the punter? When does the punter ever get any love?

Right now. That's when.

If you're passing out game balls for Tampa Bay's 16-11 victory against the Saints on Sunday, be sure to save one for Bucs punter Bryan Anger. And if you're looking for a game ball to give, check inside the other team's 5-yard line. Chances are, Anger just kicked one there.

"Just doing my job,'' Anger said.

He more than did his job, dropping two punts inside the New Orleans 3 in the final seven minutes to help the Bucs and their defense preserve the victory. Rare is the game when you notice the punter, and when you do, it's typically because he shanked a punt into the stands at the worst possible time.

Anger? He saved his best punts for the most critical times.

"It's awesome,'' he said.

You're not going to get a whole lot of bragging out of Anger. He's not like that dude in Oakland. He doesn't have dances or feuds with opposing players.

But he does have a cool nickname: Banger. You better have a cool nickname and a strong leg if you're going to be drafted ahead of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, as Anger was by Jacksonville in the third round of the 2012 draft.

"Those two red zone punts at the end, those two flip-flops that he nailed?'' Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "Those were huge.''

The second was even more critical because Koetter passed up a Roberto Aguayo 52-yard field-goal attempt with just more than two minutes left and Tampa Bay leading 16-11.

With Anger drilling his punts and the defense playing as well as it was, there really was never any question as to what Koetter would do. Play with Anger.

"Anytime you're backed up inside your 5,'' Saints quarterback Drew Brees said, "you're limited with what you can do.''

Anger had a heck of a day thanks to the helping hand — actually hands — of his teammates. On the first crucial punt, rookie Ryan Smith made a sensational play, using his tiptoes to avoid stepping into the end zone then flipping the ball behind his back to teammate Alan Cross inside the 1. Then, just a few minutes later, Anger's perfect punt was downed by a hustling Josh Robinson.

"I got to thank the two gunners,'' Anger said. "They made the plays.''

But Anger made the kicks.

What made Anger's punts even more impressive is that they came after he kicked one into the end zone earlier in the game — just his fifth touchback in 58 punts this season, including 28 downed inside the 20.

"Wish I could get that one back,'' he said. "Three would've been nice for sure. Hit it too clean. It just carried on me a bit.''

You might think punters just kick it and hope for the best, but softening a punt to be downed deep in enemy territory is a special skill. Anger says you sort of aim for the 10-yard line. Ten is good. The 8 is perfect.

"Like a golf swing,'' Anger said. "You try to take a little bit off of your hit.''

Does he know when he nails it? Did he know Sunday?

"Yeah,'' Anger said, "I can tell.''

With that, Anger finished dressing in the Bucs locker room, but there was time for one more question. Was Sunday his best game ever?

"I don't know about that,'' he said. "It was a good one. I'll say that.''

He didn't need to. Everyone already knew that.

Jones: How Bucs punter Bryan 'Banger' Anger saved day vs. Saints 12/11/16 [Last modified: Monday, December 12, 2016 12:02am]
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