Thanks to timely turnovers, Bucs end regular-season skid vs. Saints

·5 min read

NEW ORLEANS — Mike Evans was hot. It was more than just a competitive fire searing inside the Bucs receiver.

After watching running back Leonard Fournette get shoved up high by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore following a play early in the fourth quarter Sunday, Evans was Cajun cayenne pepper hot.

“It gets spicy when you come to New Orleans,” Evans said.

Both Evans and Lattimore, who have mixed it up before, were ejected following a bench-clearing brawl in the middle of the Superdome.

But the fight seemed to ignite the Bucs to 17 points over the next nine minutes to turn a tie game into a 20-10 win over the Saints.

The Bucs defense forced five turnovers, including two interceptions by cornerback Jamel Dean and a pick-six by safety Mike Edwards. It also sacked Saints quarterback Jameis Winston six times while holding him to a passer rating of 55.8.

Tampa Bay’s only touchdown on offense came when Tom Brady connected with Breshad Perriman for a 28-yard pass in the fourth quarter.

The win snapped a seven-game regular-season losing streak to New Orleans for the Bucs, who admitted afterward they were tired of being pushed around by the Saints.

Evans had showered and dressed and greeted his teammates with hugs and handshakes in the stadium tunnel as they walked to the victorious locker room.

“It felt good,” Evans said. “I came in here and watched the game, and it started going in our favor. Everything started happening.”

Here’s what happened to get Evans tossed, and why the league may consider suspending him for one game the way it did when he blindsided Lattimore after an altercation in 2017:

Brady threw a deep pass to Scotty Miller that fell incomplete, but both believed Miller was interfered with by Lattimore.

Brady pled his case to the officials and Lattimore flung his arm up dismissively while saying something to the quarterback.

Brady pivoted and headed toward Lattimore. Fournette pushed Lattimore from the side, and Lattimore responded by shoving Fournette below the facemask, throwing his head back.

That’s when Evans came charging off the sideline and knocked Lattimore to the turf. Evans was grabbed from behind by safety Marcus Maye and then pulled him to the ground. Maye wound up on top of Evans, and the melee ensued.

“My rookie year, (quarterback) Ryan Griffin told me, ‘Pick up Mike after every play. Look out for him,’” Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “I remember seeing it all happen and I was like 30 or 40 yards away and I was like, ‘Oh no.’ I kind of went to the bottom and fished him out.

“Everybody was pulling on me. They think I’m going to fight people. I said, ‘I’m just trying to get Mike out of there.”

Whether Evans avoids suspension remains to be seen. Bucs coach Todd Bowles said he felt the ejections evened out.

“I didn’t see the whole thing,” Bowles said. “I saw a lot of pushing and shoving and flags flying, and the next thing I know everybody was on the field. We lost a good player. They lost a good player. It was a physical ballgame.”

Saints coach Dennis Allen said he believed referee Shawn Hochuli was heavy-handed in ejecting Lattimore.

“(Evans) was the first one to push and shove Lattimore,” Allen said. “I’ve been around this league long enough. Usually, they don’t get the instigator. They usually get the responder. I think what happened after that was a little bit excessive, so we’ll see what happens.”

Not much was happening again for the Bucs’ offense Sunday. They extended their scoreless streak to six quarters against the Saints before Ryan Succop tied the game with a 47-yard field goal with 6:44 remaining in the third quarter.

The Bucs were shorthanded on offense. Receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones, and left tackle Donovan Smith were out with injuries. Then, backup left tackle Josh Wells went down with a calf injury late in the first half.

But the Bucs were content to grind it out on the ground. Fournette took a beating, rushing 24 times for 65 punishing yards.

Brady had only 190 yards passing, the second-fewest since he arrived in Tampa Bay. That included a 41-yarder to Evans.

But Brady fumbled a snap at the Saints’ 26-yard line in the first quarter. The Bucs also turned the ball over on downs from the New Orleans 8 when Fournette was dropped for a 1-yard loss.

But all that mattered to the Bucs was they won the game and stopped being bullied by the Saints.

“Yeah. I’m happy we got the dub,” Evans said. “We started playing really good in that fourth quarter. The defense had a lot of turnovers. We love that, and we got the job done.

“I feel like our emotions were really good this time. I was just trying to have my teammates’ back. I seen (Lattimore) punch somebody in the face and said, ‘I ain’t going to let that happen.”

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