By Terrance Turner
Sept. 18, 2022
Defense dominated and fists were flying today inside the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, where the New Orleans Saints played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both defenses were aggressive and unrelenting, with each limiting the other team to just a field goal in the first three quarters. Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady struggled on offense due to injuries (wide receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones were both out). But an all-out brawl in the fourth quarter changed everything, supercharging the Buccaneers offense and dogging the defense for New Orleans.
The Saints were the first to score, when kicker Wil Lutz booted a 31-yard field goal to put them ahead 3-0. On the Buccaneers’ drive, a mishandled snap caused Brady to fumble the ball. Saints linebacker Demario Davis recovered. The Saints took over. But after New Orleans failed to score, Tampa Bay regained possession of the ball. After a promising drive with big plays from receiver Mike Evans and running back Leonard Fournette, the Bucs went for it on 4th down and were stopped in the red zone by the Saints defense.
The Bucs defense also forced a fumble, as Saints quarterback Jameis Winston held on to the ball instead of running for a first down. A Tampa Bay defender hit Winston’s arm and knocked the ball out, but the Saints were able to fall on a loose ball. They avoided a turnover but still had to punt. Both offenses stagnated in the first half, and the New Orleans led 3-0 at halftime.
The Bucs tied the game with a field goal in the 3rd quarter, courtesy of kicker Ryan Succop. (He made the kick from 47 yards out.) For their part, the Saints were having success moving down the field until Mark Ingram fumbled the ball; it was punched out by Bucs safety Logan Ryan and recovered by linebacker Carl Nassib.
The Buccaneers started their drive at their own 10-yard line. It was soon the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter began with them facing a fourth-down stop. On 4th and 1, refs threw a flag before Camarda could punt. Initial signal was for delay of game, but as Brady headed onto the field, it became clear that the flag was on New Orleans’ defense. It turned out there were 12 men on the field for the defense; that was a 5-yard penalty which resulted in a first down for the Buccaneers.
The drive stalled after Brady’s pass for Scotty Miller was incomplete, though it looked like Miller was interfered with. Brady was irate, complained about the call, and then had words with Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. He and Lattimore got in each other’s faces. Then Fournette pushed Lattimore; they got into a shoving match as safety Marcus Maye got involved. And then Mike Evans, who was headed to the sideline, ran back onto the field and shoved Lattimore to the ground. The result was an all-out brawl:
Maye and Evans began tussling, tumbling to the ground as flags were thrown. Lattimore ended up on the ground under Evans and Maye, according to ESPN. As the brawl escalated, Lattimore stood up, with several players still on the ground, yelling as teammates tried to pull him back.
Offsetting penalties (on each team) were announced by the referees; both Evans and Lattimore were ejected from the game. Lattimore exited the field while hyping up the crowd; Evans pushed a camera out of his way before giving his gloves to fans and leaving. After the game, Evans was asked about his role in the brawl. He claimed he was defending his teammates: “All I seen was […] Lattimore, he like, punched Lenny [Fournette] in the face or something like that and, like, pushed Tom.”
These two have history that goes back years; Evans got a one-game suspension back in 2017 due to a fight with Lattimore. According to Bleacher Report, their last altercation occurred in part because of Saints quarterback Jameis Winston: “The incident occurred during the third quarter of the Saints’ 30-10 victory over the Buccaneers. Winston, who was taken out of the game in the second half due to a shoulder injury, poked Lattimore in the back of the helmet after a play. Lattimore responded by shoving Winston away. Evans flew in and knocked Lattimore to the ground, leading to a fight between the two teams. No one was ejected from the game, but Evans received a one-game suspension for his role in the altercation,” which he served in a game against the New York Jets.
The two tangled again three years later; Lattimore shoved Evans in the back during a game in 2020 and Evans knocked Lattimore’s helmet off, which resulted in a $10,500 unnecessary roughness fine for Lattimore, according to ESPN. It is unclear if either of them will face suspension or fines after this scuffle. Evans seemed unbothered by the idea of either; asked after the game if he was concerned about being suspended next week, he answered, “Nah, nah, nah. That was — 2017, I didn’t even get ejected in that. That was a cheap shot. This wasn’t. He punched my teammate.”
The on-field brawl effectively ended the Tampa Bay drive. It was fourth down and the Buccaneers were forced to punt. The Saints took over but were unable to score, and the Bucs regained possession. On 3rd down and five, with 7:41 remaining Brady finally found Breshad Perriman in the end zone for the touchdown.
The Saints tried to answer, but Winston got intercepted by Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean. It was the Saints’ third turnover in the past five plays. The Bucs got within field goal range, and Ryan Succop kicked a 47-yard field goal to make it 13-3.
Once again, New Orleans put together a promising drive, with some impossible catches by Michael Thomas and tight end Juwan Johnson. But out of nowhere, Winston was intercepted by Tampa Bay safety Mike Edwards who ran virtually untouched into the end zone for a pick 6. Edwards’ 67-yard touchdown pushed the Bucs ahead, 20-3.
Saints went on a long scoring drive as the clock ticked away under. Winston finally reached the end zone when he threw to receiver Michael Thomas in the end zone. That score made it 20 to 10.
What could’ve been a 55-yard Bucs field goal got sabotaged by a delay of game penalty. The Saints got the ball back. Receiver Chris Olave caught a deep pass from Winston but fell to the ground as he was running; the play was ruled a fumble, and Tampa Bay took over. They ran down the clock to just 1:10 before punting to the Saints. Once again, New Orleans failed to score.
It was the last indignity on a brutal day for New Orleans. The Saints had five turnovers today’s loss — the most in any game since Nov. 2012, according to The Athletic‘s Buccaneers reporter Greg Auman. Winston threw three interceptions. He was sacked six times (!!!). The Bucs defense got six sacks: two from Shaquil Barrett, one each from linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David, one from safety Antoine Winfield, and a sack split between Joe Tryon-Shoyinka and Vita Vea. The Buccaneers won, 20-10. This gives Brady his first win against the Saints as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer (he had been 0-4 against them in regular-season games). The Bucs will play the Green Bay Packers next Sunday.