So, what was with that unsportsmanlike penalty?
With the Bucs defense attempting to minimize the damage done by the offense’s botched goal-line attempt, an apparent mini-victory seemed on the way when the Saints were forced to attempt a 51-yard field goal on the ensuing possession.
But a flag just before the play indicated an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty against the Bucs. But for what, exactly?
That answer remained elusive after the game. What was clear was the impact of the call: The Saints were granted a first down and, as a result, converted the opportunity into a touchdown four plays later to take a 35-21 lead.
The call, according to players in the locker room, went against LB Mason Foster. He was flagged, by some accounts, because of something audible that was deemed to be distracting to the Saints.
Just before the snap, Foster appeared to make a verbal line adjustment and the Bucs made a dramatic shift to their front line.
Under NFL rules, unsportsmanlike conduct can be assessed whenever a player is “attempting to disconcert Team A at (the) snap by words or signals.”
Foster, for his part, was at a loss.
“I don’t know what it was,” he said. “I just know they called unsportsmanlike conduct. I don’t know, honestly. I guess there’s something in the rules.”
Coach Greg Schiano would not go into detail, saying only that he understood the rule that was being applied.