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Bucs-Saints: Was Carlton Davis’ ejection a turning point?

Bucs Journal: Teddy Bridgewater found another gear and the Saints took the lead for good after Davis’ illegal hit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (33) leave the field after being ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (33) leave the field after being ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) [ BILL FEIG | AP ]
Published Oct. 6, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — Carlton Davis’ day lasted less than a full half Sunday. The Bucs cornerback was ejected for an illegal lowering-the-helmet hit on New Orleans tight end Jared Cook.

The penalty hurt the Bucs, but Davis’ absence might have been most damaging. Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater logged 226 of his 314 passing yards after Davis’ second-quarter exit from New Orleans 31-24 victory.

The Saints had a first-and-20 at their own 15 when Bridgewater overthrew Cook. Davis lowered his helmet and launched himself toward Cook’s head and neck area. He was flagged for a personal foul, 15 yards and an automatic first down. After a video review, he was ejected.

"I have no comment on the play," Davis said. "I just made a tackle. That's the only thing I can say. I made a play. However the refs see it, it's how they see it."

Before Davis’ hit, the Bucs had the Saints pinned deep. The penalty jump-started a drive that ended when Cook beat cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III for a 9-yard touchdown reception and a 17-10 halftime lead.

“It’s obviously, it sucks not to be out there,” Davis added. “This was a huge game for us, a game on the road, and I knew I could have impacted it.”

This marked the second ejection this season for an illegal hit in a Bucs game. 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander was ejected in the opener after lowering his helmet as Jameis Winston slid at the end of a run.

Murphy-Bunting’s big play

Second-round pick Sean Murphy-Bunting found himself on the field early Sunday, and in the right place at the right time. The rookie set up the Bucs’ first touchdown with his first NFL interception on a Bridgewater pass that went through Kamara’s hands.

"Everyone’s out there doing their job and luckily I just happened to be the guy to get the play to spark us up. ... It felt great to kind of put our team in that position. I was wishing we could do it again,” he said.

Two plays later, Winston hit Chris Godwin for a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 7-3 lead. Murphy-Bunting’s takeaway was the Bucs’ fifth in two games. They have scored 35 points off those takeaways and own a plus-4 turnover margin.

Devin White sits as precaution

Former LSU linebacker Devin White spoke earlier this week about returning to action Sunday in his home state. The Bucs first-round pick dressed and did not play. Veteran Kevin Minter started his third straight game in White’s absence and led the Bucs with 10 tackles.

“Yeah he just wasn’t ready,” Arians said of White, who hasn’t played since suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee Sept. 12 at Carolina. “And he’s just too great of a young player to put out there not ready. He’s got too bright of a future.”

Said White, “I feel great. I feel great. Whenever they call me, I’ll be ready.”

Miscellany:

* Kamara’s 62 rushing yards were the most the Bucs to anyone this season. They had held running backs Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley to 63 yards rushing combined the three previous games. ... After posting an NFL-leading nine sacks, linebacker Shaquil Barrett didn’t record a sack for the first time this season. Neither did the Bucs. Barrett had a season-low two tackles Sunday. ... Cornerback Ryan Smith returned from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances and played on special teams.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.