TAMPA — Mike Evans knows the rules, but he can’t figure out how they’re being enforced.
The Bucs receiver received a costly offensive pass interference penalty after converting a key fourth-quarter, fourth-down conversion that left him scratching his head following the Bucs’ 34-17 loss to the Saints Sunday.
With 12:02 remaining and the Bucs trailing 27-17, Tampa Bay had a fourth-and-1 at the Saints 49. Jameis Winston completed a six-yard throw to Evans. A yellow flag was thrown late, and Evans was called for offensive pass interference. Bucs coach Bruce Arians challenged the call, but lost.
Evans definitely made contact with cornerback P.J. Williams, pushing him to the side with one arm just after the snap. According to Section 5, Article 1 of the NFL Rule Book, players are allowed to make contact within one yard past the line of scrimmage regardless of whether the pass has been thrown.
“I was told since I stepped into the league that at one yard you can pretty much get away with anything on both sides,” Evans said. “The DB gets five yards to do whatever they want to us, and we get one yard, and I use that one yard. I’m a big physical receiver and I though I made a good play.
The change allowing challenges on pass interference calls hasn’t led to many overturned calls, in part because of the need for clear visual evidence to change.
Evans is typically the beneficiary of pass interference calls. He entered Sunday having received six defensive pass interference calls for 113 yards, more than any receiver in the league.
Arians, who hasn’t been shy in his criticism of officials, didn’t have much to say about the call on Evans.
“I have no comments on officiating,” Arians said. “They already wrote up the letter on my fine. You guys saw it. You write what you saw. I’m not saying anything about the officials.”
After being held without a catch in the first meeting with the Saints, Evans had just one catch for six yards going into the final three minutes of the third quarter despite being matched up against Williams instead of injured Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore.
Evans finished with four catches for 69 yards.
“They did the exact same thing they did last time, even with one of their best defenders out. The exact same thing,” Evans said. “If I’m outside, there’s pretty much a double team on me.”
Rush defense trending downward?
After allowing 100 net rushing yards just once in the first seven games of the season, the Bucs allowed more triple digits for the second time in the last three games.
The Saints, who ran for 112 yards in the teams’ first meeting on Oct. 6 in New Orleans, logged 109 rushing yards on Sunday. The Bucs allowed a season-high 145 rushing yards two weeks ago in Seattle.
“They have a good rush defense,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I felt like we had some good schemes. And our runners were downhill and that’s what you have to do against these guys.”
Running back Alvin Kamara led the Saints with 75 yards rushing on a 5.8 yard per carry average. Latavius Murray ran for 27 yards on 10 carries.
But are teams starting to find ways to move the ball on the ground against the league’s best run defense? Over the first seven games, the Bucs held opponents to an average of 68.6 rushing yards a game, a number that increased to 109.7 yards over the past three games.
Rookie Devin White anchors defense
Rookie middle linebacker and Louisiana native Devin White didn’t play in last month’s first meeting against the Saints, but registered a career-high 13 tackles on Sunday. That included 11 solo tackles. His previous high was eight.
It marked White’s first game against Drew Brees, who White grew up following.
“It was a great feeling playing against the hometown hero,” White said. “At the end of the day, he’s the enemy on the field against us. I like the rivalry, but I feel like we could have played together as a collective group on defense.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard