ff threw incomplete on two
New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore sat on the turf with his hands on his knees
It was a stark contrast to last November, when Evans caught one pass for 13 yards and received a one-game suspension after blindsiding Lattimore during a scuffle in the Saints' 30-10 victory at the Superdome.
This time, the Buccaneers' offense socked the Saints play after play after play. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for a career-high 417 yards and four touchdowns while compiling a nearly perfect quarterback rating in Tampa Bay's 48-40 victory in New Orleans on Sunday.
Evans, covered primarily by Lattimore, was targeted seven times and caught all seven throws for 147 yards. DeSean Jackson added five receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a new feeling for Lattimore, the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
"It isn't going to get me down," he said. "Everybody gets beat. We needed to get slapped in our face one good time to see we're not on a level we think we're on."
New Orleans, the defending NFC South champion, looked like the Super Bowl contender it expected to be on its opening drive, cruising 71 yards in six plays for a touchdown to go ahead 7-0.
Then, the defense took the field.
Jackson caught an easy 58-yard touchdown pass against a busted coverage on the Bucs' fourth play
The Bucs punted only once, and that came because Fitzpatrick overthrew a wide-open Chris Godwin after cornerback Ken Crawley fell. The only other times they did not score were on a missed field goal and when Fitzpatrick took a knee to run out the clock at the end of the first half and the fourth quarter.
"We have to wipe our minds clean of this catastrophe that just happened," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "We have to push forward."
The Saints never sacked Fitzpatrick. He threw for scores of 58, 50, 36 and 9 yards, completed five more passes for at least 20 yards and had another one_a 65-yarder down the sideline to Adam Humphries_negated by an illegal block.
Fitzpatrick, starting because Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games under the NFL's personal conduct clause, had a quarterback rating of 156.2, just shy of the maximum 158.3.
"We couldn't stop anything," Lattimore said after New Orleans lost its season opener for the fifth straight season. "That's not going to get it done."
Drew Brees and the Saints offense matched Tampa Bay for a while, going ahead 17-14 on a 28-yard pass to Ted Ginn. But the Bucs kept scoring while New Orleans committed two costly turnovers.
Evans' long touchdown on Lattimore gave Tampa Bay a 41-24 lead with 2:58 left in the second quarter. He caught the ball at the 12 as Lattimore dived for him
"I have to be there," Lattimore said. "I'm all on an island by myself with no help. I'm a shutdown corner. I'm going to be frustrated every time somebody catches a pass on me."
There was plenty of frustration to go around on a day New Orleans wasted 485 yards of offense. After the Saints scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions to close the gap to 48-40, Fitzpatrick scrambled for 12 yards on third-and-11, allowing the Bucs to run out the clock.
It was Tampa Bay's eighth conversion in 13 third-down opportunities.
"Take your pick," Saints coach Sean Payton said when asked what went wrong defensively. "We did not hurry the passer. Guys were open. Third downs were awful. They had over 500 yards. We didn't disrupt the timing to any element of the passing game and (had) too many penalties.
"I can't think of any positives."
Delanie Walker held the ball in the end zone and waited for his teammates to celebrate.
They came from every direction: Left, right and even the bench.
The Tennessee Titans tight end caught two touchdown passes, including an 18-yarder with 1:31 remaining , and the AFC beat the NFC 24-23 in a rain-soaked Pro Bowl on Sunday.
Teammates mobbed him. Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Browns, Baltimore safety Eric Weddle, Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin were among those who left the sideline to congratulate Walker.
”That’s as real as it gets in football,” Oakland quarterback Derek Carr said. ”You always want to win
The winning team got $64,000 each, double the losing team’s share.
”You’ve got guys on the sidelines saying, `I need that money,”’ Carr said.
Carr completed 11 of 15 passes for 115 yards and connected with Walker on a skinny post for the winning score.
Denver’s Von Miller sealed the victory when he caused and recovered a fumble by Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Miller posed problems all afternoon for the NFC.
”I go all out all the time,” Miller said.
Although the game was more two-hand touch than hard-nosed football, there were plenty of defensive gems.
Arizona’s Patrick Peterson had two interceptions. Minnesota’s Harrison Smith returned a pick for a score. And two players took exception to one aggressive takedown. Tennessee left tackle Taylor Lewan and Oakland guard Kelechi Osemele had words for New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan after he drilled Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle.
None of those plays compared to Miller’s game-clinching strip-sack.
”I knew Von was going to do it,” Broncos teammate Aqib Talib said. ”When it’s clutch time, crunch time, that’s what he does. We needed a play, and Von went and did what he does.”
The AFC overcame a 17-point halftime deficit and four turnovers to win the annual all-star game.
Heavy downpours were partly to blame for the sloppiness.
The rain prompted some fans to leave Camping World Stadium and others to break out ponchos. It also caused players on both sidelines to scramble to protect cellphones.
Each of the AFC quarterbacks – Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Kansas City’s Alex Smith and Carr – threw interceptions. And Kansas City returner Tyreek Hill muffed a punt.
Carr made up for his mistake by completing a 12-yard pass to Miami’s Jarvis Landry on a fourth-and-7 play in the waning minutes. He found Walker down the middle three plays later.
Walker was voted the offensive MVP, and Miller was the defensive MVP. Both got luxury cars to go along with trophies.
”He’s a Super Bowl MVP and now a Pro Bowl MVP as well,” Talib said of Miller. ”Another accolade for him. The more accolades you get, the more people expect from you.”
The NFC looked like it would coast to a victory early as two Minnesota Vikings made big plays a week earlier than they wanted (Super Bowl) and a week later than they needed (NFC championship game).
Adam Thielen had a touchdown reception on the opening drive, and Smith returned an interception 79 yards for a score as the NFC opened up a 20-3 lead at halftime.
But the NFC failed to hold onto the lead. Goff threw incomplete on two fourth-down passes late as Saints coach Sean Payton tried to keep drives alive and milk the clock.
That was the opening Carr, Walker and Miller needed.
”I think it makes it more exciting for the fans for us to put on a show like that and go down to the last minute and win the game,” said Walker, who also caught a 4-yard TD pass from Smith in the third.
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