Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) is hit late out of bounds by Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) drawing a personal could penalty and setting up a game winning field goal by the New York Jets during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

For Lavonte David, The Problem Was a Bad Call, Not a Bad Play for the Young Linebacker

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The best player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in this afternoons game was Lavonte David. The worst play (singular) of the game also went to Lavonte David. However, there are a couple of reasons why you should not blame David for this game.

First of all, I hate when people say, “it’s a team game, we could have made better plays earlier and we wouldn’t have been in that position.” I hate this because it’s simply a poor excuse that does not debunk a simple cause and effect. Cause: Penalty is called. Effect: Buccaneers lose. Cause 2: Penalty not called. Effect 2: Buccaneers have to guard against a hail mary to win the game (I approximate the chances at about 99.9%).

So, because of this, do believe that single play lost the Buccaneers the game. But it absolutely do not mean that I believe Lavonte is to blame.

Sep 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) throws a pass past the reach Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The first reason is the call was incorrect. The rule states, and I quote, “Players on defense are responsible for knowing when a runner has crossed the boundary line, except in doubtful cases where he might step on a boundary line and continue parallel with it.” Smith was in bounds (had not crossed the boundary line) when David began contacting him. In other words, by rule, the play was not a penalty. But I’m going to just leave that at that because many will disagree (with facts), and I’m not sure how I could put it any clearer.

My second reason is because that’s how Lavonte David plays, and that’s why he’s such a fantastic player.

No, stop right there, I’m not saying he’s a good player because he gets penalties that lose games.

I’m simply stating that David is relentless and will not stop attacking the until the play is over. Lavonte is constantly in the backfield, making hits over the middle, blowing up screens, the whole nine yards (or in this case an incorrect 15). He’s an excellent linebacker because he’s always around the ball.

In the case of the incorrect roughness penalty, Lavonte was simply trying to force Geno Smith out-of-bounds as soon as possible. David came about 30 yards to make that play. A play that was not malicious, not even stupid, and simply a standard football play. David’s job is to tackle the person with the ball, and he’s pretty darn good at it. In this instance, he tackled a player a bit too close to the sideline for the head honchos of the National Football (not sure we should still call it that) League.

Lavonte David is not to blame. Was he caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, yes. But he did not commit a penalty (by the rules), and he completed the play like any good coach would teach him to do. Unfortunately it will go down as one of the most devastating plays in the past decade of Buccaneer football. However, it does not take away from the excellent game David was having before the play, and the superstar player that he’s quickly turning into.

Get off Lavonte David’s back. He didn’t make a mistake, he didn’t do anything outside of the rules of football. He’s simply a victim of a group of zebras being strictly told to protect players with single numbers on their jerseys. It’s unfortunate that the Buccaneers lost the game, and I’m sure I’m as upset as you are. But the fact is, in this case, you must break away from the standard sports idiom. Hate the game, not the player.

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