With 15 seconds left in Tampa Bay's season opener against the Jets, Lavonte David had to be feeling pretty good.
The Buccaneers' second-year linebacker had kept the pressure on Geno Smith all game. In the second quarter, he intercepted the rookie quarterback. And late in the fourth, he sacked him on third down.
So with time running out on the Jets Sunday, David figured he had a good feel for Smith. And he was determined not to let Smith scramble up the right sideline and get the Jets into field-goal range.
As Smith ran from his 45-yard line to the Tampa Bay 45, David gave him a little push. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the push came after Smith had stepped out of bounds with seven seconds left. The resulting 15-yard personal foul positioned the Jets for Nick Folk's 48-yard field goal with two seconds left, which gave them an 18-17 win.
"They just called the flag. I don't know what to say," David said as he sat alone in front of his locker. "I guess I hit him late."
Although David seemed stunned by his sudden reversal of fortune, his teammates and coach were supportive and generally forgiving of his gaffe.
"He's a great player," middle linebacker Mason Foster said. "Without him, we wouldn't have been in a position to win the game. You don't say nothing to him. Stuff like that happens all the time. He made a lot of plays to keep us in our game."
Coach Greg Schiano said David was just playing the type of hard defense that they have come to expect from him.
"It was a tough one because earlier in the game, their QB hurt us with a couple of scrambles," Schiano said. "Lavonte plays at a high speed and all- out, and unfortunately, that happened . . . He's a great player. He made one penalty."
At one really bad time.