Eric Weddle was only a fraction of a second ahead.
Tom Brady fired a pass to Mike Evans on fourth down that would have given the Buccaneers a first down and saw the ball inside the red zone, but the star wide receiver couldn’t catch the pass. However, just a fraction of a second after the failed completion, the Rams safety stepped in and landed a helmet-to-helmet hit on Evans that earned a penalty.
As the referee explained, in a lengthy on-field call that included the use of “however” and “therefore,” because the hit occurred after the pass fell incomplete on fourth down, the penalty was assessed from where the Rams were. scheduled to take possession after fumble on downs.
Brady kept the Buccaneers moving with a 13-yard pass on the first play, but the Buccaneers were forced to try to convert on 4 and 14 from the Rams 36-yard line with 12:28 remaining in the game. The future Hall of Fame quarterback passed the ball to Evans at the 5-yard line, but Evans was unable to catch the ball with one hand before Weddle hit him.
The NFL rule book states that if a defender lowers their helmet to initiate contact, it is an automatic first down. But by the time Weddle made contact with Evans, the ball had already hit the ground. The rule book says that when a foul occurs and the ball becomes dead at the same time, it is a dead-ball foul.
The Buccaneers seemed to be gaining momentum after falling behind in the game 27-3. Tampa Bay scored a touchdown with 12 seconds left in the third quarter, and immediately forced a three-and-out from the Rams in the divisional round matchup.
Brady fumbled on the first play of the series, but the Rams lost a fumble on their first play when Matthew Stafford wasn’t ready for center, and he went out into the backfield before being recovered by Tampa Bay. That gave Brady a chance to turn it into a one-touchdown game, leading to his incomplete against Evans.
Weddle has been out of the league for a while before the Rams signed him before the start of the playoffs. He announced his retirement from the NFL in February 2020 and last appeared in a game for the Rams in 2019. Los Angeles found itself in need of the former Pro Bowl wide receiver after losing safety Jordan Fuller to a career-ending injury. the season before the start of the postseason. .