|Williams' catch doesn't count. (Fox via SBNation)|
The Buccaneers have a new coach and a new rough-and-tumble disposition but they still suffer from what has plagued them for most of their existence: losing. Sunday's game against division-rival New Orleans started out promising; Tampa Bay took a 14-0 first-quarter lead. But nearly three quarters later, the Bucs trailed 35-28 with five seconds remaining and the ball on the Saints' 9-yard line.
Quarterback Josh Freeman took the snap, scrambled around the pocket as the clock wound down to zero and eventually found wide receiver Mike Williams in the back of the end zone for the win … except there was a penalty on the play -- against Tampa Bay.
The call: illegal touch on Williams. As you can see it in the image above, Williams was pushed out of bounds by cornerback Patrick Robinson, which makes him an ineligible receiver.
Via Article 6, section (d) of the NFL rulebook: "All offensive players other than those identified in Article 5 ... are ineligible to catch a legal or illegal forward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage, including: (d) An eligible receiver who has been out of bounds prior to or during a pass, even if he has re-established himself inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands."
The exception: "If an eligible receiver is forced out of bounds by a foul by a defender, including illegal contact, defensive holding, or defensive pass interference, he will become eligible to legally touch the pass (without prior touching by another eligible receiver or defender) as soon as he re-establishes himself inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands."
That exception might lead you to wonder: "So why in god's name wasn't Robinson flagged for illegal contact?" Mike Pereira, the NFL's former VP of officiating, provided the answer seconds after the game ended:
In TB not illegal contact because the QB was out of the pocket and you can't come back in and be the first to touch.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 21, 2012
Freeman was out of the pocket, so there's no illegal contact. Game over.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.