Kenny Vaccaro is still not sure what he did wrong on a key play at the end of the first half.
Vaccaro came free on a blitz, found Jameis Winston and attacked, diving for the quarterback’s feet as Winston released the ball, forcing an incompletion.
Then the flag came. Vaccaro was flagged for roughing the passer, a flag thrown because the safety made contact with Winston’s legs. Vaccaro, who dove in an attempt to get a sack, is unsure what he should have done differently.
“I don’t know what they want us to do in that situation when the quarterback retreats,” Vaccaro said. “I don’t know. I guess don’t sack him next time.”
Vaccaro may have a case. Under NFL rule, no defensive player may hit the quarterback “flagrantly in the area of the knee(s) or below,” and FOX rules analyst Mike Pereira took issue with the call during Sunday’s broadcast, saying there was no forcible contact to the knee and that both of Winston’s feet were off the ground.
The call loomed huge at the end of the first half. If Vaccaro had not been flagged, Tampa Bay faced a 3rd-and-6 at the New Orleans 48 with 52 seconds left. Instead, the Buccaneers got a first down at the Saints’ 33, and Winston hit Vincent Jackson for a 15-yard touchdown pass two plays later.
Vaccaro, who finished with a team-high nine tackles and broke up a pass, said he didn’t let the play affect him moving forward.
“I really can’t do anything else,” Vaccaro said. “Just play the next play.”