EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.
The initial feeling is to put Lavonte David in a dark closet used for concussion cases and forget about him.
But that would be dismissing everything else in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 18-17 loss Sunday to the New York Jets.
It's bad enough David will be remembered for making the game's boneheaded play for hitting quarterback Geno Smith out of bounds, giving the Jets 15 extra yards to kick their game-winning, 48-yard field goal with seconds left.
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"Without him, we wouldn't have even been in a situation to win the game," linebacker Mason Foster said. "We all made mistakes, and his just happened at a certain time, so there is going to be a spotlight on that. But in the NFL, you have to finish games. If you don't, you lose."
David had eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses, two pass deflections and an interception.
Catch your breath. The linebacker couldn't have done much more, but unfortunately he will be remembered for the mistake.
He took it hard, sitting like a statute on a stool in the Bucs' locker room as his teammates got ready to get out of Met Life Stadium.
"I guess I hit him out of bounds because they
called it. I wouldn't have hit him if I thought he was going out of bounds. He looked as if he was going to be running straight. I was surprised when they threw the flag," David said.
Smith didn't look like a rookie making his inaugural debut on his big play.
"It was bad on their part, on that guy's part, to cause that penalty, but it was good for us. It's good to get a win for the Jets. It's not about me," Smith said.
The Bucs made enough mistakes to fill up four games worth of stat sheets, but unfortunately David's gaff will stand alone.
A defensive holding call on third down led to a Jets 43-yard field goal in the first half. A holding call right after an unnecessary roughness penalty led to New York's only touchdown with 39 seconds left in the first half.
In the second half, cornerback Leonard Johnson had a senseless holding call on a potential receiver, setting the Jets up for a field goal, which gave them a 15-14 lead.
The Bucs had 13 penalties for 102 yards compared to New York's 6 for 45. And these Jets were supposed to be the undisciplined lot with the rookie quarterback who was going to melt under pressure.
Smith fumbled on his five-yard line, which gift wrapped the Bucs a touchdown and gave them a 14-5 first-half lead. He made other mistakes and was sacked five times but held his own.
The fumble gave the Bucs a chance to break the game open, but their offense couldn't take advantage of the opportunity.
"I don't think we are undisciplined," Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. "I have to watch the film and see what we did wrong. I don't want to be top five in penalties because you are not playing hard enough, but I don't want it to be like today. When you are playing hard and playing on the edge like we are, there are going to be some penalties."
The Bucs had nine penalties in the first half.
They didn't look like a disciplined team on their first possession of the game. They were forced to call a timeout, had two delay of game penalties and a false start.
"We've got to get that fixed. We can't allow delay of games and false start penalties," Schiano said.
Smith completed 24 of 38 passes for 256 yards with an interception and a touchdown. Freeman, in his fifth year, was 15 for 31 for 210 yards with a TD and a pick.
The Bucs were supposed to have better offense, but running back Doug Martin was held in check all game except for his 26-yard gain that set up Tampa Bay's last field goal.
"Our offense never had a rhythm, and Josh like the rest of the team, was on a roller coaster," Schiano said. "We had an opportunity to take control of the game in the first half and didn't. But there are a lot of reasons we lost. We had too many self-inflicted wounds in the first half."
A bad snap that sailed over the head of Freeman for a safety in the first quarter came back to haunt the Bucs.
"The clock was running down, and we needed to get (receiver) Mike (Williams) over to the other end of the formation. As I am leaning over, the ball goes flying past me," Freeman said.
It was that kind of day, and now the Bucs have Drew Brees and Tom Brady coming up.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.