The NFC South is noted for the intensity of its rivalries.
Take, for example, Sunday's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.
Early in the fourth quarter of the 20-10 Bucs win, things got heated after Bucs quarterback Tom Brady and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore exchanged words. With the game tied at 3-3, Brady threw an incomplete deep pass to Scotty Miller on third-and-5 with Lattimore in coverage.
Brady had words with Lattimore after the play, and Lattimore responded with a dismissive gesture. Brady barked back at Lattimore before Bucs running back Leonard Fournette shoved the Saints cornerback. Chaos ensued from there.
Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore were both ejected after this scuffle 😳pic.twitter.com/kNrU3QDTgS
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) September 18, 2022
Bucs receiver Mike Evans, who had left the field of play to the Tampa Bay sideline, ran back onto the field and shoved Lattimore to the turf. Players from both teams then jumped into a pile as the incident escalated. Pushing and shoving carried on from there before officials were able to rein things in. Former Bucs coach Bruce Arians — now a member of the front office — watched from the sideline.
Once the dust settled, officials called offsetting personal fouls on Evans and Lattimore. Both players were ejected.
Lattimore, Evans have been here before
Evans and Lattimore have history. During a 2017 Saint-Bucs game, then-Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston poked Lattimore in the helmet after a verbal confrontation. Lattimore responded by shoving Winston. Like on Sunday, Evans then jumped into the fray and shoved Lattimore to the turf. Evans wasn't ejected that day, but the NFL later handed him a one-game suspension for the blind-side shove.
Suspensions could be in play once again after Sunday's fracas.
The Bucs answered the melee with a 17-7 fourth quarter edge secure the win. After the game, players and officials answered questions about the incident.
'It gets spicy when you come to New Orleans'
“It gets spicy when you come to New Orleans,” Mike Evans on his ejection. pic.twitter.com/s6aBDXQRA5
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) September 18, 2022
"It gets spicy when you come to New Orleans," Evans told reporters after the game. "They're a good team, physical team. ...
"All I see is Lattimore punch Lenny in the face or something like that. And push Tom. I just pushed him."
Evans doesn't anticipate a suspension like he faced in 2017.
"That was really a cheap shot, and this wasn't," Evans continued.
Brady, meanwhile, opted to talk football rather than fisticuffs with generic postgame comments.
Video: Tom Brady says the fight wasn’t a spark as much as the Bucs executing in the fourth quarter for a much-needed win over the Saints. pic.twitter.com/aMwN6TnVZ6
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) September 18, 2022
"Defense played great again," Brady said. "Line fought hard, all the guys fought hard. Really tough team. Really well-coached. A team we really struggle with. So it was a good win."
Why wasn't Fournette ejected?
Lattimore, meanwhile, didn't speak with reporters. NFL officiating executive Walt Anderson did. He explained the ejections and the perspective from the NFL officiating headquarters, which was in contact with in-game officials to make decisions on the ejections.
"The officials had flags for both of those players," Anderson said via a pool report. "So, we actually reviewed those actions and determined that the actions by both of those players did rise to the level of flagrant and then therefore disqualification."
He also explained why Fournette wasn't ejected after his shove of Lattimore sparked the chaos. Fournette wasn't flagged for a penalty for his role in the incident.
“Rule 19 allows us to end up looking at the potential for other players to be disqualified,” Anderson continued. “We just did not feel like those actions rose to the level of disqualification.”
The Bucs and Saints play again in Week 13 on a Dec. 5 "Monday Night Football" matchup.