New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore sat on the turf with his hands on his knees Mason Rudolph Color Rush Jersey , disconsolate as he watched Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans coast into the end zone after beating him for a 50-yard touchdown.
It was a stark contrast to last November, when Evans caught one pass for 13 yards and received a one-game suspension after blindsiding Lattimore during a scuffle in the Saints' 30-10 victory at the Superdome.
This time, the Buccaneers' offense socked the Saints play after play after play. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for a career-high 417 yards and four touchdowns while compiling a nearly perfect quarterback rating in Tampa Bay's 48-40 victory in New Orleans on Sunday.
Evans, covered primarily by Lattimore, was targeted seven times and caught all seven throws for 147 yards. DeSean Jackson added five receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a new feeling for Lattimore, the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
"It isn't going to get me down," he said. "Everybody gets beat. We needed to get slapped in our face one good time to see we're not on a level we think we're on."
New Orleans, the defending NFC South champion, looked like the Super Bowl contender it expected to be on its opening drive, cruising 71 yards in six plays for a touchdown to go ahead 7-0.
Then, the defense took the field.
Jackson caught an easy 58-yard touchdown pass against a busted coverage on the Bucs' fourth play, setting the tone.
The Bucs punted only once, and that came because Fitzpatrick overthrew a wide-open Chris Godwin after cornerback Ken Crawley fell. The only other times they did not score were on a missed field goal and when Fitzpatrick took a knee to run out the clock at the end of the first half and the fourth quarter.
"We have to wipe our minds clean of this catastrophe that just happened," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "We have to push forward."
The Saints never sacked Fitzpatrick. He threw for scores of 58, 50, 36 and 9 yards Alex Tuch Jersey Kids , completed five more passes for at least 20 yards and had another one_a 65-yarder down the sideline to Adam Humphries_negated by an illegal block.
Fitzpatrick, starting because Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games under the NFL's personal conduct clause, had a quarterback rating of 156.2, just shy of the maximum 158.3.
"We couldn't stop anything," Lattimore said after New Orleans lost its season opener for the fifth straight season. "That's not going to get it done."
Drew Brees and the Saints offense matched Tampa Bay for a while, going ahead 17-14 on a 28-yard pass to Ted Ginn. But the Bucs kept scoring while New Orleans committed two costly turnovers.
Evans' long touchdown on Lattimore gave Tampa Bay a 41-24 lead with 2:58 left in the second quarter. He caught the ball at the 12 as Lattimore dived for him, but could not catch him.
"I have to be there," Lattimore said. "I'm all on an island by myself with no help. I'm a shutdown corner. I'm going to be frustrated every time somebody catches a pass on me."
There was plenty of frustration to go around on a day New Orleans wasted 485 yards of offense. After the Saints scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions to close the gap to 48-40, Fitzpatrick scrambled for 12 yards on third-and-11, allowing the Bucs to run out the clock.
It was Tampa Bay's eighth conversion in 13 third-down opportunities.
"Take your pick," Saints coach Sean Payton said when asked what went wrong defensively. "We did not hurry the passer. Guys were open. Third downs were awful. They had over 500 yards. We didn't disrupt the timing to any element of the passing game and (had) too many penalties.
"I can't think of any positives."
The ”Death Lineup” breathed new life into the Golden State Warriors.
It was yet another reminder: In the NBA playoffs, where even a brief downward slide can be enough to end a season, even the best teams won’t hesitate when they feel a need to shake up their starting lineups.
Desperate times in the first round sent Cleveland to desperate lineup measures. Toronto, the team that finished with the NBA’s second-best regular season record, sought a spark by changing its starting five against the Cavs for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Utah showed Houston a new look Sunday in Game 4 of their West semifinal matchup, and while the Jazz slowed the high-powered Rockets at times they still fell into a 3-1 series deficit.
And then there’s the Warriors Adidas Taylor Hall Jersey , who were coming off a big loss in Game 3 against New Orleans so they put their five best players – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green – on the floor Sunday to start a game for the first time all season. The result was a rout , one that allowed the Warriors to head home with a 3-1 lead in their series against the Pelicans.
”Anytime we’ve been in any danger over the years, we’ve sort of gone to this lineup,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ”The lineup worked or whatever, but it’s not about the lineup. It’s really not.”
All due respect to Kerr, he might be overstating that one.
Golden State’s starting five on Sunday – some call it ”The Death Lineup” because of how opponents tend to succumb against it, others prefer ”Hamptons Five” because Curry, Thompson, Iguodala and Green were the players who went to the Hamptons two summers ago in an effort to lure Durant to the Warriors – was absolutely dominant. NBA.com charted them as being on the floor together for 18 minutes, during which they outscored the Pelicans 52-26.
Every other Warriors lineup used over the other 30 minutes played the Pelicans even, 66-66.
”We got momentum on our side really early,” Curry said. ”Every single person on the floor in that lineup is a playmaker. And so we have multiple options and just look for the best shot on every possession.”
It wasn’t exactly an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass move by the Warriors.
But these NBA playoffs have seen some of those as well.
Cleveland, which has a chance to win its way back into the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth consecutive year on Monday night if it can finish off a sweep of Toronto Alex Cappa Color Rush Jersey , almost didn’t even get to this round. Facing a win-or-else Game 7 in the first round, the Cavaliers put LeBron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson – the four holdovers from their 2016 NBA championship team – out to start with Kyle Korver.
It was their first time starting together this season. James survived cramps, scored 45, and the Cavaliers held off Indiana to advance. They haven’t lost since.
”All five of us, we knew what we could get out of each other,” James said afterward. ”We’ve been in situations before. We’ve played in big games before. That’s a comfort.”
Toronto could use some of that comfort.
Since James entered the league, only one No. 1 seed has gotten swept in the conference playoffs – Atlanta, in 2015, by James and the Cavaliers. Toronto shook up its lineup in Game 3 on Saturday night by trying Fred VanVleet instead of Serge Ibaka, but the Raptors fell into the dreaded 3-0 series deficit when James made a running bank shot at the buzzer for the win.
Everything is on the table for the Raptors now.
”You realize how big it is in this moment to get a victory,” Raptors star DeMar DeRozan said.
Sometimes, even subtle changes pay off nicely.
Boston inserted role player Semi Ojeleye into its starting lineup before Game 5 of the Celtics‘ first-round series against Milwaukee. Ojeleye’s role: Find a way to slow down Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Ojeleye was on the floor to help open the next three games, the first starts of his rookie season. He scored 10 points in those games, though none of that mattered much to the Celtics. His primary role was defense http://www.saintsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-tre_quan-smith-jersey , since Antetokounmpo averaged 27.8 points on 62 percent shooting in the first four games of the series.
With Ojeleye in the lineup, Antetokounmpo averaged 23 points on 50 percent shooting in the last three games – and seemed particularly out of sorts in Game 5, the first one where the Celtics made the change.
Boston won that night by five points, and wound up surviving the series in seven games.
”He did a great job,” Antetokounmpo said, tipping his cap to Ojeleye. ”He played hard. He competed.”
And that’s the secret, Kerr said. It’s not about the names, he insists. It’s about how well they perform.
It’s become a bit of a running joke around the Warriors that Kerr won’t reveal his starting lineups until he absolutely has to, no matter how many times he is asked.
But this time, after the results on Sunday, Kerr isn’t holding his cards to his chest. Game 5 is on Tuesday night. The ”Death Lineup” starts.
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