It’s never fun to lose a game in dominant fashion, but NFL officials won’t give players any leeway with the rules because of hurt feelings.
That is especially true when it comes to throwing punches. Late in the third quarter of the Buccaneers’ 38-3 blowout of the Bears on Sunday, Chicago defensive tackle Bilal Nichols threw a closed-fist punch at Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen. The result was an ejection for Nichols, a gain of 2 yards — half the distance to the goal — on the personal foul and a Tampa Bay first down.
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Tampa Bay was again driving down the field with ease and had reached the Chicago 7. Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones rushed up the middle 3 yards to the 4 as another score seemed inevitable. Nichols and Jensen got into a scuffle while coming out of the pile, leading to Nichols throwing the punch.
At first, Nichols didn’t even know he had been disqualified from the game. He stayed out on the line until an official came over to tell him he needed to head to the locker room.
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Nichols and the Bears certainly had plenty for which to feel disappointed on Sunday. The Buccaneers had scored touchdowns on five of 10 drives to that point, while four of the Bears’ drives at the time had ended in turnovers.
Not to mention, despite the hefty lead with 2:12 left in the third quarter, Brady and the Buccaneers’ starters were still on the field and were still trying to score while up 35-3. After Nichols was ejected, the Buccaneers ran four plays — including a try on fourth down — to push the ball across the goal line, but they could not score.
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Given how the game was going, it was probably only a matter of time until the Bears started resting their defensive starters anyway. Nichols just got a head start to the locker room.