It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got to 5-7 on the season and 2-1 in the division with a 21-18 win over the Carolina Panthers. It was a sloppy, ugly win in the midst of a torrential downpour while the Bucs were down to one inside linebacker.
However, there was a huge bright spot in the game - Mike Evans.
Let’s Pick Six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Mike Evans Is A Hall Of Famer. There’s no more room for questioning, doubt, or indifference. Mike Evans is a Hall of Fame wide receiver. Not only that, but he’s deserving of the rare honor of being a first ballot Hall of Fame wide receiver. No one has started a career with more consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Only one person has more 1,000 yard seasons in their career and that same person has the record for consecutive 1,000 yard seasons with eleven - and his name is Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game. Not first ballot Calvin Johnson, not first ballot Randy Moss, not first ballot Michael Irvin. Mike Evans has surpassed them all. Not only that, but Evans has made his mark as the greatest offensive player in the history of the Buccaneers franchise - and one could start to make the argument that he is on the cusp of surpassing the likes of Derrick Brooks, LeeRoy Selmon, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber, and every other player to put on orange or red in the city of Tampa as the greatest player in franchise history period. He’s accomplished this feat with three years of Tom Brady, sure, but beyond that he’s been the model of consistency and reliability when neither of those qualities could be found in the quarterbacks throwing him the ball - Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and now Baker Mayfield. Start getting this man’s measurements for the gold jacket he so rightfully deserves.
2.) More Than Meets The Eye? I’m not going to make excuses for Baker Mayfield’s performance on Sunday. It wasn’t good. He threw another interception on a pass intended for Mike Evans that appeared to slip out of his hand during the downpour, but many of his passes to open targets were well short of the mark. He also wasn’t nearly as mobile or evasive as we’ve seen throughout the season and you have to ask yourself one question - was the ankle a bigger factor than they were letting on? It seemed he lacked the ability to plant and drive through passes with that right foot like he normally does which only fuels the theory. And, if that was indeed the case, he needed to be open and honest about it - not repeat the mistakes he made in Cleveland trying to battle through an injury while struggling. Would Kyle Trask have fared any better? Maybe, but not guaranteed. One thing is a guarantee - if he plays like that next week, the Bucs will lose to the Falcons and open the door for them to waltz to the division crown and the playoffs. I could be wrong, but something doesn’t add up about what we’ve seen from Mayfield and what we witnessed on Sunday. Certainly something to monitor through the week.
3.) Stepping Up In A Big Way. Not enough has been - or probably will be - said about what J.J. Russell did on Sunday. After being elevated from the practice squad last week due to Lavonte David’s injury, then thrust into a starting role due to the losses of Devin White and SirVocea Dennis, then to see K.J. Britt go down - the only other inside linebacker and the one with the responsibility of the communication hemet. Russell was then left as the only remaining inside linebacker and the one taking over communication duties - and his performance in the face of all of that was more than admirable. He finished second on the team in tackles, had a sack, and a tackle for loss. Luckily for the Bucs, head coach Todd Bowles said both David and Dennis have a chance to play against the Falcons, but Russell’s ability to step up and be an impact guy under the circumstances is worthy of attention.
4.) I Just Don’t Get It. How can the Bucs scheme ways to get Mike Evans sixty receptions for over 1,000 yards in just twelve games while Chris Godwin seems to be the forgotten man? I get that he’s dealing with an injury, but he’s an elite talent that hasn’t produced anywhere close to the level he normally does. He had just three targets on Sunday and no catches. He wouldn’t have sniffed the stat sheet if it wasn’t for a 19-yard end around that went for a touchdown. Yet, Trey Palmer had five targets? Not disrespect to Palmer, but I think even he’d agree he’s not Godwin. Godwin is on pace for his fewest targets per game since 2018 and this is looking more and more like it will be his least productive season since his rookie year. Dave Canales has adjusted to maximize Evans, Rachaad White, and Cade Otton as the season has progressed yet Godwin seems stuck in place. He talked glowingly about the duo of Evans and Godwin in his introductory press conference and how excited he was to have both of them. Well, sure doesn’t seem that way, Dave. Godwin has been nearly invisible all season long.
5.) New Week, Same Nonsense. The self-inflicted wounds, yet again, are infuriating. The Bucs converted a key third down late in the first half only to see it negated by a holding and offensive pass interference on the same play. Then, on the next play, they get a false start. Instead of first-and-ten close to field goal range it ended up third-and-nineteen and the Bucs had to punt. Carlton Davis made a huge stop only to pick up the Carolina receiver and slam him into the ground after the whistle, earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and fifteen free yards for the Panthers and they would go on to score a field goal. No one loves beating the Bucs as much as the Bucs themselves. And at what point to stop blaming the players for their repeated mental mistakes and start pointing the finger at the coaches?
6.) Another Must Win. Taking on the Falcons this Sunday will decide the season for the Buccaneers. Win, and you’re in a tie for first place with the Falcons as both teams would be 6-7 on the seasons and 3-1 in the division. From there, you essentially control your own destiny. Lose and while it’s not over, you’ll need a lot of help. The Bucs need Lavonte, Devin, and SirVocea back in a bad way against the Falcons rushing attack while the Bucs know they left a lot of plays on the field in the first meeting and can absolutely beat the Falcons. All in all, we are probably going to look back on this game as the one that decided the season. The Bucs will still have their second games against the Panthers and Saints later on and have games against the Jaguars and Packers - who are red hot right now - and they’ll likely need to win one of those two in addition to the divisional games. However, just like last week, it’ll start with the upcoming game as the Bucs have entered the world of one week seasons to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Six Numbers To Consider (Mike Evans Edition)
102.4 - Yards per game Evans needs to average to reach his career high
1 - Touchdowns per week Evans needs to average to set a new career high
75 - Yards on Evans’ touchdown catch, the longest of his career
91 - Evans’ career receiving touchdowns, goot for 13th all-time (tied with Davante Adams and Isaac Bruce)
11 - Career games of over 150 yards receiving for Evans, fourth most in NFL history (tied with Torry Holt and Randy Moss)
3 - Players with 10 seasons of 1,000 receiving yards in their career - Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Mike Evans
Six Best Tweets (Also Mike Evans Edition)
a literal decade in the NFL without ever finishing below 1,000 yards is one of the most impressive things going in the league— David Helman (@davidhelman_) December 4, 2023
even in an era where passing stats have exploded, I think Mike Evans is a Hall of Famer when it's all said and done https://t.co/Jvp2ZkCNjl
Shout out to Mike Evans.— Peter Schrager (@PSchrags) December 4, 2023
He officially notched his 10th straight 1,000-Yard season today.
Super Bowl ring.
That’s a Hall of Fame resume and he isn’t done.
Mike Evans just went over the 1,000 yard mark for the 10th straight season to start his career. Only player in NFL history who can say that. pic.twitter.com/kbkrBjOAiP— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) December 4, 2023
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) San Francisco 49ers - Uh, wow. That was a statement
2.) Baltimore Ravens - Might be the best and hottest team in the AFC
3.) Philadelphia Eagles - They’ll bounce back. Don’t expect something like that to happen again
4.) Dallas Cowboys - Ugh. I hate that they’re on this list
5.) Kansas City Chiefs - Could...could they actually be kinda, well, not good?
17.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Got a win shorthanded, but have a long way to go