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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

10 Mike Evans Catches that Made History

A closer look at the catch that put Mike Evans over 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons, with help from the man himself

Mike Evans knew he was close. Baker Mayfield knew it, too, though he was getting conflicting reports as to how close. The point was, one more pass was probably going to do it.

Evans, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 10th-year wide receiver, had 850 receiving yards through the first 11 games of the 2023 season. This was significant because Evans had famously surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first nine NFL seasons. No one had ever done that before. With six games still to play, a 10th straight 1,000-yard campaign seemed inevitable, even if it might take a few games to get there.

Evans? He decided to just take care of the whole thing in Week 13 against the Carolina Panthers, a team he has routinely tortured through the years. With a career-long 75-yard touchdown catch already in the books, Evans had 144 yards on the day when the Buccaneers got the ball back with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. This was a topic of much interest on Tampa Bay's bench.

"Yeah, we all knew," said Evans. "Everybody was talking about it on the sideline. Nowadays, you see the stats everywhere. So, yeah, we knew."

The Buccaneers were trying to protect a slim three-point lead, so there were more important issues at hand than a stat line. On the other hand, Evans was by far the Bucs' most productive offensive weapon on this afternoon, so Mayfield could focus on winning the game and make a point of getting the football to Evans at the same time. He took care of business on the very first play of the drive.

"We knew before the last drive when he was about four or six yards away," said Mayfield. "Everybody kept saying different numbers. So, that first pass play – they probably would have had to double cover him for me to not throw to him. But, you know, he made a great play."

The drive started at the Bucs' 31. Evans lined up wide to the left, and with cornerback C.J. Henderson playing nine yards off he ran a simple little out to the sideline. Mayfield made only one read and threw in less than two seconds, and Evans caught it at the 31 with Henderson closing in. Had he been tackled there, Evans would have hit the 1,000-yard mark on the dot, but he spun out of Henderson's grasp and tacked on five more yards for a gain of 11. That put him at 155 yards on the day and 1,005 on the season (he would add one more seven-yard catch to finish the day at 1,012).

As Evans noted in his first comments after the game, the most important thing to him was that the Buccaneers did hold on to win, 21-18. That became part of the story about the day and the moment that he surpassed 1,000 yards in his 10th NFL season. He's had a lot of such days and moments…nine more to be exact. They all have stories, and in the week following the Carolina game, Evans took a walk down memory lane with a Microsoft Surface tablet and a pre-loaded list of highlights.

Here's a look at the catch that put him over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his 10 seasons. So far.

2014: Week 17, vs. New Orleans, December 28

The Buccaneers lost to the Saints, 23-20, to conclude a 2-14 season in Evans' rookie campaign. Evans came into the game with 997 yards, so there was little worry about him making it to 1,000, and in fact he took care of it on the first play of the game. Josh McCown threw him a short pass out to the left and Evans caught it for a gain of eight. It was good to get that play out of the way early because the Buccaneers rested many of their starters after halftime. Evans had 54 yards in the game for 1,051 on the season. Vincent Jackson caught one pass for 11 yards to also go over the mark, as he finished with 1,002.

Mike Says: "They wanted to get me and VJax at 1,000 yards. I think I was, like, six yards off or something like that. I ran a hitch route versus press against my guy, T-Fred (Terrence Frederick). We went to Texas A&M together. This was the last game of the year, and I was playing really hard. I was trying to win this. I was trying to have a good game, too, because I knew Odell [Beckham] had sewed up the Rookie of the Year but I wanted to make it interesting."


2015: Week 15, at St. Louis, December 17

In his second season, Evans got the job done with two games to spare, this time in the midst of a big day. He came into the game with 889 receiving yards, and thus needed 111 to hit the mark. He would end up with 157 yards on nine catches in a 31-23 loss in St. Louis. The one that put him over the top came early in the fourth quarter and it kick-started one of the seven longest touchdown drives in team history. With the Bucs backed up by a punt at their own two-yard line, Jameis Winston threw a 20-yard strike to Evans, and then another 30-yarder to him on the next play. The first one was the one that got Evans to quadruple digits. A 47-yard pass to wide receiver Donteea Dye followed on the third snap of the drive, leading to Winston's three-yard touchdown pass to Luke Stocker. Evans finished the 2015 campaign with 1,206 receiving yards.

Mike Says: "I was 'Big Mike' right there. This particular day I was probably about 235 to 240. There's a lot I remember about this game – Thursday night game. This was the (Color Rush) 'Mustard versus Ketchup' game. They were promoting 'Ride Along 2.' Kevin Hart and Ice Cube were there, so I wanted to have a big game because they were there."


2016: Week 12, vs. Seattle, November 27

For the first time, Evans got to 1,000 yards before the month of December. This was also the first time he got it during a victory, as Tampa Bay held off the Seahawks, 14-5. He had 916 yards through 10 games of the season and was particularly hot in November with three 100-yard outings. This was the third of those three, and he came into the game needing 84 to get to 1,000. He would finish with 104, and the catch that put him over the mark was about as simple as a route could be. Facing off coverage on second-and-10, Evans just took a couple steps upfield, then cut back directly towards quarterback Jameis Winston on a screen. He caught the pass just a few yards past the line but was able to run for a gain of eight. The drive would end in a missed field goal. Evans finished the season with 1,321 yards.

Mike Says: "Seahawks, Bucs, Legion of Boom. I was a big fan of Richard Sherman. Screen put the ball in my left hand and boom, drop the shoulder on my boy Richard. Oh man, he's one of my favorite defensive players to ever play. He still made the tackle, though."


2017: Week 17, vs. New Orleans, December 31

This one went down to the wire, in part because Evans missed a midseason game due to as suspension. He had 946 yards coming into the season finale, and by halftime he only had one catch for 12 yards. The Bucs were trailing the Saints by one point when they got the ball back with 1:58 left in regulation. Winston had to convert a fourth-and-10 with a 12-yard completion to Cam Brate to keep the drive alive, then he quickly threw a pair of nine-yard passes to Evans. Finally, on first-and-10 from the Bucs' 35, Evans lined up out to the left and was covered by long-time rival Marshon Lattimore. He ran a corner route and Winston dropped in a perfect pass to him over Lattimore and just before the sideline for a gain of 16. That put his final season total at 1,001 receiving yards. He did have one more catch in the game, a two-point conversion on that drive after Chris Godwin scored the game-winner on a 39-yard pass. It was Godwin's first career touchdown, and the Bucs took the decision, 31-24.

Mike Says: "It's two-man, inside release…everybody's tired. They're even tired. Good ball by Jameis. It's an okay route. I'm so tired and I look kind of lazy right here. He looks tired as well. It was the last game of the year. We were going two-minute on this drive, trying to score."


2018: Week 12, vs. San Francisco, November 25

This was the season in which Evans set a career high and established a new Bucs' single-season record with 1,524 receiving yards. So, unsurprisingly, he got to 1,000 well before the season was nearing an end. Evans had 957 yards through the first 10 games of the season, and he blew past the 1,000-yard mark with 116 yards in a 27-9 win over the 49ers. On the Bucs' second drive of the game, Winston hit him down the right side for a gain of 42, which put him just one yard shy of the goal. Later in the first quarter, the Bucs faced a third-and-eight at their own 29-yard line and Evans went in motion from left to right. He then ran a hitch down the right seam and snatched a high, hard pass out of the air for a gain of 13.

Mike Says: " Right here, I knew. Most of these I knew [about the 1,000 yards], except the 2017 one. I knew it was going to be close and I would have to get it on that drive."


2019: Week 12, at Atlanta, November 24

By actual date, this was the earliest Evans has gotten to 1,000 yards in a season so far, and that was a good thing because a hamstring injury caused him to miss the last three games of the season. He was on pace to finish the season with more than 1,400 yards but ended up with 1,157 through 13 games. Heading into a Week 12 game in Atlanta he had his season total at 993 yards, so he had made it to 1,000 by halftime. The catch that put him over came on a third-and-nine at the Atlanta 47. Evans lined up in the left slot and ran directly down the numbers before pulling into a hitch around the 35, which gained a ton of separation. Winston's pass was on target and Evans hauled it in for a gain of 17, extending a drive that would end in, humorously, a one-yard touchdown catch by 350-pound defensive lineman Vita Vea. The Bucs won the game, 35-22.

Mike Says: "This was one of Chris's best games, statistically for sure. I think he had 170-plus, two touchdowns this game, and we both eclipsed 1,000 yards, our first time doing it together. I think we've done it three times together. This was a really good year for me and Chris."


2020: Week 17, vs. Atlanta, January 3, 2021

This was probably the most dramatic finish of all Evans' 1,000-yard chases so far, by a hair over the 2017 season. In this case, he was at 960 yards coming into the last game of the regular season, so the target wasn't far off. The problem was a little slip on the end zone grass near the end of the first quarter. The Bucs had the ball in Atlanta territory, trying to build on a 7-3 lead, and Evans already had two catches for 26 yards. Evans ran a downfield crossing route from left to right through zone defense and Tom Brady hit him near the left hashmarks for a gain of 20. That put the ball at the Atlanta 11 and it put Mike's season total at 1,006. Mission accomplished. Brady tried to go back to Evans on the very next plan on a slant into the end zone on right side. The route was perfect and popped him wide open and Brady found him just across the goal line, but Evans slipped as he rotated his body a bit to catch the pass and ended up hyperextending his knee. He left the game and did not return, though he was able to play in the first round of the playoffs the following week. The Bucs, of course, went on to win Super Bowl LV.

Mike Says: "I knew right here, too, and Tom did as well. He said, 'We're going to try to have to get you this thousand early. This is 2020, one of my favorite years. I get up a little more aggressively than I usually do because I knew that was for the record to start a career, seven straight."


2021: Week 18, vs. Carolina, January 9

By date, this was the latest Evans ever got to the mark, thanks to the NFL's new 17-game, 18-week schedule. One could say the extended schedule helped out in keeping the streak alive, but Evans did only play 16 games in the season. This was the first oif three straight seasons that Evans got over 1,000 yards in a home game against the Panthers. The Bucs blew out their division rivales, 41-17 and Evans had six catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. The catch that put him over 1,000 was perhaps the least dramatic on this list, just a five-yard hitch out wide to the right, thrown by Brady, that was the first play of a three-and-out. Evans hurt his wrist on the play and came out of the game but was able to return on the next drive. He finished the season with 1,035 receiving yards.

Mike Says: "That's how I view it – if I just do my job, run the route I'm supposed to and lock in on the ball, then I should get it. In the moment, I don't overstress anything. I just play my game, and then whatever happens, happens."


2022: Week 17, vs. Carolina, January 1, 2023

Though this game came in Week 17 it was not the season finale with the new 18-week schedule. It would be Evans' final game of the 2022 regular season, however, as the Bucs beat Carolina, 30-24, to clinch the NFC South title, then rested most of their starters the following weekend in Atlanta. Evans came into the game needing 83 yards to get there, and he got way more than that. The Bucs got down early, 14-0, but Evans fueled a comeback with touchdown catches of 63, 57 and 30 yards, all on go routes thrown beautifully down the right sideline by Brady. He would finish the day with 207 receiving yards, the second-highest single-game total of his career. It was the first and longest of those three touchdowns that put him over 1,000, as he already had three catches for 24 yards before that big play. Without adding to his totals in Week 18, Evans finished the 2022 season with 1,124 receiving yards.

Mike Says: "This is probably the best one to get to a thousand right here. We knew they were sitting on routes. I told Tom on the sideline, 'Man, they're sitting at our depth on routes. Let's take the top off.' He said, 'Alright.' I just eat up all the cushion, he throws a dime and I run under it. Big play. Nice throw by Tom.


2023: Week 13, vs. Carolina, December 3

See the top of the story for the description of this play.

Mike Says: "It was just a quick out. They knew I was six yards away, so Baker threw me a quick out. I kind of cut my route short so I could catch it and run. He gave me a good ball and we got it.

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