Hey, things are good again.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the New York Giants, 30-10, on Monday night and the results are a two-game lead in the NFC South and – as things stand now – the third spot in the conference standings. Who deserves the most credit for this outstanding development? That's what we're here to debate.
Tampa Bay nearly doubled up the Giants in total yardage, 402 to 215, and Daniel Jones was held to a 57.7 passer rating. The Bucs' defense held strong against the returning Saquon Barkley despite the absence of Vita Vea. Steve McLendon (!) and Mike Edwards had picks. Chris Godwin scored another touchdown and Rob Gronkowski was very Gronkowski in his return. And maybe Mike Evans might have maybe done something worth discussing.
After each Buccaneer win this season, Carmen and I will be making one nomination each for who should win the Game Ball for that contest. You then get to vote – with four total choices, actually – and you'll even qualify to win some cool prizes if you do. See the bottom of this article for all of that. We are not allowed to pick the same player, which makes the order in which we make our selections occasionally important. As such, we alternate the order from win to win, and this week Carmen has first-pick honors.
Carmen Vitali: WR Mike Evans
While I think there is A LOT to be said about that defensive performance we all witnessed Monday night, I can't bring myself to quite give Scott the alley-oop like that. I'm taking this one to the rim myself, which I think is a reference Evans would appreciate along with his teammates. After all, following the game, tight end Rob Gronkowski described Evans as this:
"The guy is spectacular," he said. "He's durable. And just how athletic he is, is just unbelievable for his size. He is like a basketball player just going out there and getting open. It's impressive."
Impressive, indeed. Monday night was no exception and the entire country got to see it as Evans became the sole franchise touchdown leader, nabbing a five-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady that put his career total at 72. The score surpassed Mike Alstott's previous record of 71 and cemented Evans' legacy with the franchise.
But because Mike is Mike, he isn't done yet.
"I'm very proud of that accomplishment," Evans said following the game. "Hopefully I can extend it really far. I'm very proud. 'A-Train' (Mike Alstott) was an unbelievable player. I'm just happy to be in the same sentence as him, let alone breaking his record."
How can you not root for a guy like that?
And in case you think I'm putting too much weight on a record eight years in the making, let's just look at Evans' performance as it relates to this game.
He finished with a team-high 73 yards on six catches, as one of four Bucs receivers with exactly six catches on the night. He also added a 10-yard rush for good measure – his career-high. It came on an end around play with Brady handing the ball off to Evans in motion in the backfield. Evans turned on the wheels and turned the play into a first down. Evans now has a 10.0 yard per rush average for his career.
But remember that whole primetime Monday night thing? Well, I saw a sign in the crowd that said 'Monday Night M1K3' and it could not be more accurate. In six appearances on Monday Night Football in his career, Evans has six touchdowns. He's scored one in every single outing. His history with the Giants was favorable coming into this game, too. He now has seven touchdowns in six games against the Giants. His per game average in receiving yards against New York is 109.2.
That touchdown in Monday night's game also tied him for the 2021 league lead with the Rams' Cooper Kupp. They both have 10 on the season and we still have seven games to play. Oh, and his 71 receiving touchdowns since he entered the league in 2014 rank first – ahead of teammate Antonio Brown, who has 68, just as a fun little side note.
Scott Smith: ILB Devin White
Oh, come on. I've basically made a cottage industry of Mike-Evans-Is-Breaking-A-Huge-Record stories, tweets, interviews and stats over the last four weeks. And now I'm open under the basket and you kick it out to the glory-boy three-point shooter?!
Sigh. Okay, after the game that Evans breaks one of the most significant records in franchise history I get to choose someone else. Fortunately for me, the defense had one of its best showings of the season and somebody deserves accolades for that. The biggest plays were a little random, though. As noted above, Steve McLendon miraculously got his first interception at the age of 35. The two sacks were notched by Anthony Nelson and Cam Gill, which would have been difficult to predict. Nobody had more than eight tackles or one pass defensed. It was truly a team effort.
But there was one standout at the center of it all: Devin White. His final stat line doesn't blow your socks off like it did last week when he had 18 tackles and two sacks at Washington. White tied for the team lead with eight stops and also tallied one quarterback hit and one pass defensed. That's a misleading line, though, because the quarterback hit led to McLendon's interception in the third quarter and the pass defensed was a tipped ball that went to Edwards for his pick in the fourth period.
Both of those turnovers led to Ryan Succop field goals as the Bucs slowly and methodically pulled away from the Giants in the second half. Meanwhile, the much-ballyhooed return of Giants running back Saquon Barkley was a muted thud. Barkley had 25 yards on six carries and 31 yards on six catches. Who do you think was at the center of keeping Barkley contained? You know it was Devin White.
I know I'm fighting a losing battle here, but just keep in mind how dominant the Bucs' defense was on Monday night. And remember, this time Mike Evans DID keep the ball after an historic moment. So he's already got a game ball, right? Vote Devin!
Who deserves the Game Ball for Tampa Bay's Week Eleven win over the Giants?*Click here to vote now!*