Mike Evans set an incredible NFL record on Sunday afternoon and then moments later suffered a knee injury that had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers holding their breath. Evans and the Buccaneers would surely give back that record if it erased the next play too, but of course that's not how it works. So as the team and Buccaneer fans wait for more news on their franchise receiver, we can still celebrate Evans' achievements.
And there's a lot more to celebrate, too.
As we noted Sunday afternoon, Evans' third catch in Tampa Bay's 44-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons put him over 1,000 yards on the season, and that made him the first player in NFL history to open his career with seven straight 1,000 receiving yard campaigns. He was the first Buccaneer to break a record or reach a significant landmark during Sunday's game but there would prove to be many more during yet another offensive explosion in 2020. Evans toppled the first record domino and they just kept falling all afternoon.
Prior to Sunday's game, Evans shared the record with the NFL receiver he admired most while growing up, Hall of Famer Randy Moss. Moss opened his career with six straight 1,000-yard seasons but capped out at 767 yards in 13 games in his last season as a Minnesota Viking. Evans and Moss are the only two to make it through their first six years with their streaks intact.
Most Consecutive 1,000-Yard Receiving Seasons to Begin a Career, NFL History
Evans finished his seventh season with a total of 8,266 receiving yards, which is more than 3,000 beyond the second player on the Buccaneers' all-time list in that category. (Mark Carrier recorded 5,108 receiving yards from 1987-92.) That also total puts Evans in the top 10 in NFL history for most yards through a player's first seven seasons. There are already three Hall of Famers on the list above Evans and several more who will likely get their bronze busts in Canton eventually.
Most Receiving Yards, Player's First Seven Seasons, NFL History
Evans sustained his knee injury on the very next play after his record-setting catch, as one of his feet slid on the end zone turf, leading to an awkward step as he was trying to haul in a touchdown pass from Tom Brady. Evans did not hang onto the ball and thus did not pad his team-record total of 13 scoring receptions in 2020. His teammate, Antonio Brown, did catch two touchdown passes in the game and he is one of only two players in the NFL who has more TD grabs than Evans since the latter entered the league in 2014.
Most Touchdown Receptions, NFL, 2014-20
Speaking of Brown, he led the team on Sunday with 11 catches, the most by any Buccaneer in a game this season, and recorded 138 receiving yards for his first 100-yard game since joining the team. That marks the seventh time in his career that Brown has caught at least 10 passes for at least 100 yards and scored multiple times in a game. That is the most such games by any player in NFL history.
Brown wasn't the only Buccaneer to score twice through the air on Sunday. Wide receiver Chris Godwin also caught two touchdown passes to give him seven on the season and 24 in his career. Those two scores allowed Godwin to break into the top 10 in that category in team history; three of those top 10 are currently teammates.
Most Touchdown Receptions, Buccaneers History
|Dave Moore||1992-2001; 04-06||24|
Of course, it was Brady distributing all those touchdowns, as he threw for a season-high 399 yards and had four TD passes for the second game in a row. Brady also had four touchdown passes in a win over Las Vegas in Week Seven and five in a win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week Four. That makes him the first player in franchise history to have four games with four-plus touchdown passes in the same season.
Most Games with 4+ Touchdown Passes, Single Season, Buccaneers History
|1. Tom Brady, 2020: 4|
|2t. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 2018: 3|
|2t. Jameis Winston, 2019: 3|
|4t. Brad Johnson, 2002: 2|
|4t. Brad Johnson, 2003: 2|
|4t. Jameis Winston, 2018: 2|
Brady had already broken the Buccaneers' single-season touchdown pass record in Week 16 but he padded that record and ended up demolishing Winston's 2019 mark of 33. Brady finished with 40 touchdown passes, which tied for second in the NFL in 2020 behind leading MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers.
Most Touchdown Passes, NFL, 2020
Brady finished with his highest touchdown total since he threw 50 for the Patriots in 2007, the first of his three NFL MVP seasons. The only player with more seasons of 40 or more touchdown passes in NFL history is Green Bay's Rodgers, who set a career high with 48 this season, his third time surpassing 40. Brady joins Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Dan Marino as the only other passers with two such seasons.
Brady did surpass Manning and all other players in one category: his 40 touchdown passes for Tampa Bay marked the most any quarterback has ever had in his first season with a team. That includes rookies. The previous record was 37 by Peyton Manning in 2012, his first year with the Denver Broncos after a long career in Indianapolis.
Brady came into the regular-season finale with a season passer rating of 101.0 and needed only to maintain that to set a new single-season record for the Buccaneers. Instead, he improved it, finishing the season at 102.2.
Highest Passer Rating, Single Season, Buccaneers History
Brady finished his first season with the Buccaneers on a tear, on Sunday becoming the first player in team history to throw multiple touchdown passes in seven straight games. That in turn helped Tampa Bay as a team to score 24 or more points in seven straight games for the first time ever. Brady has been particularly locked in during the four-game winning streak the Bucs put together to finish the season after coming out of their Week 13 bye.
In fact, the only player with a better passer rating in the last quarter of the season was, again, Rodgers (minimum 50 pass attempts). In those four games, Brady completed 94 of 136 passes (69.1%) for 1,333 yards, 12 touchdowns and one interception. Brady was first in the league in yards per pass attempt in that span and he tied Rodgers for first in TD-INT ratio.
Highest Passer Rating, NFL, Last Four Weeks of the 2020 Season
Brady and all of his fellow offensive stars helped the Buccaneers score 40+ points in two consecutive games for the first time in team history. Tampa Bay's last two games are two of their seven highest-scoring contests ever in the regular season.
Most Points Scored in a Game, Buccaneers History
|1. 55, at L.A. Rams, 9/29/19|
|2. 48, at New Orleans, 9/9/18|
|3. 48, vs. New Orleans, 12/23/01|
|4. 48, vs. Atlanta, 9/13/87|
|5. 47, at Detroit, 12/26/20|
|6. 45, at Philadelphia, 11/22/15|
|7. 44, vs. Atlanta, 1/3/21|
Those 91 points over the last two games allowed Tampa Bay to average more than 30 points per game for the first time in team history and finish as the third-highest scoring team in the NFL in 2020.
Most Points Per Game, NFL, 2020
|1. Green Bay: 31.8|
|2. Buffalo: 31.3|
|3. Tampa Bay: 30.8|
|4. Tennessee: 30.7|
|5. New Orleans: 30.1|
The Buccaneers finished just eight points shy of the first 500-point season in franchise history and beat their old single-season record by 34 points. The Buccaneers also set team single-season records for most touchdowns and most touchdown passes.
New Offensive Team Records, Buccaneers, 2020
|Category||2020 Total||Prev. Record||Season|
The Buccaneers also approached a number of single-season records in 2020, including:
· 6,194 net yards, 3rd (6,648 in 2018)
· 364 first downs, 2nd (388 in 2018)
· 4,626 passing yards, 3rd (5,125 in 2018)
· 238 passing first downs, 4th (265 in 2018)
· +137 scoring differential, 2nd (+150 in 2002)
Kicker Ryan Succop helped the Buccaneers get to that record point total by scoring 136 points, a new individual franchise record. Succop hit on 28 of his 31 field goal attempts for a success rate of 90.3%, the second-highest mark in franchise history. He's the first Buccaneer kicker to surpass 90% on 30 or more attempts in a season. Succop finished sixth in the NFL in scoring in 2020.
Most Points Scored, Single Season, Buccaneers History
Highest Field Goal Percentage, Single Season, Buccaneers History (min. 10 attempts)
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's defense finished the season ranked sixth in yards allowed per game (327.1), first in rushing yards allowed per game (80.6) and eighth in points allowed per game (22.2). Though defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh's sixth sack of the season was the only one the Buccaneers recorded on Sunday, that still pushed the Bucs' final season total to their second-highest ever. The Buccaneers tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks in 2020.
Most Team Sacks, Single Season, Buccaneers History
|1. 2000: 55|
|2. 2020: 48|
|3. 2019: 47|
|4. 2004: 45|
|5. 1997: 44|
Finally, inside linebacker Lavonte David capped his 2020 season with one of his specialties, as he forced a fumble by Falcons running back Brian Hill in the third quarter (Hill recovered the loose ball). That was David's third forced fumble of the season and the 24th of his career. Since he entered the NFL in 2012 he has forced the fourth-most fumbles of any defender in the league in that span. He is the only player in the top five who is not an edge rusher.
David also hit a franchise milestone when he made his 137th career start on Sunday, all as a Buccaneer. That ties Buccaneers legend Mike Alstott for the fifth-most in team history and is the third-most by a defensive player.
Most Games Started, Buccaneers History