Rookie safety Justin Evans had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' only takeaway in Sunday's overtime loss in Green Bay, intercepting a deep pass by Brett Hundley that was intended for wide receiver Jordy Nelson. That was Evans' third interception of the season, making him the team leader in that category.
The Buccaneers selected Evans with the 50th overall pick in a 2017 draft that was considered very deep in defensive backs, particularly safeties. He was the 15th defensive back selected overall and the seventh safety off the board. Tampa Bay is certainly pleased with its selection, as Evans is now tied for the NFL lead in interceptions among rookies.
Most Interceptions, NFL Rookies, 2017
Evans could become the first rookie to lead the Buccaneers or tie for the team lead in interceptions since cornerback Aqib Talib did so in 2008, picking off four passes to match Ronde Barber's total. The last rookie safety to lead the Buccaneers in interceptions was Tony Covington, who topped the chart with three picks in 1991.
Evans' three interceptions are already tied for the fourth-most in team history by a rookie, and two more would allow him to tie the record.
Most Interceptions, Rookie*, Buccaneers History
|1t. Donnie Abraham||CB||1996||5|
|1t. David Greenwood||S||1985||5|
|3. Aqib Talib||CB||2008||4|
|4t. Justin Evans||S||2017||3|
|4t. Johnthan Banks||CB||2013||3|
|4t. Leonard Johnson||CB||2012||3|
|4t. Tony Covington||S||1991||3|
|4t. Vito McKeever||CB||1986||3|
( Players from 1987 replacement games not included.)
The Buccaneers have created just two turnovers in their last two games, but they still rank second in that category in their two seasons under Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith.
*Most Takeaways, NFL, 2016-17
- Baltimore: 57
- Tampa Bay: 50
- Philadelphia: 48
4t. Kansas City: 47
4t. L.A. Chargers: 47
A behind-the-scenes look at the Buccaneers' Week 13 matchup with the Packers.
Evans' interception on Sunday was part of a very strong effort by Tampa Bay's pass defense. Packers quarterback Brett Hundley, who in his previous game at Pittsburgh threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns, was held to 84 passing yards on 13 completions in 24 attempts. He did not throw a touchdown pass and finished with a passer rating of 48.3. With two sacks of Hundley for seven yards, the Buccaneers gave up just 77 net passing yards on the afternoon, their lowest against any team in eight years. On Oct. 18, 2009, the Buccaneers held the Carolina Panthers to 55 net passing yards.
Both of Tampa Bay's sacks on Sunday were credited to Will Clarke, who played his first three seasons in Cincinnati before joining the Buccaneers just before the start of the 2017 regular season. Clarke had 4.5 QB takedowns in 35 games for the Bengals but Sunday marked the first two-sack game of his career.
The only other Buccaneer with a two-sack performance this season is Gerald McCoy, who did it against the New York Jets in Week 10. McCoy did not add to his team-leading total of five sacks in Green Bay but he did record two tackles for loss, giving him 12 on the season. He leads the Buccaneers in that category, as well, and is tied for ninth in the NFL. McCoy and the L.A. Rams' Aaron Donald have the most tackles for loss among NFL defensive tackles this season.
Most Tackles for Loss, NFL Defensive Tackles, 2017
|1t. Gerald McCoy||Tampa Bay||12|
|1t. Aaron Donald||L.A. Rams||12|
|3. Grady Jarrett||Atlanta||11|
|4. David Irving||Dallas||9|
|5t. Geno Atkins||Cincinnati||8|
|5t. Jurrell Casey||Tennessee||8|
|5t. Timmy Jernigan||Philadelphia||8|
|5t. Bennie Logan||Kansas City||8|
The Buccaneers had a lot of statistical pairs in Sunday's game at Green Bay. In addition to Clarke's two sacks and McCoy's two tackles for loss, tight end Cameron Brate caught two touchdown passes, Robert McClain had two kick-coverage tackles and five different Buccaneers had exactly two receptions. Even kicker Patrick Murray got in on the act, going two-for-two on field goal tries and two-for-two on extra point attempts.
As we noted last week in Stat Shots, Murray has moved into first place in franchise history on the field goal percentage chart, supplanting Connor Barth at the top. He only improved his standing with his perfect performance in Green Bay.
Best Field Goal Percentage, Buccaneers History (min. 10 attempts)
|Patrick Murray||2014, 17||34||40||85.0%|
|Connor Barth||2009-13, 15||114||136||83.8%|
Murray's two successful PATs also put him closer to the team record for most extra points made without a miss. Six different Buccaneer kickers (minimum 10 tries) have perfect PAT percentages with Tampa Bay, though of course only Murray has had to make some of his tries from the NFL's new PAT spot, 13 yards farther back.
Best Extra Point Percentage, Buccaneers History (min. 10 attempts)
|Patrick Murray||2014, 17||43||43||100.0%|
Murray was also the Buccaneers' kicker in 2014, making 20 of his 24 field goal attempts that season. He's been even better in his second stint with the team, hitting on 14 of 16 tries so far. That translates to an 87.5% success rate, which would be the second-best single-season mark in franchise history if maintained.
Best Field Goal Percentage, Single Season, Buccaneers History (min. 10 attempts)
Odds & Ends:
- The longest completion allowed by Tampa Bay's defense on Sunday was a 14-yard catch by wide receiver Davante Adams. That marked the first time since Nov. 11, 2013, in a Monday Night Football win over Miami at Raymond James Stadium, that the Bucs have gone an entire game without allowing one completion of 20 or more yards.
- The Buccaneers recorded a season-high 27 first downs in Week 12 at Atlanta, then followed up with 25 more first downs in Green Bay. That marks the first time in 14 years that a Tampa Bay offense has generated 25 or more first downs in consecutive games. The last such occurrence came against Indianapolis (25 first downs) and Washington (25) on Oct. 6 and 12 of 2003.
- Rookie wide receiver Bobo Wilson made his regular-season NFL debut on Sunday after being promoted from the practice squad earlier in the week. He ran one time for four yards on an end-around.
- Tampa Bay had its best ground game of the season on Sunday in Green Bay, rushing for a season-high 165 yards on 35 carries. That the Buccaneers had more than 30 carries in the game and lost makes it a statistical oddity; Tampa Bay had won the last 10 games it had played in which it had 31 or more handoffs. The last time the Bucs topped 31 carries in a game but didn't win was in the 2014 season finale, a 23-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints.