-The Buccaneers' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee is doing more good-guy things this holiday season, holding his annual Mike Evans Family Foundation Catch for Christmas on Tuesday. Usually an opportunity for the the star receiver to welcome deserving children to AdventHealth Training Center for some treats and gifts, Evans had to pivot a little bit this year due to the pandemic. But it ended up not being any less special for the families.
The Buccaneers Street Team set out on Evans and his wife Ashli's behalf this year, delivering jerseys, merchandise, $1,000 gift card to Target and $1,000 to Publix to each of six local families Tuesday evening. The families also got to hear from Mike and Ashli via video, as they couldn't be there in person.
The goal of the Mike Evans Family Foundation is to support, empower, encourage and motivate today's youth with an understanding that NO goal is unattainable. With the help of Mike and Ashli, the Foundation has awarded tens of thousands of dollars in college scholarships both in Tampa and through Evans' alma mater, Texas A&M, as well as provided gifts to help ensure happy holidays to countless children throughout the Bay area.
View photos of the Mike Evans Catch for Christmas Annual Event which gave back to families in the Tampa area by gifting $2,000 worth of gift cards between Publix and Target courtesy of Mike and Ashli Evans.
-Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles spoke to the media on Thursday and gave a rundown of the progress he's seen out of his young defensive backs.
"Mike [Edwards] has gotten a better grasp of the game at safety," said Bowles. "He's a ballhawk naturally, but he's seeing things a lot easier than he saw his first year, naturally – which he should in his second year. He's playing a lot faster. [Murphy]-Bunting is probably the headiest of the bunch. He does a lot of things for us, does a lot of the dirty work and plays a lot of positions for us. He's been banged up a little bit, but everybody is at this point in the year. He's coming around healthy, so we look for him to get better and better. Dean has been banged up the last couple weeks and hasn't played as much. He started out very well. The more time he gets, the more time and different plays he's starting to see. He's starting to understand the game a lot more, so we're happy with his progression, as well."
He also gave some Christmas movie hot-takes... and he's 100% right, if you ask me.
Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich is concerned about a different defense this week - as in Atlanta's defense, which won't be a walk in the park for the Bucs' offense this weekend.
"For one, they're playing hard [and] they're playing physically," said Leftwich. "The guys with their hand in the ground are playing exceptionally well and that's helping the guys on the back end. Obviously, throughout a season, things happen. But what you see on tape throughout the year is how hard these guys play. These guys play hard [and] this is a good football team that we're going up against that's played a lot of tough teams well [and] has lost a lot of games there right at the end. This is a team that can easily have a different record – we understand that. We just have to make sure we're ready to play and we're trying to use this week to get ready to play."
And though the Buccaneers are staring down their first playoff berth since 2007 - quarterback Tom Brady is just taking it one game at a time.
"We're talking about winning one game against the Falcons, so that's kind of where it is for us," said Brady. "This is our notebook – you'd think we're building rockets with the amount of information that's in here just for a bunch of football players. That all adds up, all those plays add up, all the schemes add up over the course of the year. You get to December and I think the nice part about December is when you scout an opponent, you feel like you really know them pretty well because they're not putting in a new defense this week, you know? They're going to run what they run – they've been running what they run all year – and you've got to try to evaluate what the strengths and weaknesses are. I'd say earlier in the year, you don't always have a great idea of what they've done in the offseason and so forth. Now, they're doing the same thing for us – they've got more knowledge than they had earlier in the year. When you play teams late, preparation really takes over. Preparation so you can go out there, play with confidence and execute well. That's part of what I really enjoy about playing in December. I feel like I can get a pretty good feel for the opponent."
-The Buccaneers will travel for the first time in about a month as they take on their division rivals in Atlanta for the first time this season. The Buccaneers will play the Falcons twice in the next three weeks and have the opportunity to get into the postseason as early as this weekend (should the Football Gods grant the Vikings and Bears a tie in the Bucs' favor). Atlanta is going to try to spoil – or at least delay – the Bucs' playoff hopes. Here's what they're saying ahead of the matchup.
Matt Ryan ready to move forward: I'm on to Tampa
Falcons' next opponent: What to know about the Buccaneers
Tabeek: Once a strength, Falcons offense isn't getting it done
Bucs Tweet of the Day: