In terms of both game impact and historical franchise significance, it would be difficult to script a play more on point than Mike Evans's two-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter on Sunday in Nashville.
The most important thing about that play at the time was that it gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 23-17 lead over the Tennessee Titans, capping a rally from a 14-3 deficit. As it turned out, the Titans would score the last 10 points of the game to get the victory, so it's hard to gain as much satisfaction out of that score as it seemed at the time. In the same vein, it was clear from his postgame talk with the media that Evans didn't glean much satisfaction out of his monstrous 11-catch, 198-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Thus, in the long run, we'll probably remember Evans's catch – a signature end zone fade that he has always made look so easy – more for what it did to the Bucs' all-time record books. In that moment, Evans not only became the team's all-time leader in receptions, but he also moved into sole possession of second place on the franchise's touchdown chart. In both cases, he surpassed the same man: former running back James Wilder.
Most Career Receptions, Buccaneers History
(* Evans was already the team's all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdown receptions.)
Most Career Touchdowns, Buccaneers History
In terms of a single game, Evans put up the fifth-highest receiving yardage total in franchise history, though it was only the second best of his career. We'll go 10 deep on this list because it highlights two things: 1) Evans four of the top seven receiving yardage games in team history; and 2) Three of the top 10 have occurred this season because Chris Godwin also has an entry on the list.
Most Receiving Yards, Single Game, Buccaneers History
In his 190-yard game against the Giants in Week Three, Evans added two touchdowns among his eight receptions. So with a pair of single game lines of 8-190-2 and 11-198-2 already this season, Mike Evans joins former Houston Oiler Charley Hennigan as the only two players in NFL history to record multiple games with at least eight catches, 190 yards and two touchdowns in the same season. Hennigan did it in the Oilers' 1961 season, when Houston was in the AFL, prior to the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Evans tied his own single-game catch mark, having also snagged 11 passes against Atlanta in a 150-yard, two-touchdown outing on Nov. 3, 2016. Sunday's game was his 23rd 100-yard receiving outing, extending his own team record in that category. Evans still ranks a bit behind Godwin on the Bucs' receiving chart this season, but both of them are within the top five in team history in terms of receiving yards after the first seven games of a season.
Obviously, Evans and Godwin are the most prolific pair of receivers in Buccaneers franchise history through the first seven games. They are also currently the highest-grossing pair of pass-catching teammates in the NFL in 2019, in terms of both receiving yards and touchdown catches, despite the fact that they have collectively played two fewer games than the other four duos in the top five. Godwin and Evans rank fifth and sixth in the league in receiving yards at the moment.
Most Receiving Yards, NFL, Pair of Teammates, 2019
Most Touchdown Receptions, NFL, Pair of Teammate, 2019
(* Combined games played by the two teammates; ^Ridley also has 4 TDs for Atlanta and Dissly also has 4 TDs for Seattle.)
Evans is averaging 94.6 receiving yards per game and needs to average just 37.6 per game in the final contests to reach 1,000 yards. If he does so, he will join Randy Moss as the only two players in NFL history to open their careers with six straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. If he does that and Chris Godwin averages at least 32.8 yards per game the rest of the way, they would become just the second pair of teammates to both surpass 1,000 yards in the same season in franchise history. Evans was also a part of the first duo, as he had 1,051 receiving yards in his 2014 rookie season to pair with the 1,002 recorded by Vincent Jackson.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's defense held Tennessee to 246 total yards of offense on Sunday, its lowest output allowed to any opponent this season. The return of Jason Pierre-Paul energized the Bucs' defensive front, which produced three sacks, four quarterback hits and eight tackles for loss. Pierre-Paul had three of those tackles for loss, and now has 19 TFLs since the start of 2018, his first as a Buccaneer, which is tied for the 10th-most in the NFL in that span. Pierre-Paul missed the first six games of this season while on the reserve/non-football-injury list.
Pierre-Paul's return may also have been a factor in outside linebacker Shaq Barrett recording his first sack in the last three games. Barrett had nine sacks in the four games of September, earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors. Those 10.0 sacks have him tied with Cleveland's Myles Garrett for the NFL lead in that category.
Most Sacks, NFL, 2019
1t. Shaq Barrett, Tampa Bay: 10.0
1t. Myles Garrett, Cleveland: 10.0
3. Chandler Jones, Arizona: 8.5
4t. Danielle Hunter, Minnesota: 8.0
4t. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans: 8.0
4t. Za'Darius Smith, Green Bay: 8.0
Barrett got his 10th sack in the Bucs' seventh game of the season, tying Marcus Jones (2000) for the quickest to that mark in team annals.
Most Sacks Through Season's First Seven Games, Buccaneers History
1t. Shaq Barrett, 2019: 10.0
1t. Marcus Jones, 2000: 10.0
3. Warren Sapp, 2000: 9.5
4t. Jason Pierre-Paul, 2018: 8.0
4t. Simeon Rice, 2003: 8.0
Tampa Bay's defense continues to excel against the run, holding the Titans to 72 yards on the ground and 3.4 yards per carry on Sunday. The Buccaneers rank first in the NFL rush defense (68.6 yards per game) and first in yards allowed per carry (2.96). Removing quarterback scrambles and wide receiver gadget plays, Tampa Bay has held opposing running backs to 55.7 rushing yards per game and 2.95 yards per carry, both the lowest marks in the NFL.
And finally on special teams, rookie kicker Matt Gay continued his streak of consecutive kicks made since the start of Game Four. Gay has made 18 straight combined field goals and extra points in the last four games, going seven-for-seven on field goals and 11-for-11 on PATs. In addition:
· Gay is 14 of 16 overall on field goal tries in 2019 for a success rate of 87.5% that is tied for seventh-best among qualifying kickers this season.
· Gay has made seven of his eight attempts from 40 yards and beyond, including all three tries from 50 and beyond (52, 54 and 58). His 87.5% success rate from 40 and farther is the best among all NFL kickers with at least eight attempts this year.