The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Atlanta Falcons with a stunning second-half comeback in Week 15, which included touchdown catches by Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. Mike Evans did not add to his season total of 11 touchdowns but he did lead the Bucs' passing attack with six catches for 110 yards.
That Evans would crack 100 is hardly notable anymore. He has 27 such games since entering the league in 2020, a Buccaneer record and nearly double the next player on the list, as well as the fourth-most by any NFL player in that span. What is notable is how Evans got to triple digits. The Buccaneers did something on Sunday they don't often do: They got the ball to Evans with room to run.
Evans' brilliant career has not been defined by YAC, which stands for yards after catch. He's been much more of a Y@C guy, or yards at catch. Among qualifying receivers over the last seven years, Evans ranks seventh in the league with an average of 12.7 yards at the point of the reception. His career average of 2.82 YAC per reception wouldn't rank in the top 100. This is largely a function of how good Evans is in the red zone (no YAC on balls caught in the end zone), how adept he is at winning contested catches and jump balls (usually little YAC on those) and how he has been utilized in the Bucs' offense.
Evans is finding a little more room to run this season, with a Y@C figure of 10.0 and a YAC of 3.63, but he still gets the wide majority of his yards before the ball arrives. Sunday in Atlanta was a little different.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Evans racked up 43.47 yards after the catch against the Falcons, which represented nearly 40% of his total of 110 yards. That is the most YAC Evans has had in a game this season since Week Two. Among all games where he's had at least 50 receiving yards, the Falcons outing represented his third highest YAC percentage of the season. The other two came against Carolina.
Sunday's game marked just the third time this year Evans has had more than 30 yards after the catch in a game. That's no knock on the Bucs' top pass-catcher – this year and all-time – it's simply an indication of how he normally gets the ball and how he had the opportunity to enjoy more open space than usual against the Falcons.
Here's Evans' game-by-game YAC total and YAC percentage this season:
Quick Next Gen Hits:
- The Buccaneers' comeback win definitely defied expectations after they went down 17-0 at halftime and 24-7 deep into third quarter. According to the Next Gen win probability chart, the Bucs odds of winning the game dropped to 6% after Atlanta tight end Hayden Hurst caught a seven-yard touchdown pass to restore Atlanta's 17-point lead with 7:34 left in the third quarter. Interestingly, the Buccaneers got the odds back in their favor before they actually got their first lead in the game. According to that win probability chart, the game had 50-50 odds after Tom Brady hit Evans for 11 yards to convert a third-and-five with 13:16 left in the game. The chart than fluctuated back and forth across the 50% line before Antonio Brown's 46-yard touchdown catch, which instantly took the Bucs' odds of winning from 46% to 71%.
- Brady was good on the deep ball for the second week in a row. The Next Gen chart that splits the field into 12 quadrants, four vertically and three horizontally, showed great results for Brady on passes thrown more than 20 yards. He was 3-4 on such attempts for 102 yards and a touchdown.
- Blitzing inside linebacker Devin White had all three of the Bucs' sacks against Atlanta but among the usual pass-rushers it was Shaq Barrett who once again was able to get closest to the quarterback. Barrett's average separation from the QB of 4.01 yards was easily the best among Tampa Bay rushers on Sunday, and he was the only one who beat the league average of 4.52 yards.