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Two Improbable Touchdowns | A Next Gen Look at Titans-Bucs

According to Next Gen models, neither of the Buccaneers' touchdowns against Tennessee – Rachaad White's 43-yard screen pass and Mike Evans' 22-yard power move – were likely to happen the way they did

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Tennessee Titans, 20-6, in Week 10, scoring the game's only two touchdowns from outside the red zone. The first was a 43-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass by running back Rachaad White in the second quarter; the second was a 22-yard reception by Mike Evans that required him to drag cornerback Kristian Fulton the last five yards into the end zone.

White's touchdown came on a first-down play while Evans' score converted a third-and-three. It's quite possible that the Buccaneers would have finished both of those drives in the end zone if White didn't take his screen all the way to the house and if Mayfield had checked down for a little chain-mover on that third down. But that is how the ball found paydirt, and according to NFL Next Gen Stats, neither one was a probable outcome.

In the case of White's touchdown, the reception itself wasn't improbable, which is generally the case on screen passes. NGS suggests the play had a 79.7% chance of being complete. It's what White did after the catch that defied the odds. Based on thousands of previous NFL plays, Next Gen calculated that White had a 1.1% chance of scoring on the play.

White caught the ball six yards behind the line of scrimmage and got a key block right away from center Robert Hainsey, who had pulled from his position in the snap out into the left flat to wall off closing safety Amani Hooker. White then snuck between Fulton and linebacker Monty Rice, accelerating to a top speed of 20.7 miles per hour. NGS says that was the first time in his career that he had topped 20 mph on a play.

The Next Gen model projected that White would gain 17 yards after the catch on the play, which would have been a gain of 11 based on where he caught the ball. Instead, he gained 49, adding to his excellent yards after catch over expected (YACOE) totals this season. According to NGS, White has +130 YACOE this season, the best in  the league among running backs and 50 more than the second player on the list. The second-year back also leads all NFL ballcarriers in receptions over expected (+4.7) and receiving yards over expected (+154).

White finished his run by outracing cornerback Roger McCreary and safety Elijah Molden to the left front pylon, diving from three yards out to clear the goal line. Wide receivers Chris Godwin and Trey Palmer and tight end Payne Durham (after going in motion from right to left) all ran go routes to help clear out the defense in front of White's screen, and the running back did the rest for one of the Bucs' most unlikely touchdowns of the season.

As for Evans' score, Next Gen Stats gave the play a completion probability of just 46.6%, making it Mayfield's third most unlikely connection of the game. NGS classified Evans' path as an "in" route, but it was a late-breaking one, with the receiver first running outside of cornerback Eric Garror three yards after he released from the left side. The Titans were in a Cover Three zone, with Fulton over the top of Evans, Hooker in the deep middle and McCreary back and to the right. Evans ran up the field to the 10 before breaking in, with 4.44 yards of cushion from Fulton when he did so.

Fulton reacted quickly and basically had no cushion (0.29 yards) on Evans when the ball arrived. While he didn't disrupt the pass, he did immediately wrap Evans up between the five and six yard lines, but that was far from the end of the play. Evans spun to his right to face the goal line and then hauled Fulton with him into the end zone, with linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair also arriving just as he broke the plane.

NGS did project that Evans would get 2.2 yards after the catch, so his YACOE expected was only 3.3 yards. They were 3.3 of the most important yards of the game, as it turned out.

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