Bucs’ Mike Evans posts 10th straight 1,000-yard season

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans knew heading into Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers that he needed 150 receiving yards to reach 1,000 yards for the 10th consecutive season. He figured he’d get a lot of free access and one-on-one matchups. But he hadn’t envisioned that moving into second all time in the history books behind Jerry Rice for most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons would happen so dramatically.

There was a heavy downpour — a December rarity even for Florida — that halted the Bucs’ downfield passing attack for two quarters and put them in a 10-7 hole with 5:10 to go in the third quarter. That’s when quarterback Baker Mayfield hit Evans on a 75-yard catch and run in which Evans reached 20.6 mph, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Evans then told the official, “That’s a touchdown, baby,” before retreating to the sideline and vomiting.

“I was tired, I went to the sideline, I had to throw up a bit, so I’m happy I earned that one,” said Evans, who also hit a career high for a different kind of “YAC” (yards after the catch) on both the play (56 yards) and for the game (80 yards).

“That’s Mike’s deal. … I’ve seen Mike puke a bunch of times,” wide receiver Chris Godwin said with a laugh. “We were like sledging through there, couldn’t get anything going, and that play sparked us — it was huge.”

Evans still needed 6 yards after that, which he got on an 11-yard out route with 5:02 to go in the fourth quarter, after both teams traded touchdowns and the Panthers succeeded on a two-point conversion attempt to make it 21-18, a score that would stand.

“We knew before that last drive when he was about 4 or 6 yards away,” Mayfield said. “Everybody kept saying different numbers. So the first pass play, they probably would have had to double cover him for me to not throw to him.”

Teammates congratulated Evans by tapping him on the helmet when Carolina called a timeout two plays later. The video boards in both end zones flashed “M1KE” in big bold letters next to an image of Evans’ face. He was greeted with a standing ovation from fans chanting, “Mike!”

“It’s what you want as a kid,” Evans said. “That’s what we dream about. I’ve always dreamed about this, I’ve always been a huge fan of sports. I always said, ‘One day, I want to be one of those guys. There’s plenty of them. But I’m happy that I’m one of them. … It seems surreal at times, but I’m in the moment. So maybe when I’m long gone from the game, I’ll look back and really think about what I’ve done.”

Mayfield, who shared a hug in the tunnel with Evans after the game said, “I really don’t have words to describe what he just did in his career to accomplish that for [10] seasons in a row. And I’m pretty damn happy that I wasn’t the guy to break that streak to be honest with you. But more happy for Mike. That’s amazing. He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, and nobody can take that away from him. … It’s truly special. It’s one of those things you’ll look back on and be able to cherish that moment, that you were a part of it.”

Evans said he does think about Rice’s record of 11 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and hopes to match it next year. He’s already the NFL’s all-time leader in most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start a career. And in addition to the consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, he is now tied for second all time with his idol, Randy Moss, for most 1,000-yard seasons with 10. Rice had 14.

“I don’t know how much more you can say,” Bowles said. “He’s been like this for 10 years now. Over 60 catches 10 years in a row. Over 1,000 yards 10 years in a row. You know he’s getting the ball and everybody’s trying to stop him, and he makes plays over and over. It’s a credit to him, his work ethic, the way he approaches the game. Unbelievable.”

Evans, who turned 30 in August and has missed just nine regular-season games in 10 seasons, said he’s unsure exactly how long he’ll continue playing, although a source close to him said they believe he wants to continue playing for at least three more seasons.

Whether that comes in a Buccaneers uniform is up in the air. Evans owns virtually every franchise record for receiving yards and touchdowns, having played with six different starting quarterbacks, four different head coaches and five offensive coordinators. He has evolved from being a deep-ball threat who didn’t run a full route tree at Texas A&M and largely functioned off the improvisation of then-quarterback Johnny Manziel to showing stop-and-go suddenness on short and intermediate routes and getting yards after the catch, something that eluded him for several years until recently.

“Now he’s opening up a whole new part of his game,” Bowles said. “I think that’s what he loves about playing right now in this stage of his career. He’s running routes he hadn’t run earlier in his career and he’s making the best of them, he’s getting YAC yards and he’s a complete receiver.”

Evans and agent Deryk Gilmore gave the Bucs a Week 1 deadline for a new contract, and that was not met, with Evans saying he would not discuss a new deal until after the season and that he would be exploring his options. A source close to the situation said that there have been no contract talks with the Buccaneers since that Week 1 deadline, keeping good on that promise.

When asked Sunday if he has thought about what his performance this season might mean in the months ahead, he said, “I don’t know. When that moment comes, it’ll come. But right now, I’m focused on getting this team to the playoffs.”

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