Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs look better in beating Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — There is some video circulating that Bucs receiver Mike Evans would like to erase. The kind TMZ won't pay for. Such as the rookie's fumble at the 1-yard line that turned a touchdown into a touchback last week against the Dolphins.

All last week, Evans told teammates he would make up for it.

"I told everybody I'm going to redeem it," Evans said.

So when Bucs tackle Clinton McDonald returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown during the second quarter of the 27-14 preseason win over the Bills on Saturday, Evans was focused on directing his own YouTube moment:

"I talked to Clinton McDonald and said, 'How are you going to score one before me?' Then luckily I got in. I got even."

Later in the quarter, Evans beat cornerback Leodis McKelvin on a stutter move and hauled in a 24-yard pass from Josh McCown for a touchdown. That gave the Bucs a 24-0 halftime lead before Evans and the other starters took a seat.

Redemption came in many forms for Tampa Bay, and not just for Evans, the first-round pick and subject of a video posted by TMZ, a gossip website, on Friday.

Evans is seen brawling with security guards outside a Miami nightclub in March, throwing punches and leaping over the hood of a sports car in retreat.

"I put that behind me, and it came up. I guess somebody was trying to make some money or something," Evans said. "You can't change it. I'm just worried about the season."

So were the Bucs — very worried — until Saturday.

Start with the defense, which had produced only one turnover in two games. On Saturday it was more physical and produced three turnovers in the first half, during which it allowed 82 yards.

Safety Dashon Goldson got it started by intercepting EJ Manuel. Then linebacker Lavonte David caused a fumble by running back C.J. Spiller, which was recovered by fellow linebacker Mason Foster. That set up Doug Martin's 1-yard touchdown run.

Finally, Manuel was sacked by Adrian Clayborn while fellow end Michael Johnson stripped the ball. McDonald recovered and rumbled for his first touchdown since high school.

"That's exactly what it's supposed to look like," said McDonald, part of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks' defensive line a year ago. "It feels good out there when everybody is balling."

The Bucs' starting offense sought atonement as well after scoring one touchdown in two preseason games. After a shaky start on the first three series, which included a McCown interception, it got rolling. McCown's 21-yard strike to Martin set up one touchdown. He went 6-for-7 for 63 yards on his final drive, capped by his touchdown to Evans in the corner of the end zone.

The 82-yard march checked another box for the Bucs, who had not put together a long drive during the preseason.

"It was good to get (Evans) in the end zone," McCown said. "I'm just proud of the way he worked (last) week. The pressure is on us. We know it's not just about taking the football away for our defense. It's about scoring. For us, it was, 'Oh, we can't let these guys outscore us.' We were all having a laugh about that."

Not everything was perfect. There were nine plays of zero or minus yards in the first half. The second-team defense allowed Manuel, a former Florida State standout, to stick the ball in the end zone twice to start the second half. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas stayed home for an undisclosed disciplinary reason, and safety Mark Barron sat out the first series for a separate undisclosed violation.

But because the starters won't play in the final preseason game, Thursday against the Redskins, this was the momentum the Bucs needed before opening the season Sept. 7 against the Panthers.

"It's a good last dress rehearsal," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "You feel good, but there's a lot of stuff we could fix. There's a lot of plays we left on the field.

"But it's great momentum going into Week 1."

     
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