He blamed it on the rain. Or maybe, he said, it was the humidity. His hands were sweating so much that he kept having to change his gloves. Nothing seemed to work.
Whatever the reason, receiver Mike Evans kept dropping the football at the most critical times in the Bucs' 32-18 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday.
The stat line will show that Evans, who finished third in the NFL's rookie of the year balloting won by Odell Beckham last season, had a better game than the Giants receiver. Evans had eight catches for 152 yards. Beckham had nine for 105 yards.
But Evans had passes bounce off his palms; still others he juggled like a hot potato, while some simply glanced off his fingers and fluttered away. Clearly, unbelievably and inconceivably, he dropped six passes in all — most by an NFL player in 10 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
"I don't know what it is," Evans said. "I've got to work on wet ball drills or something. I mean, the Giants receivers were catching them in the rain and I wasn't and I live here. That's unacceptable. I have to be better for this team.
"It was humid. It was wet, but it was humid and I kept sweating through my gloves. I put the rain gloves on and I dropped a third-down conversion and I had to keep changing them. The ball was too slick. That's no excuse. I've got to catch those."
As a result, the Bucs were 0-for-3 in the red zone until quarterback Jameis Winston said the heck with it and took flight from about the 5-yard line on his way to soaring to a 10-yard touchdown run. Had he not overthrown the two-point conversion pass to Russell Shepard, the score would've been tied at 20 with 9:25 to play.
Instead, the Bucs defense, which has forced only one punt in the past 10 quarters of play, was unable to keep the Giants from tacking on a couple of field goals and essentially running out the clock. Evans even dropped the last pass thrown to him near the end of the game, on a hook and ladder play. The Bucs' next attempt as time ran out resulted in a fumble return for a Giants touchdown.
Evans wasn't the only Bucs player who couldn't hold onto the football. Both running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims lost fumbles, resulting in 10 points off turnovers for the Giants. Martin even dropped a wheel route at the Giants 15 that washed out another opportunity.
The Bucs dropped everything but ticket prices Sunday.
"Those guys are usually pretty solid," center Joe Hawley said. "I can't speak for them. I'm sure they're pretty upset about it. Those are big plays in the game and those are the kind of plays you need to make. It's unfortunate. But moving forward, I'm sure they'll get that fixed."
Beckham, meanwhile, was big in the clutch. Although defensive back Alterraun Verner stole a pass from quarterback Eli Manning intended for the Giants go-to man for his first interception of the season, Beckham made a catch in traffic to convert a third-and-9 situation at midfield that helped the Giants keep the football from the 4:57 mark in the fourth quarter until the Bucs got it back trailing by eight with 18 seconds left and no timeouts.
"Odell made a heck of a play over on the other sideline to get a first down," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
Meanwhile, Winston, who passed for 249 yards and had a fourth straight turnover-free game, was left to defend Evans.
"He's one of our best receivers, he's playing his tail off and when it started raining, all eyes were on him," Winston said. "It's a lot of pressure, but nine times out of 10, he's going to come through."
Not Sunday, not before a crowd of 64,351 at Raymond James Stadium that had so many Giants fans it sounded like the Meadowlands.
Evans' big drops started in the second quarter. He dropped a slant on first down. On third and 2, he dropped a pass that would've been a first down at the Giants 15. Connor Barth then missed a 43-yard field goal.
In the third quarter, Evans dropped a deep ball in his bread basket at the Giants 23. On third and 10 from the Giants 47, he dropped another pass for a first down. Then the hook and ladder.
"It's frustrating of course, but I'm a man. I can take it," Evans said. "I've got to bounce back. I proclaim myself to be one of the best receivers in the game, and I'm not showing it. So I've got to be better for this team. I'm going to put in the work and I'm going to come back."
With that, there should've been only one thing left for Evans to say to Winston as they left Sunday: Catch ya later.