NEW ORLEANS — After three games without a touchdown, Bucs WR Mike Evans was back in the end zone Saturday in a 31-24 loss to the Saints.
Evans caught a 34-yard scoring pass from Jameis Winston in the third quarter. Selected to his first Pro Bowl this week, he had been held in check by New Orleans. Evans beat former Bucs CB Sterling Moore on a high throw that drew a pass interference flag that the Bucs declined.
Evans now has 11 touchdowns, one short of the team single-season record he set as a rookie in 2014. Winston tied Josh Freeman's 2012 team record for touchdowns in a season with 27 on the throw to Evans.
HUGE SWING: The Bucs looked to have a key takeaway and the ball deep in Saints territory late in the third quarter, but what was initially ruled a fumble forced by Kwon Alexander was ruled an incomplete pass after official review.
Drew Brees threw to TE Coby Fleener, who appeared to have control of the ball when Alexander punched the ball loose, but officials ruled the pass incomplete. The Saints would go on to kick a field goal on that possession for a 10-point lead.
BRATE AGAIN: Bucs TE Cameron Brate entered the game second in the NFL in red-zone touchdowns, and he came up with another, catching a 12-yard pass from Winston for the Bucs' first score. Brate entered the game tied for the touchdown lead among all NFL tight ends as well. Brate left the game in the second half with a back injury and did not return.
O-LINE SWITCH: With the team's top two right tackles out with injury in Demar Dotson (concussion) and Gosder Cherilus (groin), the Bucs shifted starting left guard Kevin Pamphile to right tackle and put backup Evan Smith in at left guard against the Saints.
The Bucs gave up only two sacks but had only limited success running the ball, getting 89 yards on 21 carries and coming up short on a key third and 1.
UNHAPPY RETURNS: The Bucs haven't gotten much from WR Josh Huff since making him their primary kickoff returner, and Saturday was more of the same.
Two weeks ago against the Saints, Huff had a kickoff bounce off his helmet and go out of bounds at the 1, leading to a safety. On Saturday, he muffed the second-half kickoff and was dropped at the 4-yard line. Two plays later, the Saints intercepted Winston and rushed for a touchdown for a 20-7 lead.
Huff brought a first-quarter kickoff out of the end zone and got only to the 14-yard line, costing the Bucs field position.
THIS AND THAT: Bucs P Bryan Anger, who had two punts downed inside the 5 in the fourth quarter of the first Saints game, continued where he left off. His first punt was a 50-yarder to the 9, and his next was a 55-yarder to the 4.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.