TAMPA — Mike Evans didn’t play a major role in either of the Bucs’ first two games, but in Tampa Bay’s home contest against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs were determined to get their top receiver involved early.
Evans entered the day with just 89 yards on five catches on the season after battling through constant double teams. By halftime on Sunday, Evans already surpassed his season total with 146 receiving yards on seven catches and all three Bucs first-half touchdowns.
He became the first Bucs receiver to record at least three touchdown receptions in a game since Jimmie Giles recorded a franchise-record four touchdown catches in a 41-38 loss at Miami on Oct. 20, 1985, The only other Bucs player to record three touchdown catches in a game was Morris Owens on Sept, 24, 1976.
A porous Giants pass defense that entered the day ranked 30th of the league's 32 teams in pass defense (allowing 321 yards a game) was determined to play Evans in man coverage, and they paid for it.
Evans caught all three balls thrown his way on the Bucs’ opening drive — all gains of 14 yards or more — including a 21-yard touchdown catch in tight coverage to give the Bucs an early lead.
He caught his second touchdown pass on the Bucs' second offensive drive, taking a quick screen pass from quarterback Jameis Winston and getting a block from receiver Chris Godwin for a three-yard touchdown pass.
Winston also connected with Evans for the longest gain of the first half, as Evans beat his man downfield for a 55-yard gain that eventually led to Matt Gay’s 47-yard field goal, which gave the Bucs a 15-10 lead.
Evans finished the first half with a 21-yard touchdown reception to give the Bucs a 25-10 lead.
After averaging just 14.7 yards per reception this season entering the game, Evans averaged 21.8 yards a catch in the first half.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.