Could Bucs' Mike Evans become even more dangerous?

Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a touchdown catch as Chicago Bears defensive back Marcus Cooper (31) defends during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a touchdown catch as Chicago Bears defensive back Marcus Cooper (31) defends during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Sept. 17, 2017

TAMPA —- Mike Evans caught seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown Sunday on just nine targets. What was most encouraging for him was how often he drew single coverage, a testament to the options added to the Bucs offense that opponents must now account for.

"The last couple of seasons, the Bears double-teamed me crazy," Evans said. "I probably saw maybe one or two double-teams today. It was great. We had a lot of one-on-one opportunities. We have a lot of talent, so all we have to do beat the one-on-one matchups. I hope it's like this every week, but it's obviously not." Asked about Evans' touchdown catch for a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he saw what Jameis Winston saw and acted on.

"I saw one-on-one coverage," Koetter said. "I figured that's where Jameis was going to go with the ball. That's something we work on a lot, and Mike and Jameis have put a lot of time in that red-zone fade ball. We don't get single coverage on Mike very often, so when we do, we're happy to see it."


The Bucs were only ahead 3-0 and punting in the final minute of the first quarter when CB Ryan Smith saw the punt bounce again and again and wondered: Would Bears rookie Tarik Cohen really try to field the punt?

"I didn't think he would go for it, but when he did, I made a play," said Smith, who knocked the ball loose, and LB Cameron Lynch jumped on the loose ball at the 13-yard line, setting up a Winston touchdown pass to Evans on the next play for a 10-0 lead.

Smith and Cohen go way back — both are from rival I-AA programs, with Smith at North Carolina Central and Cohen at North Carolina A&T. Smith beat him twice in college, the first time pouncing on a Cohen fumble at the 1-yard line to thwart a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. He said he liked facing Cohen again, even if it wasn't completely reciprocated.

"It was cool going against him again. After the game, he said he was tired of seeing me," Smith said. "He's my boy though. It was good seeing him out there. I made a play, but I'm just doing my job."


CB Robert McClain, 29, played his 81st NFL game Sunday but scored his first touchdown, intercepting a Mike Glennon pass and returning it 47 yards for a touchdown.

"It's been a while -- I have dreams of just getting my hands on the ball," said McClain, who jumped in front of a pass intended for receiver Josh Bellamy. "That's all I wanted. If you're on defense, you just want to get your hands on the ball. I'm happy I got that pick and made that play, but there's a lot of stuff I still have to work on."


LBs Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and Lavonte David (cramps) left the game early, but both said they expect to play next week at Minnesota. Alexander had an interception on Chicago's first drive, and David led the team with nine tackles. Rookie Kendell Beckwith stepped in with five tackles, including two for losses ... PK Nick Folk went 3-for-3 on field goals in his Bucs debut, including a 50-yarder — the Bucs' longest last year was 43 yards — and went 2-for-3 on extra points, missing one wide left. ... Lakewood's Bernard Reedy made his NFL debut and handled both punt and kickoff returns for the Bucs, returning one punt for 17 yards. ... LG Kevin Pamphile hadn't played in a month, so the Bucs had Evan Smith finish the game, splitting reps to ease Pamphile back into the lineup. ... First-round draft pick O.J. Howard had a quiet debut, playing extensively but catching only one pass for 17 yards.

Contact Greg Auman at and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.