Mike Evans’ breakout day punctuated by rookie mistake
With the game hanging in the balance and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers driving toward a game-winning touchdown, rookie wide receiver Mike Evans looked to have made another clutch catch, this time on a 4th and 1.
Then came the flag.
"In the rulebook, I was told that within five yards, you could do a lot of things. I’ve watched a lot of film and you can," Evans said about the fourth-down play for which offensive pass interference was called on him. "The defender grabbed me, and then I slightly pushed off, broke out, caught the ball, got the first down. It was within five yards."
But, as FOX Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira laid out, what Evans did was indeed illegal.
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) November 2, 2014
"You cannot block or push off more than one yard downfield. If you’re more than one yard downfield, as in this case with Mike Evans when he’s two yards downfield, then it’s offensive pass interference," Pereira said.
Contrary to Evans’ belief, the five-yard chuck rule applies only to defensive players.
That penalty on Evans set Tampa Bay back 10 yards and a 4th and 11 attempt failed, as the Bucs fell 22-17.
It was a negative punctuation mark to what was the rookie first-round pick’s best day as a pro, finishing with 124 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.
Amidst all the positives, Evans also smarted over another play in which he came up short, a first-half long ball heaved down the field by quarterback Mike Glennon, which became a jump ball that was tipped by Browns corner Joe Haden, then intercepted by Donte Whitner.
"Mike [Glennon] made a great play. He threw it up, he saw me late. I’ve gotta come back and jump over. I’m bigger than him, more athletic. I’ve gotta make that play," Evans said.
Haden recognized his chance to cause a disruption.
"I knew I wasn’t going to be able to catch it, so I just tried to tip it because I knew he [Donte] would be there to make the play," Haden said. "I knew as long as I didn’t smack it down, he was going to make a play on it."
And Glennon blamed himself: "It should have been a touchdown. I just had to lay it out there a bit more."
Besides that early play, and the late pass interference, Evans was not thwarted much Sunday, as the 6-foot-5 athletic specimen of a receiver repeatedly took advantage of his size mismatch against the smaller Browns defensive backs.
When asked if he thinks word would get around the league that covering him with 5-foot-9 defensive backs isn’t a good idea, Evans said he hopes it doesn’t.
Despite the sour ending, Evans exhibited many of the traits that made him a force at Texas A&M and led the Bucs to use a top 10 pick on him in this past May’s draft.
"My first time stepping out onto an NFL field I thought I could be dominant and that’s my goal – to be one of the best receivers in the league," Evans said.
More of those positive moments like he had Sunday and that could be reality sooner than later.