After putting together another historic season, it's been a rough few games for Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans. The usually reliable superstar has looked like a shell of himself, dropping passes he normally reels in and generally being part of the problem rather than the solution.
That reared its head on Sunday in Detroit, when Evans was the target on a pass from Baker Mayfield that ended up getting picked off by C.J. Johnson-Gardner. It was a moment that the Bucs didn't need on several levels, not the least of which is how it validated Johnson-Gardner's trash talk.
Fans didn't dog Baker for the pick, rather they ganged up on Evans who made another in a long line of uncharacteristic mistakes. It was something that the Lions not only used to turn over possession but to fuel their fire on defense.
Lions DC called out Mike Evans for dropping passes: 'He's scared'
In a sideline report during the first half, NBC's Melissa Stark noted that Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn was firing up his players by telling them that Mike Evans was dropping passes because he was scared to catch the ball.
"After that interception, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn walked up and down the sideline very enthusiastically talking to the defense and said 'Do you know why [Evans] dropped it, he's scared'," Stark reported. "'They're scared, make sure we hit everything that moves."
It turns out Mike Evans was, in fact, not scared at all. In the closing moments of the first half, Evans reeled in a huge catch to set up a game-tying touchdown.
It's not the first time Evans has been on the wrong side of the conversation regarding his play. He's one of the best recievers in the NFL when he plays up to the level we've all come to expect from him, but he's been way below that line as of late.
He had some brutal drops in the Wild Card win over the Eagles, and you can trace a lot of the offensive struggles back to games where he was similiarly sloppy. Tampa Bay relied on him to get things flowing early in the season, like in the Week 1 win over Minnesota, but when he's not playing well the rest of the offense usually falters.
There's also some rivalry context to consider as well. Aaron Glenn used to coach down in New Orleans, where he was aggressive against Evans and was a big motivator behind the feud between the receiver and Marshon Lattimore. His days with the Saints also means there's no love lost for the Bucs as a whole, so it's not terribly surprising that he's using the blood Evans allowed to get into the water as motivation.
Of course, Evans is no stranger to proving the Saints wrong and his performance toward the end of the first half is much more reminiscent of the guy we're used to seeing.