Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans has never played this late into a season. In fact, this is his first time being in the playoffs. Evans, who was a limited participant at practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury he suffered in Week 17 against the Falcons, played well in his first career playoff game and finished with six catches for 119 yards in Tampa Bay’s 31-23 road victory over the Washington Football Team in the Wild Card game last Saturday night.
For Evans, playing in his first playoff game was special to the seven-year veteran.
“It meant a lot. I haven’t been to the playoffs – it was my first time, first game in the playoffs,” Evans said on Wednesday. “I was excited to play, it was great weather [and] we had a great week of preparation. It just meant a lot to be out there and to try to make plays to help my team win. The goal is to do enough each week to play the next week, so that’s what we’re doing this week.”
Now, the Buccaneers prepare for a familiar foe in Divisional Round, as they travel to New Orleans to battle the Saints, who have beaten Tampa Bay twice this season and five times overall. In 2020, New Orleans outscored the Buccaneers 72-26, including the Saints’ 38-3 victory over Tampa Bay in November.
According to Evans, who became the first player in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards in seven consecutive seasons to begin his career, Tampa Bay is a much different team since that November matchup.
“I feel like we’re getting healthier,’ he said. “Our roster, I feel like, is the most talented roster in the league. We started off as a good team because we just have a lot of great players on our team. But now, we’re forming into a great team. We’ve just got to keep going each week, battling, finding ways to get better, and finding ways to win tough games.”
Even though Tampa Bay has not beaten New Orleans in five tries, Evans believes the Saints are Tampa’s biggest rival.
“It’s definitely a great rivalry,” he said. “When we play each other, [there] is a lot of emotion, a lot of physicality. As players, we love it – we love this rivalry. I know the fans love it. I would say it is our biggest rivalry.”
New Orleans has Tampa Bay’s number at this point, but it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season, so that could work in the Buccaneers’ favor. They have the talent to defeat New Orleans, but based on what we have seen in the regular season, it won’t be easy.