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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Gilberto Manzano

Tampa Bay has shown how to get the most out of the future Hall of Fame receiver this season, while it was a weekend to forget for Tennessee’s special teams.

It’s wild how underrated Mike Evans has been throughout his decorated career.

Evans has bailed out the Buccaneers several times in the past decade, most recently in last week’s win against the Panthers on a day that put him in the history books with the great Jerry Rice.

With a three-point deficit in the third quarter, Baker Mayfield took three steps back and noticed Evans with the inside lane against his defender and hit Evans in stride for a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown to give the Bucs (5–7) the lead they never relinquished. It was a terrific call by first-year offensive coordinator Dave Canales on the first play of the drive.

Evans has shown an ability to produce, no matter who is throwing him the football.

Mark LoMoglio/AP

Evans has made many plays with different quarterbacks and play-callers, but Canales has made his job easier this season with the way he’s utilized the future Hall of Famer in his offensive scheme. Evans, 30, is on track to have his best statistical season since 2018 when he had 86 catches for 1,524 yards and eight touchdowns. With five games to go, Evans is currently at 61 catches for 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns.

And yes, Evans has the credentials to make the Hall of Fame with his impressive career numbers and 2020 Super Bowl ring. Evans is the first player in NFL history to start a career with 10 consecutive seasons of reaching 1,000 receiving yards. He’s one season away from matching Rice’s record of 11 consecutive seasons (at any point in a career) with at least 1,000 receiving yards.

Evans needs more attention, and so does Canales for what he’s done with a Mayfield-led offense in Tampa Bay. Canales was Geno Smith’s quarterbacks coach last season in Seattle, and the Seahawks have missed him this year.

Canales’s memorable touchdown call for Evans highlights this week’s best coaching decisions from NFL Week 13. We also have three coaching decisions we didn’t like so much.

Calls we liked

Lions’ bold pass play on third down: Dan Campbell, a front-runner for Coach of the Year, warned his family members to “wear a diaper” when they attend Lions games.

They might have needed diapers—can’t believe I went with this line—after Campbell gave offensive coordinator Ben Johnson the green light to call a pass play on third-and-9 from the New Orleans 46-yard line with a five-point lead late in the game. If the Lions would have failed to move the chains, the Saints would have had around two minutes to produce a game-winning drive.

But Campbell took his chances knowing the Saints didn’t have a timeout left. The move paid off after Jared Goff connected with Josh Reynolds for a 12-yard gain to end the game with kneeldowns and a 33–28 victory.

Arizona’s 99-yard TD drive vs. Steelers: The Cardinals had the biggest upset of the week after they left Pittsburgh with a win, a game that changed with a goal line stop followed by a 15-play, 99-yard touchdown drive.

Cardinals offensive coordinator Drew Petzing dialed up many productive plays for Kyler Murray on the memorable drive. It’s been a tough season in Arizona, but they might have something with Petzing and Murray, who has played well since returning from his torn ACL injury. Also, credit to Arizona coach Jonathan Gannon for keeping his defense competitive, which showed on the fourth-down stop from the 1-yard line with the game tied 3–3 in the second quarter.

Calls we questioned

Titans’ special-teams blunders: No specific play to highlight because there’s not enough space here to break down how many special teams errors the Titans had during their overtime 31–28 loss against the Colts.

But here’s a brief summary: The Titans had two punts blocked on back-to-back possessions, including one that was scooped for an 18-yard touchdown return that gave the Colts a 22–17 lead in the third quarter. The other led to a field goal because the Colts started at the Titans’ 7-yard line. Tennessee also had a missed extra-point attempt with quarterback Ryan Tannehill as the holder to keep the game tied 25–25 late in the game. Tannehill was needed because punter Ryan Stonehouse was injured on the second punt block.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel fired special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman the day after the long list of miscues.

McCarthy’s cautionary decision didn’t cost the Cowboys, but similar moves could in the postseason.

Roger Steinman/AP

Cowboys settle with late field goal for six-point lead: It didn’t cost the Cowboys, but Mike McCarthy might have been better off going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Seahawks’ 14-yard line with 1:46 left in regulation.

Instead, McCarthy took the three points from his kicker for a six-point lead and sweated on the sideline as his defense stepped up to stop Smith, DK Metcalf and the rest of the Seahawks’ offense that gave them fits most of the game.

The Cowboys took the 41–35 win, but McCarthy might need to be a little more aggressive down the stretch, especially with a dynamic offense led by Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb.

Eagles abandon running game vs. 49ers: The 49ers prioritized removing running lanes from Jalen Hurts during their dominant win against the Eagles.

Philadelphia’s coaching staff failed to adjust by getting more playmakers involved with the rushing attack. D’Andre Swift had only six carries for 13 yards, and the team finished with 46 rushing yards on 18 carries. The game eventually got out of hand, but the Eagles had plenty of time to establish the ground game in the first half.

Hurts can’t be the rushing leader for the Eagles if these two teams meet again in the postseason. 

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