The NFL has upheld Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans' one-game suspension for his actions during last week's game against the New Orleans Saints.

Evans was deemed to have violated unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules when he knocked Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore to the ground during the fourth quarter of Tampa Bay's 20-10 win. He was ejected along with Lattimore, who provoked the incident by getting in the face of Bucs quarterback Tom Brady before Evans intervened with a blindside shove that prompted a brief melee between the teams.

The four-time Pro Bowler will miss Sunday's game at the Green Bay Packers after appeals officer and former NFL wide receiver James Thrash denied Evans' request to overturn the penalty.

Evans' absence further depletes a Buccaneers receiving corps that was already shorthanded last week with Chris Godwin and Julio Jones both inactive. Godwin is reportedly expected to miss multiple games after injuring his hamstring in Tampa Bay's season-opening win at the Dallas Cowboys, while Jones sat out the New Orleans game with a knee injury and is uncertain to return against the Packers.

The Buccaneers did sign veteran slot receiver Cole Beasley to the practice squad on Tuesday, though it is unclear if he'll be ready to help out immediately.

Evans, the only player in NFL history to begin his career with eight consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards, leads Tampa Bay with eight catches and 132 receiving yards through two games.

The 29-year-old was previously suspended one game in 2017 for a similar confrontation with Lattimore.

In this latest incident, NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan determined that Evans' actions were excessive and unnecessary and broke league safety and sportsmanship rules.

"After a play had ended, you were walking toward your sidelines. When you noticed your team-mates engaged in a confrontation with Saints' players, you ran toward that area on the field and violently threw your body into and struck an unsuspecting opponent who was part of that confrontation," Runyan wrote in a letter to Evans informing him of the decision.

"You knocked your opponent to the ground and a melee ensued involving players from both teams. Your aggressive conduct could have caused serious injury to your opponent and clearly does not reflect the high standards of sportsmanship expected of a professional."

After a pair of losses sandwiched around their bye week, it had been nearly a month since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enjoyed a victory. 

That led to a "lot of bad nights' sleep" for ultra-competitive Tom Brady as he stewed over mistakes made and opportunities lost. 

Even after they got back on track with a 30-10 defeat of the New York Giants on Monday, though, the quarterback and his team-mates did not sound entirely satisfied. 

"I think we've got a long way to go," Brady told ESPN afterward. "Seven games left, so there's a lot of football left.

"The games are bigger because there's fewer of them, and we put ourselves in a decent position but we've got to keep going."

On the heels of defeats against New Orleans and Washington, the Buccaneers (7-3) and little trouble fending off the Giants (3-7), but the reigning Super Bowl champions could have been more efficient. 

While all three of their touchdowns came from deep in Giants territory, the Bucs drove inside New York's 25-yard line three more times but had to settle for field goals. 

"We executed a little bit better," Brady said. "Still left a few out there, I thought, but better.

"Good win for our team, obviously. Losing two straight, that really sucks in the NFL. But glad it's not three straight, glad we won." 

Brady completed 30 of 46 passes for 307 yards with an interception and a pair of touchdown passes, hitting Chris Godwin for a TD on the opening drive of the game and finding Mike Evans for a five-yard score midway through the third quarter. 

Evans' touchdown was the 72nd of his Buccaneers career, breaking the franchise record of 71 previously held by franchise icon Mike Alstott. 

"It's something I dreamed of," Evans told NFL Network. "I've been blessed to have great teammates, good health, and I've worked really hard for it, so I'm proud of it. I'm just happy to be in the same sentence with Mike Alstott."

Only 28 years old, Evans has spent his entire eight-year NFL career with Tampa Bay and reached double digits in touchdown receptions four times. 

With 10 TD catches this year, he is well-positioned to top his career-best mark of 13 in a season established last year. 

Brady said Evans is "amazing, in every way – as a player, teammate, friend, leader. He's just awesome. Love being out there with him, love playing with him. He really sets the tone for that group."

In addition to Evans' steady contributions, the Bucs also benefited from tight end Rob Gronkowski's return to the lineup Monday after playing only five snaps since Week 3 due to a variety of injuries. 

He had six catches for 71 yards against the Giants, and if he can stay healthy he will provide another valuable weapon as Brady and the Bucs gear up for another playoff run. 

"We're at a decent point but we can play a lot better than we've played," Brady said. "I'm hoping our best football is in front of us."

The reigning Super Bowl champions got back on track Monday as Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 30-10 rout of the New York Giants.

The victory at Raymond James Stadium marked a welcome return to normalcy for the Bucs (7-3), who had dropped successive road games at New Orleans and Washington. They are now 5-0 at home this season. 

Brady completed 30 of 46 passes for 307 yards with an interception and a pair of touchdown passes for Tampa Bay, hitting Chris Godwin for a TD on the opening drive of the game and finding Mike Evans for a five-yard score midway through the third quarter. 

Evans' touchdown was the 72nd of his Buccaneers career, breaking the franchise record of 71 previously held by Mike Alstott. 

Ronald Jones ran for another Tampa Bay touchdown and Ryan Succop made all three of his field goal attempts for the Bucs. 

The Tampa Bay defence forced three turnovers as Giants quarterback Daniel Jones went 23-of-38 passing for just 167 yards with a TD and two interceptions. 

New York (3-7) scored on two of their first three possessions to keep the game tight at 10-10 midway through the second quarter but could not put a point on the board from there. 

Saquon Barkley returned after missing four games with a sprained ankle, but the Giants' star running back managed only 25 yards on six carries. 

 

Much of the Super Bowl LV build up has understandably focused on the tantalising battle between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

Brady is eyeing a seventh Super Bowl crown against the NFL's top superstar Mahomes, who looks the most likely candidate to come close to his total in the years ahead.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs have not made it to Sunday's game purely based on their quarterbacks, though.

Stats Perform's NFL research analyst Ethan Cooperson will be in the commentary booth as part of the CBS broadcast crew with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo at Raymond James Stadium.

He has highlighted some of the most interesting data that suggests the Bucs' Mike Evans and Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill have pivotal roles to play.

EVANS RISING TO BRADY CHALLENGE

Brady and Evans have had a few difficult moments over the course of a campaign where the wideout has battled injuries at times.

But his contribution may not have had the credit it deserved for the Bucs' run to the big game.

"The Mike Evans effect is actually underrated," Cooperson said to Stats Perform News. "A little indication of that - Evans, this season, 14 touchdown receptions including the playoffs.

"The only wide receiver in Brady's career to catch more from him in one season is Randy Moss in 2007.

"So of all the years he played in New England with Wes Welker, with Moss, Evans is having the second most productive year in terms of TDs by any wide receiver who has been paired with Brady.

"This is obviously a great talent in Evans, who has had 1,000 yards in every season of his career, an unknown because he played on a team that was never in the playoffs.

"But now that he's with Brady, suddenly he's become, in some respects, a star because now we are realising how good this guy has been for all these years - and Brady's helped bring that out."

Evans is a formidable red-zone weapon when he is targeted. He has had one red-zone catch in each of the past two games, both touchdowns.

Per Stats Perform data, including the postseason, 11 of his 15 TD catches have come in the red zone; both figures are franchise records.

CAN HILL BE STOPPED?

In the AFC Championship Game, Hill (nine catches, 172 receiving yards) and Travis Kelce (13 catches, 118 receiving yards) became the first pair of team-mates all-time with 20+ catches and 280+ receiving yards combined in a playoff game.

The only time any NFL duo reached those numbers during the 2020 regular season was Kelce and Hill in Week 12 when they won impressively at Tampa Bay (21 catches, 351 receiving yards).

The Bucs will need an answer for Hill. In the first meeting, he became the second player in NFL history with 13+ catches, 20+ yards per catch and 3+ touchdowns in a game, joining Jerry Rice (December 18, 1995).

His 269 receiving yards were the most by any player in a game this season and the most ever allowed by Tampa Bay.

Cooperson explained: "Let's see what the Buccaneers do to defend Tyreek Hill.

"Last meeting, Carlton Davis against Hill, Davis allowed 194 receiving yards in that game - 183 to Hill, but 194 receiving yards, the most that any one defender has allowed in any single game all season.

"Clearly, they need to do something different against Hill, that's what this might come down to.

"In that game it was one of one of the better performances by a receiver in a single game in league history, something has to be done differently to try to shut him down.

"But, of course, there's the danger that if you rotate through much of the coverage to him then Travis Kelce's open all day to catch passes and beat the defense that way.

"It is a dilemma for any defensive coordinator with two great weapons like that, it seems like it's almost impossible to stop both of them - so maybe try to stop one of them.

"It's a nightmare to try to try to defend. And clearly they struck out in trying to defend Hill the last time. Recently, no one else has been able to cover both of those receivers.

"I like Hill with the speed. I think he's tougher to bring down in the open field. Some of his runs when he gets into the open field are electrifying and what he can do after the catch is pretty dazzling.

"He's an effective rusher in addition to being a great pass catcher. In the open field, that's a big part of what makes him so dangerous."

GRONKOWSKI V KELCE

The two star tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Kelce, are also sure to capture plenty of attention and have been subject to many pre-game comparisons.

"To be fair, I don't think Gronk is a great weapon at this point," said Cooperson as he gave his verdict.

"I think he has one catch in the postseason. So he's a great blocker. That's one thing that's not mentioned about him, more than some of the other very good pass-catching tight ends.

"Cameron Brate actually is having a much more productive postseason than Gronk as far as receiving.

"It's essentially a case where Kelce has inherited the mantle from Gronkowski as the game's elite tight end. He has statistically, in terms of receptions and yards, surpassed a lot of what Gronk has done.

"Five straight 1,000-yard seasons - unprecedented for a tight end. Kelce is such a weapon, he's almost a wide receiver playing tight end.

"He's such a weapon in the red zone, he is such a weapon over the middle, he's a weapon on deep throws. There's not much in his game that he can't do.

"And there's not much that they don't use him to do. He's having the best season ever by a tight end and he's destroying the tight end record book.

"His next catch, assuming he gets a catch in the Super Bowl, that will be number 127 of the season, which will be the most ever by a tight end over a regular season and playoffs combined."

Mike Evans feels Tom Brady is "just playing chess" late in his career as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prepare for the NFC Championship Game.

Brady, 43, has led the Buccaneers into their first NFC Championship Game since the 2002 season and Tampa Bay face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The Buccaneers finished last season 7-9 and now are a win away from the Super Bowl, but Evans is unsurprised Brady has had such a big impact.

"He's the greatest player to ever play the game. You add him on any roster and I'm sure the outcome would be somewhat like this," the wide receiver told a news conference.

"He always gets his teams to the playoffs. He's a winner, he's a natural-born winner, leader, all that.

"At this point in his career he's just playing chess and we're definitely very happy that he's on our side."

The Buccaneers were 6-2 on the road during the regular season and they have beaten the Washington Football Team and New Orleans Saints away from home in the playoffs.

While Super Bowl LV will be played at their Raymond James Stadium, they must first beat a Packers outfit that are 8-1 at Lambeau Field this season.

Brady, who is 1-1 at Lambeau Field with his most recent outing at the ground coming in 2014, said getting the fundamentals right was key on the road.

"We've been pretty good on the road all year, outside of the first game and then the Chicago game. For one reason or another we've just done a good job," he told a news conference.

"Some years it's been like that, I've been part of other teams when it wasn't quite like that. Let's keep that streak going, that would be pretty sweet, so let's get another one.

"We're going to be challenged to get it because we're going up against a great football team. Playing on the road is about playing good football – communication, execution, all the fundamentals of blocking, tackling. All those things.

"It's a great environment and this is one of the coolest stadiums in the league to play in. I know they're excited, we're excited, and it'll make for a great football game."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make a late call on Mike Evans' fitness for their Wild Card Round game against the Washington Football Team on Saturday. 

The Bucs wide receiver hyperextended his left knee in the first quarter of the Week 17 win over the Atlanta Falcons and did not return. 

Evans reached 1,000 receiving yards for a seventh consecutive season since the start of his NFL career just prior to getting hurt, in the process becoming the first player to achieve the feat.

The worrying injury represented a blow to Tampa Bay ahead of their first playoff appearance since 2007. 

But head coach Bruce Arians is still holding out hope for Evans, who had 70 receptions for 1,006 yards this year, scoring a career-high 13 touchdowns. 

The 27-year-old did not participate in practice on Tuesday or Wednesday but had limited involvement on Thursday. 

"I think he's got a chance," Arians said. "He'll be a game-time decision.

"He's lived in the training room and done a great job with it, and in the meeting room, staying off his feet.

"Today's the first day he tried to do much active movement, and it was okay, hopefully. We'll see how sore he is tomorrow [on Friday]."

But the Bucs will not take any risks, as Arians added: "If he goes out there, he's healthy. We're not putting him out there to limp on one leg. So, if he's playing, he's good to go."

The Cleveland Browns ended the NFL's longest playoff drought as they held off the Pittsburgh Steelers in dramatic fashion to secure postseason football.

Needing a win to book their first playoff appearance since 2002, the Browns triumphed 24-22 in the final game of their regular season.

Joining the Browns in the playoffs are the Baltimore Ravens, who thrashed the Cincinnati Bengals 38-3 to take another of the seven available postseason spots on Sunday.

The Miami Dolphins' hopes took a blow as they succumbed to a heavy defeat to AFC East winners Buffalo Bills, while the Dallas Cowboys fell short at the final hurdle with a loss at the New York Giants, who need a favour from the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

BROWNS END 18-YEAR WAIT

After 17 seasons of being on the outside looking in, the Browns are into the playoffs thanks to a nerve-wracking victory over the Steelers enough to end a dismal run.

Cleveland had to shut down its practice facility four times over the course of the last eight days due to COVID-19 concerns but, inspired by Baker Mayfield, the Browns made it through.

Mayfield threw for 196 yards and one touchdown but led some decisive drives and sealed the victory with a first-down run at the death after Mason Rudolph had missed a two-point attempt that would have tied the game.

The Browns finish the regular season 11-5 – it is their best record since 1994, when Bill Belichick led them to their last win in a playoff game. 

Pittsburgh ultimately ended Cleveland's hopes that season, and the Steelers will be the Browns' first opponents in the playoffs next week. 

In another twist of fate, the Browns' only playoff appearance this century also came in Pittsburgh, where they lost 36-33.

JACKSON-INSPIRED RAVENS SOAR AND GIANTS ON THE BRINK

Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to top 1,000 rushing yards in successive seasons as he helped the Ravens to a massive, playoff-clinching win over the Bengals.

More records tumbled for the 2019 MVP, as the 23-year-old became the first QB to throw 46 red-zone touchdowns without an interception and takes the crown for the fastest QB to amass 30 wins.

Jackson, a former first-round pick, rushed for 97 yards on Week 17, as Baltimore won a fifth straight game with ease.

The Raves will now face the winner of the AFC South – either the Tennessee Titans or the Indianapolis Colts.

Meanwhile, the Giants will be rooting for the Eagles to overcome the Washington Football Team later on Sunday after their win over the Cowboys put them on the brink of the postseason.

Should Philly win, the Giants will clinch the NFC East title, though a Washington win would send Ron Rivera's team through.

DOLPHINS SINK, BRADY'S BUCS CAP OFF REGULAR SEASON IN STYLE

The Dolphins' playoff chances are slim after a 56-26 defeat to the Bills, as Josh Allen and Isaiah McKenzie – who ran in three touchdowns – blew them away in Buffalo.

Allen, who is in a race for the league's MVP award, threw 224 passing yards for three touchdowns on Sunday.

The third-year QB holds single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,544), touchdowns (37) and completions (396).

Miami must now rely on the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull off an unlikely win over the Indianapolis Colts to claim a playoff berth.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished a brilliant regular season with a 44-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

On his record-setting 299th start in the NFL, Tom Brady threw touchdown passes to Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, as the six-time Super Bowl champion finished with a Tampa Bay single-season record 40.

Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Dan Marino are the only players other than Brady with multiple seasons of at least 40 touchdown passes.

Brady also picked out three-time Pro Bowler Mike Evans with a pass, who once again reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season for Tampa, though he then suffered a game-ending knee injury.

JEFFERSON INTO THE RECORD BOOKS

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson set a new Super Bowl-era record as he surpassed Anquan Boldin for the rookie with the most receiving yards in a season.

He is now second all-time behind Bill Groman, who holds a rookie record of 1,473 receiving yards, which he set in 1960.

Jefferson also set a Vikings franchise rookie record when he caught a 15-yard pass in the third quarter of a 37-35 win over the Detroit Lions, who will finish no lower than seventh in the current draft order.

 

Week 17 results (part one)

Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons

 

Mike Evans once again reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season for Tampa Bay – but his involvement against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was cut short by a worrying knee injury. 

Evans went into the Week 17 game on the brink of NFL history, as he was in sight of becoming the first receiver to have seven straight seasons with 1,000 yards to start a career. 

The three-time Pro Bowler duly reached the milestone in the first quarter on Sunday when reeling in a 20-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady. 

However, on the next play, Evans was hurt trying to score a touchdown. In pain having over-extended his left leg, he was taken to the team's locker room on a cart. 

Tampa Bay later confirmed the receiver would not be returning, with his health now a huge concern for the franchise ahead of the playoffs. 

The Bucs have already qualified for the postseason but will finish behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South – they are yet to discover who they will face in the opening round. 

Brady, meanwhile, also achieved a notable landmark, his 299th start in the NFL moving him out of a tie with Brett Favre for the most by a quarterback. 

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