TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Mike Evans sat on the bench, staring at his hands in disbelief.
Tampa Bay's all-time receiving leader, the only player in NFL history to begin a career with nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, dropped a pass in the end zone with no defenders around him. He had no one to blame but himself.
“I dropped it being a little cocky, thinking about what fan I was going to give the ball to. You can't do that," Evans said after redeeming himself with a 22-yard touchdown catch to help the Buccaneers snap a four-game skid with a 20-6 victory over the reeling Tennessee Titans.
Evans bulldozed his way across the goal line, carrying cornerback Kristian Fulton on his back, to put the Bucs (4-5) up 17-3 midway through the third quarter.
The 10th-year pro's second-down drop on the previous possession led to Tampa Bay settling for a field goal for a 10-3 lead after Evans' 43-yard catch set up the offense inside the Tennessee 10.
“I was angry at myself and frustrated," the receiver said. “I made it a point to get that touchdown back.”
Baker Mayfield threw for 278 yards and two TDs for the Bucs, who had dropped four in a row after winning three of four to start the season.
Rachaad White turned a first-quarter screen pass into a 43-yard TD, and Evans finished with six receptions for 143 yards.
“It's a lot of weight off your shoulders," Evans said of ending Tampa Bay's longest skid since 2019. “Four in a row is tough, especially with our talent and what we believe we can do. We definitely believe we can be a contender and a playoff team.”
A week after yielding five TD passes and an NFL rookie record 470 yards through the air to Houston's C.J. Stroud, the Bucs' defense fared much better against another first-year quarterback, Will Levis, who was sacked four times and intercepted once while failing to get his team into the end zone.
Tennessee (3-6) lost for the fourth time in five games following a 2-2 start. The Titans have dropped eight straight on the road dating to last season.
“We’ve just got to do a better job,” said Levis, who was trying to join Jacky Lee (1960) and Brent Pease (1987 replacement games) as the only rookie quarterbacks in Titans/Oilers franchise history to win two of his first three starts.
Levis led a field goal drive on Tennessee's first possession but finished 19 of 39 for 199 yards in his first start since coach Mike Vrabel announced the second-round draft pick was replacing an injured Ryan Tannehill as the No. 1 quarterback moving forward.
“We know what we need to do to put us in the right direction. That starts in the building, doing the small things," Titans running back Derrick Henry said.
“You can only talk so much, you’ve got to go out there and do it," Henry added. "We are at the point where talking should be over, we’ve got to produce. That’s how you win in this league.”
An injury-weakened offensive line struggled to protect Levis, and the rookie got little help from a running game that produced 42 yards on 16 carries.
Nick Folk kicked field goals of 38 and 35 yards for the Titans, who haven't won a road game since a prime-time victory at Green Bay last Nov. 17.
Levis fell to 1-2 as a starter. In his three starts, the 33rd overall pick has thrown for 699 yards, four TDs and two interceptions.
“We didn’t run it very well," Vrabel said. “The first drive, there was some good stuff going on there, just didn’t finish that drive off. And whether it’s pressure or (various breakdowns) trying to get the football off, it was a struggle.”
Titans: With LT Nicholas Petit-Frere already out after being placed on injured reserve, the Titans played without two starting offensive linemen. RG Daniel Brunskill (ankle) was ruled out earlier in the week. Backup Andre Dillard started in place of Petit-Frere but left in the second quarter with a concussion. CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (thumb) was also inactive. LB Chance Campbell, who was signed to the active roster from the practice squad, was injured during pregame warmups.
Buccaneers: CB Carlton Davis III (toe) and LG Matt Feiler (knee) were inactive. CB Jamel Dean cleared concussion protocol and started.
Titans: Remain on the road next Sunday against AFC South rival Jacksonville, finishing a stretch of three consecutive games away from Nashville.
Buccaneers: Play four of their next five on the road, beginning at San Francisco next Sunday.
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