NEW ORLEANS -- Tampa Bay quarterback Baker Mayfield joked that the Bucs' 26-9 victory against the Saints was anticlimactic without star wide receiver Mike Evans, who left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return.
"Obviously not having Mike there, I think it was a little bit less of a drama," Mayfield said with a chuckle, referring to the multiple altercations that Evans has had against the Saints, including a bench-clearing brawl that resulted in both he and cornerback Marshon Lattimore being ejected in Week 2 of last season.
"There was still trash talk going back and forth. Ya love it. It's still a passionate rivalry, whether they wanna say it or not. But it's a physical game when we play New Orleans."
Coach Todd Bowles said Evans "tweaked" a hamstring and would undergo tests, but the receiver was seen leaving the stadium with a mild but not significant limp. Prior to the injury, Evans caught all three of his targets for 40 yards, with two of them -- each 18-yard completions from Mayfield -- coming against Lattimore.
Evans also drew a pass interference call on Lattimore that aided the Bucs' first touchdown drive, which ended on an underhand shovel pass from Mayfield to tight end Cade Otton on third-and-4 for their first scoring connection of the season.
Evans' injury happened five minutes later. He was running a post route against Lattimore with 1:43 to go before halftime -- one play before rookie and Louisiana native Trey Palmer hauled in a 1-yard touchdown to make it 14-3 at the half.
Palmer, Deven Thompkins and Rakim Jarrett all split time replacing Evans, who has been off to one of the better starts of his career with three touchdowns in the first three games. Thompkins, a second-year undrafted free agent out of Utah State, hauled in a 5-yard diving touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped seal the victory, along with 51- and 28-yard field goals from kicker Chase McLaughlin.
"They did a phenomenal job of stepping up and making plays that came their way," said Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin, who caught eight passes on 11 targets for 114 receiving yards. "It's no surprise to us or anybody else on the team. They work their asses off, so I couldn't be happier for those guys."
Bucs starting safety Ryan Neal also left Sunday's game after suffering a concussion on the second play.
Neal was able to walk off the field with assistance from the training staff. He was first evaluated in the medical tent and then was taken to the locker room before he was declared out. He was replaced by Dee Delaney, who had an interception last week vs. the Eagles. Delaney had stepped in for the injured Jamel Dean, who suffered a neck/shoulder injury and did not make the trip to New Orleans.
The Bucs, however, did have top cornerback Carlton Davis, who returned after missing the past two games with a toe injury. He said this was a game he had circled on his calendar.
"Had it circled for sure," said Davis, who helped limit the Saints' passing game to just 127 yards. "Going into the bye week, I had to push through. Pain is only temporary. I'm all good."
Mayfield praised the team as a whole for its resiliency. For the first time in franchise history, they defeated the Saints in three consecutive games. Tampa Bay also heads into an early bye week at 3-1 and in first place in the NFC South.
"We're never out of the fight," Mayfield said. "I think we have a team of very strong-minded men. And just staff in general. They're gonna put people in position to win and make plays. I just can't say enough about our defense at the same time. I mean, nine points against that offense as well -- that's incredible."