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Depleted Bucs need Mike Evans to keep momentum going in Atlanta

TAMPA, Fla. -- Mike Evans had a standout game in Week 7 with 164 yards on eight catches. With some of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' top pass-catching options dealing with injuries, he'll need another big afternoon against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

"He's tough duty in a man-to-man situation," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday. "We got him matched up favorably last week. Hopefully, we can do the same thing. He's a guy that when things aren't going exactly the way you like, you lean on guys like Mike."

The Bucs did so during their loss to Washington Redskins, especially after wide receivers Louis Murphy and Vincent Jackson went down with knee injuries. Evans responded with his best game since gaining a career-high 209 yards receiving in a victory over Washington last year.

"It was good," Evans said. "I wanted the ball to be in my hands at the end of the game and make some third-down conversions. I thought we had the game won, but we had too many penalties [16 for 142 yards]. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, and [the loss] happened. We've got to bounce back."

Evans needed a big game to stop the questions about the uninspiring start to his season.

Before Sunday, he had been held to a combined 73 yards on six catches in Weeks 4 and 5. He had seven receptions for 101 yards in Week 3 against the Houston Texans, but he had no catches during his season debut in Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints.

The Bucs can't afford for Evans to be a non-factor Sunday. Murphy was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday, Jackson didn't participate in practice Wednesday and it's unclear if tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will return Sunday after missing the past four games because of a shoulder injury.

"We all know that Mike is one of the best players on our team and one of the best players in the game," Smith said.

The Bucs need Evans to show it.