Michigan product Chris Evans gets Bengals' rout of Lions started right

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Detroit — Generally speaking, it's not very often that an NFL rookie gets to score his first career touchdown in the backyard of his old college stomping grounds.

But former Michigan running back Chris Evans did just that on Sunday, opening up the scoring for the Cincinnati Bengals in a 34-11 win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Bengals running back Chris Evans (Michigan) pulls in a finger-tip catch and goes into the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Evans, selected by Cincinnati in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft after a disappointing senior season at Michigan, got his first carries of the season on Sunday and caught three passes for 49 yards.

That includes the 24-yard touchdown reception after beating Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin on the outside, which gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead with 8:26 to go in the opening quarter.

"It's not a breakout game for us," Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. "This is what you all that have been at practice have seen from him all training camp, is running a double move like that, creating separation. That's a tough matchup for other teams, so for him to finish that play was a big deal."

Evans had just five receptions for 55 yards through the first five games after tallying more than 2,200 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns in four seasons at Michigan. With backup Samaje Perine on the COVID list, Evans slotted in as the team's second running back and made the most of it.

Evans lined up near the left sideline on third-and-5 from the 24, with Cincinnati's dangerous trio of receivers bunched to the right of quarterback Joe Burrow. Evans put two quick moves on Reeves-Maybin, and from there, it was a matter of Burrow hitting him before the safety could slide over to stop a wide-open catch in the end zone — and he did.

"I want to mention Chris Evans," Burrow said in his postgame press conference, when asked about how good the Bengals' running backs and tight ends have been this year.

"He's just getting better and better every single week. You see what he can do for us in the pass game; he got one-on-one and really, really ran a great route and scored a touchdown for us."

Taylor and Burrow were equally impressed with Evans' blocking.

On the final play of the third quarter, the Lions' dreams of a comeback were still alive. (Based on recent precedent, anyway. The score was 20-0.) 

Lions safety Tracy Walker exploded off the edge in a disguised blitz, and appeared to be on his way to a sack — that is until Evans sawed him off, allowing Burrow to wind up and hit Ja'Marr Chase for a 53-yard completion that would set up an early fourth-quarter touchdown, and put Detroit away for good.

"He picked off a safety pressure off the edge that was really unbelievable," Burrow said.

When asked how impressed he was with Evans' game as a whole, Taylor answered: "Big time."

"The production doesn't look crazy, but when you get a sawdust versus a pressure, that's usually where the sacks have come for us early in the season," Taylor said. "Chris (did well) just stepping up and covering up the nickel, giving Joe a chance to step up there."

With compliments like that, it looks like Perine might have some competition for the No. 2 job when he returns. 

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.