The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their 11th game of the season, losing steadily but surely to the Detroit Lions. There were a few points in the game where the Bucs looked like they may have had a chance to win, but the Lions never gave up the lead they established on the second drive of the game.
The Bucs, as per usual, just couldn't do enough on offense to help a solid (if not as dominant as has been the case in recent weeks) defensive effort. In fact, the Bucs offense actively hurt their case, turning the ball over twice inside their own 30-yard line.
That's not to say that the Tampa Bay defense played well, because they didn't. Too many missed tackles gave the Lions offense easy first downs on what should have been short plays, and Matt Stafford was able to find Calvin Johnson underneath all day long -- although that was at least in part by design. But where Stafford usually has a few dumb mistakes every game, he played near-perfect football today, ending the game going 25 of 24 for 311 yards and three touchdowns.
Matt Stafford - 26/34 for 311 yards and three touchdowns.
Josh McCown - 20/39 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Vincent Jackson - Ten catches for 159 yards.
Mike Evans - Four catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns.
Calvin Johnson - Eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown.
Joique Bell - 18 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown, plus five catches for 50 yards and another touchdown.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started the game with a clear strategy: force the Lions to complete underneath passes to get down the field. They stopped the run and took away the deep pass, and were going to rely on Matt Stafford's inevitable mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes didn't look very inevitable in the first quarter: Stafford went 12 of 15 for 121 yards and a touchdown during the first quarter.
The only reason the Bucs were down just one touchdown instead of two after the first quarter was a solid fourth-and-one stop on the Lions' first drive.
The Bucs offense was as incompetent as ever, though at least they didn't turn the ball over. McCown was only capable of completing some quick passes, and while Doug Martin looked solid, he got the ball just twice all quarter.
The Bucs were slightly better in the second quarter: they got a field goal off, despite the offensive line conspiring to get Josh McCown killed again and nearly getting them knocked out of field goal range. Meanwhile, the Lions defense kept mugging Mike Evans -- and on one of those uncalled defensive pass interference infractions, Evans tipped the ball into the waiting arms of a Lions defender.
While the Bucs' defense had managed a stop on the previous drive, they couldn't get the Lions down. Missed tackles on consecutive third downs turned tackles-for-loss into a first down and then a touchdown for the Lions. And then Evan Dietrich-Smith decided that Garrett Gilkey had something to teach him, and emulated the guy with his own rolling snap for an easy Detroit recovery.
The Bucs recovered in one of the craziest drives of the season. It featured a 50-yard catch by Vincent Jackson, a personal foul on Ndamukong Suh, a Josh McCown interception that was then stripped by Luke Stocker and recovered by the Bucs, a third-down stop negated by a penalty and finally, a Mike Evans touchdown.
If the second quarter gave the Bucs a little hope, the third quarter saw them steadily losing that hope. The offense once again couldn't move the ball, and the defense actually started giving up yards and points -- ten points to be precise, leading to a 27-10 Lions lead at the end of the third quarter. And that was enough to win the game for Detroit.
The Bucs didn't actually think the game was out of reach, though. McCown and company went straight down the field, with Vincent Jackson putting them into position and Mike Evans getting his second touchdown of the game to put the Bucs back in play at 27-17.
That was about all she wrote, though. They were forced to punt on the next drive, and then Joique Bell and Calvin Johnson definitively put the Bucs to sleep, with Bell making one of the more ridiculous plays the Bucs have allowed this year.
That about sums up this season.
Lavonte David left the game with a concussion in the third quarter, and did not return.
Brandon Magee suffered a pectoral injury in the fourth quarter and was ruled out for the game, too.