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Lions-Buccaneers preview: An opportunity to save face

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The Bucs have a chance to show they’re better than their record.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the Detroit Lions on Sunday. The latter hope to come closer to a playoff spot, perfectly reasonable with a 6-6 record right now. The former have been officially eliminated from the playoffs, as far as we can tell.

Still, the Bucs will want to win—to save their coaches, to earn their paychecks, and because no one likes to lose. So let’s preview the game.

Reviewing the Lions’ last four games:

Cle 24, Det 38 W

Det 27, Chi 24 W

Min 30, Det 23 L

Det 20, Bal 44 L

From Detroit’s last four games, it looks as though they beat the teams they are supposed to beat and lost to the better teams. That is probably why they are a .500 team. The Lions’ offense has been averaging 27 points per game in the last four contests. Yet their defense has been allowing 30.5 points per game within that same game set.

These Lions consistently score a lot and get scored upon often.

Lions Defense

In the previous section, we already noted that the Lions gave up a lot of points. On the season, it appears to hold true. They look like the perfect defense for the Bucs’ anemic offense. Of course, we thought this before in other games only to find yet another way to lose a game.

There is hope that this game can help with the Red Zone scoring deficiencies of the Bucs’ offense, even it is just for one game. There is hope that maybe Winston can incrementally improve as a QB as well. He needs to be a better game manager than being a hero. Pewter Report’s Trevor Sikkema’s latest Cover-3 article shows Good Winston (taking what the defense gives, first drive) vs Old Winston (still staring down receivers and going for the big play than the open, safe route available). Trevor had actually denoted “Old Winston” visually during pre-season games.

Bucs Defense

The Bucs defense performed admirably last week. Two miscues flipped the script. First, the block (or shanked) punt game the Pack a short field to start off with at the Bucs-45 yard line. Green Bay scored upon that short field gift. Second, the Winston giveaway for a TD on a 1st and 10 on the Pack-30 yard line was the nail in the coffin. In regulation, the Bucs’ defense only gave up 13 points, with seven coming off of that miscued punt.

Out of 9 regulation drives (not including the one-play drive to end the first half), the Bucs forced four punts and one interception. One drive was the last drive in regulation that was 3 plays for -2 yards.

But the Bucs’ defense simply could not shut down the Pack as they implemented Zone-Read QB runs or Hundley escaped the pocket containment that destroyed the Bucs at the end of the game and overtime.

If Detroit’s QB Matt Stafford is healthy, then the Bucs secondary will have their hands full and Mike Smith gets another chance to figure out how to improve his secondary… or not.

Conclusion

The Lions look like a mirror of a Bucs team this season, except for one aspect – the Lions can score more points consistently. On the season, Detroit is scoring about 6 more points than the Bucs’ offense. What can 6 additional points do per game this season with the Bucs?

Game 4: Loss to New England, 19 – 14. Pt Differential: – 5 points

Game 5: Loss to Arizona, 38 – 33. Pt Differential: – 5 points

Game 6: Loss to Buffalo, 30 – 27. Pt Differential: – 3 points

Game 12: Loss to Green Bay, 26 – 20 in Overtime. Pt Differential: – 6 points

At maximum potential, the Bucs could have secured four more wins. The Arizona game was not as close as the final score reveals, but the Bucs did have a chance to steal that game as it did fail in the end of the first half to score at all on first-and-goal on the 7-yard line.

This season has been a season of consistent inconsistencies. Last week, two plays defined the game (a blocked punt that gave the Pack only 45 yards to score and a QB fumble-lateral returned for a TD), neither of them by the defense, but the defense gets the full load of the game of blowing a lead. It does deserve blame for blowing the lead, but in full game context, the Bucs won everywhere save the scoreboard – and that is the offense’s responsibility. The offense wasted a good defensive outing from our inconsistent defense.

Games where the Bucs’ defense held opposing team’s offenses to 20 points or less in regulation:

Game 1: Win against Chicago, 29 – 7 . Pt Differential: + 22 points

Game 4: Loss to New England, 14 – 19. Pt Differential: – 5 points

Game 7: Loss to Carolina, 3 – 17. Pt Differential: – 14 points

Game 9: Win against NY Jets, 15 – 10. Pt Differential: + 5 points

Game 10: Win against Miami, 30 – 20. Pt Differential: + 10 points

Game 12: Loss to Green Bay, 20 – 26 OT (20 – 20 end of regulation). Pt Differential: – 6 points

The Bucs are 3 – 3 in games where the opposing team is held to 20 points or less scoring. Last year, the Bucs’ offense did enough to win every situation. Although this year’s defense pales next to last year’s defense, they are still holding teams to 20 points or less in regulation time in half of their games this season.

With the offensive weapons accrued this year, it is a magnanimous disappointment that the offense cannot score more often, especially in games where opposing teams are held to 20 points or under in regulation. Those opportunities should be exploited, not helplessly exhausted. Yet that is the theme for this offense and the lack of scoring.

In order to win this game, the defense must play beyond lights out because fans cannot understand that there were 3-and-half quarters played where the offense failed to score more points. If Winston does not give away 7 points last week, the Bucs probably win. If QB Stafford is healthy to play, then I do not like the Bucs chances of winning the game. The Bucs have a unique propensity to enable new ways to snatch victory from itself, but let us hope that consistency is broken this week.