The Buccaneers, winners of three straight, hit Detroit on Sunday looking to extend their streak to four and get back to .500 for the first time since Week 4.
They would have to do so without No. 1 receiver Mike Evans and starting left tackle Donovan Smith. Complicating matters even further was the fact that quarterback Jameis Winston was playing with a fracture in the thumb on his throwing hand and rookie linebacker was playing through an illness.
Things weren’t exactly set up well for the Lions either, to be fair. They were without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. and running backs Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough. Plus, they were missing two starting offensive linemen. That’s a rough list for a team that came in with a 3-9-1 record.
The Bucs came in as six-point favorites on the road, with ESPN’s FPI giving them a 58.8% chance to win. Despite playoffs being off the table, Tampa Bay had a chance to continue its winning ways and stay on track to potentially finish at or above .500 for the first time since 2016.
The Bucs outclassed the Lions early on, going up 21-0 in the first half. Things got scary in the second half, with Detroit getting within 24-17 before Tampa Bay scored the final 14 points to secure a 38-17 victory.
Detroit won the toss and deferred, which gave Tampa Bay the game’s first possession. Starting from the 30 after a nice return by Dare Ogunbowale, Winston found Ronald Jones II for a 14-yard gain on first down, but the Bucs then felt Donovan Smith’s absence a couple of plays later. A holding call on replacement tackle Josh Wells set them back to 2nd & 18, then a 15-yard gain for Scotty Miller was negated by a Wells block in the back. On 2nd & 23, Winston was intercepted by Jahlani Tavai, giving the Lions a first down at the Bucs’ 44-yard line.
Luckily for Winston, the Tampa Bay defense responded. William Gholston started the drive by breaking through the line for a massive hit and a three-yard tackle for loss on first down. Carlton Davis then knocked down a David Blough pass on second down before Lavonte David’s tight coverage on third down forced a punt.
After the punt, the Bucs started drive No. 2 at their own 21. Winston found Cameron Brate for a gain of nine on first down before Tampa Bay went to the run game. A couple of short runs by Jones preceded a 22-yard connection between Winston and Breshad Perriman that got the ball to the Detroit 45. A four-yard run by Jones and a five-yard pass to Justin Watson set up a 3rd & Inches that Winston converted with a sneaked it for a gain of two yards. On the next play, he found Perriman for a 34-yard touchdown to give Tampa Bay an early lead. Matt Gay’s PAT made it 7-0 with 7:25 left in the first.
Afterburners Engage— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 15, 2019
Breshad beats the coverage for a 34-yard score. pic.twitter.com/miEXVeYPt1
Gholston picked up a hands-to-the-face penalty on first down of Detroit’s next drive, but the defense forced a three-and-out from there. On the punt, Watson fell down as he tracked it, which led to the ball going off his hands only to roll out of bounds at the 1. With the entire field ahead of it, the Buccaneer offense took the field once again.
After an incomplete pass on first down, the Bucs got moving. Peyton Barber picked up four yards on second down, then Winston hit Miller for 11 yards and a first down on the next play. With some breathing room, the big plays followed. Winston found Chris Godwin for a 51-yard gain to the Detroit 33 before dropping a 33-yard touchdown pass into the hands of Scotty Miller. The rookie’s first NFL score and the ensuing extra point put the Bucs up 14-0 with 3:42 to go in the opening quarter. The 99-yard scoring drive took just five plays and 1:52.
LET'S GET IT, SCOTTY!— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 15, 2019
That's career TD No. 1️⃣ for the rookie. pic.twitter.com/GTsNmGdzZP
The Detroit offense continued to stall on its next drive. The Bucs forced a 3rd & 6 before Shaquil Barrett brought down Blough for a sack, which brought his total for the season to 16.5. That tied Warren Sapp’s single-season franchise record, which was set back in 2000.
Winston and O.J. Howard linked up for a 25-yard gain on Tampa Bay’s next drive before the first quarter came to an end a couple of plays later. After 15 minutes, it was a 14-0 lead for the Bucs.
An eventual third-down miss forced Bradley Pinion’s first punt of the afternoon, which was caught for a fair catch inside the 20 at the 13-yard line. The Lions continued to sputter on offense on their next drive, getting just one yard before having to punt yet again.
Going from their own 33 on the next drive, the Tampa Bay offense kept pushing. Even with Miller sidelined due to a hamstring injury, the Bucs kept spreading the ball around. Jones picked up five yards on first down, Winston found Godwin for six and a first down, then Ogunbowale took a pass for 13 yards and another first. A couple of plays later, Winston and Godwin connected for 20 yards to the 20-yard line. Ryan Jensen then had to hit the sideline, which brought Earl Watford in at center.
A Demar Dotson penalty and a coverage sack set the Bucs back to 3rd & 15, but Winston came back with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Perriman. The scoring pass was Winston’s 29th of the season, which is a new single-season franchise record. He had set the previous record at 28 back in 2016. After the PAT, Tampa Bay led 21-0 with 8:13 left in the first half.
Jameis to Breshad the sequel.— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 15, 2019
That's three scores for 3️⃣, two for 1️⃣9️⃣. pic.twitter.com/YKkOT3v43U
Detroit finally moved the ball on its next drive, with Blough finding Isaac Nauta for 10 yards and a first down before scrambling for another nine. That set up a second straight first down, then Blough picked up two more first downs with back-to-back passes of 10-plus yards to Danny Amendola. The offense eventually stalled at the Tampa Bay 26, which set up a 44-yard field goal by Matt Prater. The 11-play, 49-yard drive lasted 4:56 and cut the Bucs’ lead to 21-3.
Tampa Bay got the ball back at its own 25 just before the two-minute warning. Barber picked up three and Howard got another six to set up a 3rd & 1 after the two-minute mark. The Bucs converted after the break with another catch by Howard, which gave them a first down at the 38. A couple of incompletions and a sack later, Pinion had to come back out to punt.
It was a short 38-yard punt, which gave the Lions a shot to get some more points with 1:14 left in the half. They didn’t take advantage of the good field position, going three-and-out before punting the ball away again. From there, the Bucs took some shots but ultimately ran out the clock to get themselves to the locker room with a 21-3 lead.
The Lions picked up first downs on back-to-back plays to start the second half, with Blough finding Kenny Golladay for the first time before connecting again with Amendola. Jordan Whitehead put a stop to the momentum on the next couple of plays, picking up a tackle for loss on first down before applying heavy pressure on Blough to force an incompletion on second. Unfortunately for the Bucs, Whitehead had to come off the field with a hamstring injury after the second down pressure. It was announced a short while later that he would miss the rest of the game.
But the momentum was still firmly back in Tampa Bay’s favor. On 3rd & 12, Andrew Adams came up with an interception of Blough. He returned it 64 yards to the Detroit 9, but an illegal blindside block on Jason Pierre-Paul brought the ball back to Tampa Bay territory. Regardless, the Bucs had a chance to extend the lead after their first takeaway of the day.
see , get— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 15, 2019
That's Andrew's first INT of the season! pic.twitter.com/V4RoA7r7R1
Starting at their own 33 after the penalty, Winston and the offense picked up where they left off. A 38-yard pass from Winston to Godwin set up an eventual 46-yard field goal attempt by Gay. The rookie delivered, extending the Tampa Bay lead to 24-3 with 11:32 left in the third quarter.
K Matt Gay extends our lead to 24-3 with a 46-yard FG pic.twitter.com/7JaalOtuJS— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 15, 2019
The Buccaneer defense continued to stand tall on the following drive until a 46-yard pass from Blough to Amendola set the Lions up with a first down at the 6. Three plays later, Wes Hills scored from one yard out for his first career touchdown. The Tampa Bay lead was suddenly down to 14.
The injuries continued to pile up for the Bucs on their next drive. After a first down catch by Howard, Winston threw deep and missed Perriman. On that play, Godwin went down with an apparent hamstring issue.
A couple of plays later, Winston converted a 3rd & 2 with a three-yard pass to former Orlando Apollos wide receiver Ishmael Hyman, who was just added to the roster from the practice squad this week. The offense couldn’t do much else on the drive, which led to another punt after Bruce Arians lost another pass interference challenge. During the challenge, Godwin was carted to the locker room and officially ruled out for the rest of the game.
Pinion’s 40-yard punt was caught for a fair catch at the 13, which was where the Lions would start their next drive. Trailing by only two possessions with plenty of time left, Detroit found itself within striking distance. On a 3rd & 1, Golladay beat Jamel Dean for a 26-yard gain to the 48. On the next play, Blough threw deep to Chris Lacy for a 48-yard gain to the Tampa Bay 4. The quarter ended with the Lions facing a third down at the 1, just three feet away from closing the gap to one score.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Hills found the end zone. The Bucs, who once led 21-0, held just a 24-17 lead with 14:57 left in the game.
The Bucs started their next drive with a false start on Ali Marpet. Winston went to Barber for 14 yards on 1st & 15, then Barber picked up the first down with a short run on the next play. Winston stuck with Barber on the next play, looking to him again for a gain of nine more. But after getting stuffed on 2nd & 1 and 3rd & 1, the Bucs made the bold decision to go for it on 4th & Inches on their own side of the field. Winston picked up the first down with a sneak, avoiding a complete disaster.
On the next play, Tanner Hudson got in on the action, becoming the 11th Buc to catch a pass on the afternoon. The 14-yard gain gave Tampa Bay some short-lived life before a holding call on Jensen set the offense back again. A 12-yard pass to Watson brought up a 3rd & 7 with just over eight minutes to go. Winston avoided a sack on third down and threw the ball away, which gave the Bucs a chance at adding a field goal. But instead of a 27-17 lead, the game stayed at 24-17 thanks to a missed 54-yard field goal by Gay.
The Lions quickly got into Buccaneer territory from there, with an eight-yard run by Blough. The defense forced a 3rd & 1 after that, but Hills pushed up the middle for a 15-yard gain to the 32.
But then the Tampa Bay defense changed the game. Ndamukong Suh, the former Lion, came up with a sack of Blough on first down before Michigan’s own Sean Murphy-Bunting jumped a pass and took it 70 yards the other way for a pick six. Gay’s PAT extended the lead back to two scores, 31-17, with 5:12 to go.
Lavonte David intercepted Blough on the first play of the next drive, but an offsides call on Pierre-Paul negated it. With new life, the Lions kept it moving with the clock continuing to dwindle. Tampa Bay nearly had another pick, with a tipped pass ending up in the arms of Darian Stewart. But after a review, it was ruled that the ball hit the ground before it was secured. Regardless, a Vita Vea pressure on fourth down forced an incompletion and got the ball back to the Bucs at the Detroit 46 with 4:04 to go.
The offense killed some clock and then put the game away for good with another 25-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Perriman — their third connection of the day. After the PAT, the Bucs led 38-17. The touchdown put “Famous Jameis” over 450 yards for the day, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450-plus in back-to-back games.
3️⃣ ➡️ 1️⃣9️⃣— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 15, 2019
For the third time today, Jameis hits Breshad for a score! pic.twitter.com/4sMnK0QP6m
Tampa Bay’s defense kept it going from there. David picked up his 20th career forced fumble — giving him sole possession of second-most in Bucs history — and Devin White recovered it, getting the ball back to the offense.
Finishing out— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 15, 2019
Lavonte forces the fumble, Devin recovers! pic.twitter.com/TO1m9es26J
Ryan Griffin entered the game to take four knees. Detroit got the ball back with 35 seconds to go, but did nothing with it. The 38-17 victory for the Bucs was their fourth straight, getting them back to 7-7.
W.— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 15, 2019
Keep stacking 'em. pic.twitter.com/OXD645FKJy
- Jameis Winston finished the first half 18-of-26 for 308 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He had a quieter second half, but still finished with 458 yards and four scores on 28-of-42 passing.
- Winston’s 221 passing yards in the first quarter were the third-most in an opening quarter over the last 40 years. Only Peyton Manning (247 in 2004) and Jim Kelly (229 in 1990) threw for more.
- With 458 yards, Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450+ yards in back-to-back games.
- The Bucs totaled 336 yards in the first half while holding the Lions to just 56. For the game, Tampa Bay outgained Detroit 495-295.
- Tampa Bay’s 99-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter was the longest in franchise history.
- With the second Winston to Breshad Perriman touchdown of the first half, the Bucs broke their single-season record for points scored (previously set at 396 last year).
- Perriman had a career day, catching five passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns.
- Chris Godwin had another 100-yard game, going for 121 on five catches before exiting with a victory.
- The Bucs were 5-of-7 on third downs in the first half, while the Lions went 0-for-6. The script flipped in the second half, with Tampa Bay going 2-of-7 and Detroit going 6-of-9.
- Tampa Bay’s first half was all-around explosive, as the offense averaged 8.0 yards per play. In the game, the offense averaged 6.8 yards per play.
- Sean Murphy-Bunting led the defense with eight tackles (all solo) and the 70-yard pick six.
- Lavonte David finished with eight tackles (seven solo), with two for loss and a pass defended.
- William Gholston totaled two tackles for loss in what was a homecoming game for him as well.
- Shaquil Barrett is now a half-sack away from holding the single-season franchise record for sacks.
The Buccaneers (7-7) return home next Saturday (Dec. 21) for a matchup with the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (9-5). Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.