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NFC Divisional Playoffs Recap: Lions advance after beating the Buccaneers 31-23

Besides the game, one of the best (or worst) parts of football seasons are Monday mornings.

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Any football fan will tell you, whether it’s at school, work, or on your favorite sports talk show— Monday mornings are for bragging rights, armchair quarterbacks, and “Did you see when?!” This Monday morning, Buccaneers’ fans giving a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the game will start with the—

First quarter- The ball was kicked off and the Detroit Lions’ offense took the field. The Lions’ attempt to grab early momentum with their offense failed. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, another chance to snag momentum presented itself rather quickly. On the Bucs’ first drive, Baker Mayfield fired a pass over the middle for Mike Evans. Evans, usually a reliable target, tipped the ball up in the air for an easy C.J. Gardner-Johnson interception.

Drops hurt Tampa Bay’s offense last week as well. Missed opportunities are often the difference in games of this magnitude. Mike Evan’s dropped turn into an interception, on Detroit's ensuing drive Jared Goff lobbed up a lollipop for Jamel Dean and Dean could not control it— an incomplete pass instead of an interception— which allowed Detroit to take a 3-0 lead.

The Buccaneers have responded to adversity all season so having their back against the wall on drive number two was no different. Baker Mayfield drove the Bucs down the field into scoring range and put up three of their own. 3-3, all tied, after two drives.

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Second quarter- The Lions started the second quarter with ball and good a drive brewing. Detroit made their second scoring drive look easy. 10-3, Lions.

For the second time in this game, Baker Mayfield took the field trailing. The Bucs started with Chase Edmunds and finished with a punt. The Lions matched Tampa’s punt with a punt of their own. A long drive led the Buccaneers down the field where Chase McLaughlin ended the drive with a rare miss. Tampa Bay has enjoyed the spoils of having a good kicker for the last few seasons. When you’re the trailing team in a postseason game, missed field goals not only give your opponent quality starting field position, but can lead to being forced to chase points as the game continues.

A booth review spot correction reset the ball behind the first down marker and left the Lions in a third down. Jared Goff dropped back to pass and was introduced to Buccaneers’ rookie Calijah Kancey. Every play matters, but some plays carry more weight than others. Calijah Kancey’s sack on third down, should the Buccaneers win, will be remembered as a game changing. Kancey forced a punt which set up a seven play 92-yard drive touchdown drive. The drive featured Baker Mayfield scrambling, and finally hooking up with Mike Evans on two long catches down the sideline.


After Evans’ second sideline grab, Mayfield lofted a beautiful pass to the corner of the endzone for a Cade Otton touchdown. 10-10, tied again.

Third quarter- After the intermission, the Buccaneers’ offense carried over some of their first half success into their first drive. The drive crossed midfield, but ultimately stalled out after an Aiden Hutchinson sack. Two punts later and it was Jared Goff and the Lions on offense again. For the first time in the second half the Lions showed life. A long drive down the field got the Lions into a rhythm and gave them a touchdown lead. 17-10, Lions.

Tampa Bay’s ability to answer big plays and momentum shifts in games and over the course of the season has been a crucial element of their season. The playoffs have been no different. The Lions drove down the field for a touchdown and Baker Mayfield followed suit. Touchdown Buccaneers, 17-17.

Fourth quarter- Quarter number four started out with more roaring Lions. The Buccaneers battled back to a tie game to end the third quarter. Less than two minutes into the final period and Tampa trailed by another seven points. A Jahmyr Gibbs score capped off the Lions’ first drive of the fourth quarter 24-17, Lions.

Jake Camarda pinned the lions deep but the writing may have been on the wall. Detroit took the ball and took the game over. 10 plays, 89 yards, and a touchdown. 31-17, Lions.

Baker Mayfield has dealt with hostile environments throughout his pro career and plenty of times this season, but down 31-17 in a road playoff game is tough task. Mayfield’s grit and heart have shown through multiple times for the Buccaneers this season— Down 14, season on the line Mayfield delivered again. Touchdown Mike Evans, Buccaneers cut the Lions lead to eight.

Baker Mayfield was able to breathe life into Tampa’s defense, giving the unit an opportunity at second life. One stop, season on the line, and the Buccaneers’ defense took that opportunity and ran with it— forcing a punt and giving the ball back to Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay offense.

The Tampa Bay Bucs’ season ended on Baker Mayfield’s second interception of the game. The Detroit Lions will advance to the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. Congratulations to Detroit and congratulations to the Buccaneers on a hard fought game and well-played season.

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