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The Lions Won 24-21 In Tampa Bay. Here’s How It Happened.
This game started out with the Lions and Buccaneers mirroring each other. Detroit received the ball first and each team went three and out on their opening drive.
On the second Lions possession of the game, quarterback Matthew Stafford completed five of five passes for 70 yards and running back Theo Riddick ran in a touchdown from two yards out.
Tampa Bay answered back with a touchdown drive of their own, going 75 yards in 11 plays. The possession culminated in a one yard rushing touchdown from running back Doug Martin.
Lions tight end Eric Ebron fumbled the ball on the first play of the next Lions drive, but it ultimately didn’t matter because Tampa Bay fumbled the ball right back to Detroit two plays later.
Score: Tied at 7
Lions cornerback Darius Slay intercepted Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston early in the second quarter to set up Detroit’s second score of the game, this one a five yard Stafford pass to receiver Golden Tate.
Detroit got the ball twice more before half time, and got into field goal range twice. However, Matthew Stafford threw interceptions on both of the drives, and there were no more points in the first half for either side.
Score: Lions lead 14-7
Tampa Bay continued to squander opportunities when Jameis Winston threw an interception to Lions defensive back Quandre Diggs on the opening possession of the second half. Then, Winston fumbled and the Lions recovered it on the second Buccaneers possession of the third quarter.
Detroit was able to take advantage of the fumble. A roughing the passer penalty against Tampa Bay put the Lions in scoring range, and Theo Riddick ran the ball 18 yards for his second touchdown of the game.
Score: Lions lead 21-7
Tampa Bay started the fourth quarter mounting a 10 play, 75 yard drive that ended with a two yard touchdown pass from Winston to rookie tight end OJ Howard, making this a one possession game.
The Buccaneers got the ball back midway through the fourth, and went 75 yards again, this time in just six plays. Winston threw another touchdown pass, this time to backup offensive lineman Leonard Wester to tie the game.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense had a good answer though, as they were able to drive into field goal range and, with 20 seconds left, kicker Matt Prater connected on a game winning 46 yard field goal.
Score: Lions win 24-21
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There were 8 combined turnovers
This was one of the sloppiest games of football in the entire NFL this season. Both offenses consistently struggled with holding onto the ball, and both teams need to clean this up if they want to be competitive going forward.
Five of the turnovers were forced by the Lions defense
While the Lions did turn the ball over three times, they impressively took the ball away from Tampa Bay five times. They intercepted two passes and recovered three fumbles, and it was really the difference in the game.
Both teams had over 400 yards of offense
When the offenses weren’t turning the ball over, they were each racking up yards. Neither team had much of a problem moving the ball, as shown by this stat.
Both teams scored 3 touchdowns on 3 red zone trips
Redzone offense has been a recurring issue for the Lions offense this season, but not on Sunday. They scored a touchdown every time they were inside the 20 yard line in Tampa. However, their defense needs to improve, as they allowed the Buccaneer offense to do the same.
Matthew Stafford completed 36 of 44 passes for 381 yards
Matthew Stafford was really sharp for much of this game. He completed all of his first 12 passes and was just extremely accurate in general. He did have two bad turnovers, but the Lions likely never would have been in this game if not for the otherwise strong showing from Stafford.
The Lions averaged 7.8 yards per play, the Buccaneers 5.8
While both teams gained a lot of yards on Sunday, the Lions offense had more explosive plays, resulting in this statistic. The Lions ability to move the ball down the field in bigger chunks was one of the deciding factors in this game.
Matthew Stafford played well (for the most part)
Matthew Stafford played extremely well for the entire game on Sunday outside of two throws (which will be covered later). He completed over 80% of his passes and averaged 8.7 yards per passing attempt. He led the Lions offense down the field on scoring possessions throughout the game, and led a game winning drive in the fourth quarter.
Here is an example of a perfect throw from Matthew Stafford. The Lions were facing a second down and 20 on this play, and Stafford decided to go deep for Marvin Jones. Jones was between the zone coverage of two defenders, and Stafford placed the ball perfectly between them where only Jones could get it. This was the Stafford we saw for most of the game on Sunday.
The Lions defense was aggressive
The Lions defense played extremely aggressively on Sunday, and they saw a lot of success. Cornerback Darius Slay and nickelback/safety Quandre Diggs both intercepted Jameis Winston, while the rest of the defense forced and recovered three fumbles.
This was the first Tampa Bay turnover of the game. Winston drops back and appears to find OJ Howard over the middle for a big gain, but then Quandre Diggs came in and put a perfect hit on the ball with his helmet. The ball came out, and the Lions recovered it for a big takeaway.
This interception from Darius Slay is beautiful. Slay read the comeback route the whole way, and did an awesome job of jumping it. He cut in front of the Tampa defender and just made an easy interception. Plays like this are why Darius Slay is one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
The skill position players had a big day
The receivers, tight ends, and running backs of the Detroit Lions mostly had big games on Sunday. Just about everybody made at least one big play. Receivers Marvin Jones and Golden Tate were both of 60 yards receiving, tight end Eric Ebron caught 10 passes for 94 yards, running back Theo Riddick had 94 totals yards and two touchdowns, even back up tight end Darren Fells made a 23 yard reception.
This touchdown from Theo Riddick is the type of play the Lions offense has been missing all season. The blocking from the offensive line is pretty good, and Riddick finds a running lane to get about 10 yards up the field. Then, he runs right through two Buccaneer defensive backs and takes the run all the way to the end zone. If Riddick can keep running like this, he should absolutely be the Lions starting running back.
Matthew Stafford threw two horrible interceptions
As fantastic as Matthew Stafford was on Sunday, he threw two his worst interceptions in years late in the second quarter. Both were right to Tampa Bay defenders, and both were with the Lions in or near scoring range. Stafford directly took points off the board for the Lions, and this game was only as close as it was because of that.
This is the first Stafford interception. Stafford was targeting rookie receiver Kenny Golladay on a deep pass, and just fired the ball into double coverage. Tampa Bay corner Brent Grimes makes the easy interception in double coverage. This was really just a dumb decision from Stafford. The throw had no chance of working.
This second interception is even worse. With little time before the half, Stafford is targeting Golden Tate near the sideline. However, he again fired the ball into double coverage, and was intercepted. What makes this an even worse decision is that even if Tate had caught the ball, he would’ve gotten tackled in bounds and the half would have ended anyway. This was the worst throw I have seen from Stafford in years.
When the defense wasn’t forcing turnovers, they were giving up lots of yards
Although Detroit’s defense did a good job of forcing lots of turnovers, they gave up a ton of yards in the process. Jameis Winston threw for nearly 300 yards, while the Buccaneers were able to gain 133 yards on the ground. Tampa Bay scored three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter to tie the game. As well as Detroit’s defense played for much of the game, they nearly blew it at the end.
This is just one of many examples of defensive ineptitude from the Lions game on Sunday (and this season as a whole). With Tampa Bay facing third and goal from the two yard line, Detroit sells out to stop the run. Tampa Bay throws the ball, and found a great match up: tight end OJ Howard was being covered one on one with a Detroit defensive lineman. Obviously, Howard wins that battle and scores a touchdown.
Player Of The Game
Quandre Diggs is the player of the game this week. Diggs played the second game of his career at safety and made seven tackles while defending a pass, forced a fumble and recorded interception.
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Diggs played extremely well. He has been a stand out this season at nickel cornerback, and now is flashing great versatility as his strong season has continued with a position change. Look for Diggs to continue making more plays if he stays at safety.