Detroit Needed A Win To Keep Their Playoff Dreams Alive In Tampa Bay.
It all comes down to this. That is the mindset that the Detroit Lions need to have for the rest of the season. With four games remaining, the odds are the wildcard is the only thing that the Lions can do, unless the Minnesota Vikings lose out and the Lions win out, but that is highly unlikely. So for now, Detroit just has to keep focusing on winning and they had a good showing of that today against the Bucs, despite some costly turnovers, the Lions were able to secure the win late, winning 24-21.
With the injured hand still not fully recovered, that didn’t stop quarterback Matt Stafford from playing well. The injury doesn’t seem to be affecting his game as he finished going 36/44 for 381 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. The interceptions were bad plays by Stafford, the first one was just underthrown, but the second one was into double coverage and a risk that wasn’t necessary while the team was in field goal range as the half was ending. Unlike last season though, this hand injury doesn’t seem to be affecting his game, which is a good thing for the Lions, as that injury wasn’t the reason for the mistakes he made.
The biggest surprise of the game was running back Ameer Abdullah didn’t play, and while he has been hurt with a neck injury, rumors were Abdullah was out because of performance lately, so that will be something to watch for later next week. Theo Riddick got the start and led the team in carries with 10 for 29 yards and two touchdowns. Tion Green saw more playing time after his performance against Baltimore last week, but he didn’t do much with it as he had five carries for 15 yards.
A surprising scene was that the Lions leading receiver was the tight end, Eric Ebron. Ebron did fumble early on in the game, but he had a career game today, getting 10 catches for 94 yards. Wide receiver Golden Tate was next in catches with eight for 85 yards and a touchdown, and the other main wide receiver Marin Jones had three catches for 64 yards. Riddick was active in the receiving game with six catches for 64 yards.
The offensive line had its easiest challenge this season against the Bucs defensive line who has the least amount of sacks in the league, but while Stafford was never hit, there were still holding calls and the running game didn’t exist as they finished with 53 yards total on 18 carries.
Creating pressure on quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t much of a thing for the defensive line of the Lions, as Jameis was sacked by a defensive lineman on the final play of the game. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah was that player and the best defensive lineman of the game with seven tackles and the sack.
When it came to stopping the run, the linebackers helped fill the gaps the defensive line had issues with. The Bucs were still able to rush for over 100 yards, but the longest rush was on a wide receiver quick sweep. Rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis tied for first on the team with nine tackles and a sack, while the other rookie linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin had five tackles, a half sack, and a pass deflection. Veteran Tahir Whitehead contributed as well with eight tackles.
Star cornerback Darius Slay was doing great again today with six tackles, two pass deflections, a fumble recovery, and an interception. Safety Glover Quin was also important as he was the other player who led the team in tackles with nine, along with a forced fumble. You can’t forget about defensive back Quandre Diggs who had seven tackles, a pass deflection, a forced fumble, and an interception.
Special teams had a better showing this week as Matt Prater made the game-winning field goal from 46 yards out. Punter Sam Martin booted the ball five times for 207 yards, with one landing inside the 20-yard line. TJ Jones had four kick returns for 70 yards and three punt returns for 16 yards.
Week 14: What It Means
Detroit’s playoff chances and NFC North divisional chances did just go up surprisingly. Minnesota lost to Carolina, which is the opposite of what Lions fans wanted to happen as the wild card needs to be the main focal point of their entry to the playoffs. With Cincinnati struggling against the Chicago Bears as well, that game looks a little easier for the team on Christmas Eve. Detroit still has a lot of work to do.
Jim Caldwell is now on the hot seat as news was released that his contract extension that was announced earlier this year, was only for one season, ending in 2018. The team has said it will make a decision on Caldwell after the season is over, and right now that flame on Caldwell’s seat just turned up a little bit. Every game matters, but if this team doesn’t make the playoffs, or they lose in the first round, he could be gone after this season.
Week 14: What To Think About
Abdullah getting benched supposedly is something that Jim Caldwell will be asked about after the game and during the week next week. If the team is giving up on Abdullah right now, that means the writing is on the wall as Detroit could either be big spenders in free agency, or they will draft a running back early on. If the coaching staff or front office doesn’t have faith in Abdullah, did the performance today by Riddick and Green show that maybe it isn’t the running backs fault for their average performance.
Stafford seems to be overall just fine. Some would think the interceptions were because of the hand injury, but Stafford was never seen holding his hand or shaking it, it didn’t seem to be an issue. This team needs Stafford to be 100 percent if they want to possibly make a late-season run.