Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Detroit Lions: Takeaways from Detroit's 24-21 Loss
Detroit falls to 6-5 with its second consecutive loss to a team with a losing record. All the goodwill from the 6-3 start is gone. The Buccaneers improve to 3-8 with their third win in a row.
The Lions now have a short week to prepare for the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving. That game is for first place in the NFC North, as the Chicago Bears lost to St. Louis 42-21 to also fall to 6-5. The Packers somehow tied Minnesota, which leaves Green Bay at 5-5-1.
There are many difficult things to digest from this loss for Detroit. Here are some of my initial takeaways from the game...
*All statistics are courtesy of ESPN, unless otherwise noted.
Turnovers Are Killers
It's awfully hard to overcome five turnovers in a game. Detroit got lucky earlier this year when they somehow beat Dallas despite four giveaways. Lightning did not strike a second time.
Three of the turnovers were the result of strange plays.
The first was an interception off a deflected pass, which bounced off one Tampa Bay defender into the arms of Lavonte David.
Another fluky turnover came from the hands of Kris Durham, who made a great catch but left the ball on the turf as he tried to turn up the left sideline.
The third and final oddity was the real killer. Matthew Stafford found Calvin Johnson deep in Tampa Bay territory, but the ball somehow ricocheted from Johnson right to the unexpected arms of safety Kelcie McCray.
There is a football proverb that says, "You make your own luck." Detroit sure did that against Tampa Bay, but it was all bad luck.
If they cannot protect the ball better, the Thursday date with the Packers will lead to a lot of upset stomachs around Michigan.
The Run Defense Once Again Dominated
Counting Mike Glennon's quarterback kneel-downs at the end of the game, Tampa Bay netted 22 yards on 24 carries. That is not a misprint; the Lions held the Buccaneers to less than one yard per carry.
Detroit has rocketed up the league rankings in run defense, and this effort will elevate them even higher. Here is what Detroit has done against the run in the last three games:
|Opponent||Attempts||Yards||Rushing First Downs|
That is absolutely stifling run defense, ceding just 100 yards on the last 71 carries.
If the Lions can continue this trend, they stand a much better chance of getting back into the win column.
The Officials Did Not Help
I'm going to say this right off the bat here: This is not an excuse. Do not confuse it for the reason why the Lions lost the game.
But they were on the wrong end of a couple of very bad judgment calls by the officiating crew.
Nick Fairley was called for a roughing-the-passer call on 3rd-and-15 on Tampa Bay's second offensive possession. As it was explained on the field, Fairley was flagged for contacting Glennon below the knee.
Except he didn't. Fairley clearly made initial contact with Glennon's thigh. That poor call led to a Tampa Bay field goal.
Then there was the ironic gross ignoring of the Jim Schwartz Rule. Bucs kicker Rian Lindell missed a field goal, a judgment play which is not open to challenge. Yet Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano threw his red flag and challenged it regardless.
As any Lions fan can quickly point out, that is a penalty. However, the officials did not throw a flag even though the explanation specifically stated that "the result of the play could not be challenged."
I expect Schwartz to address this issue at some point during the week. At minimum, the league needs to explain why no penalty was administered.
Matthew Stafford Bottoms out
The raw numbers are not completely awful: 26-of-46 for 297 yards and three touchdowns. That's a pretty productive afternoon for the Lions quarterback.
Alas, there's a "but..."
The "but..." is four interceptions, two of which were truly dreadful choices by Stafford. He threw them directly to Buccaneer defenders, never looking them off or apparently noticing them lurking like hyenas around a wounded wildebeest.
Beyond the interceptions, there were far too many missed opportunities. Twice he missed Calvin Johnson on passes that would have resulted in huge gains, if not touchdowns. He wildly missed Nate Burleson wide-open with nobody in front him.
Some of the credit needs to go to the Tampa Bay pass rush, which was consistently the strongest the Lions have faced all year.
Yet Stafford needs to be better. The Lions offense is predicated on the star quarterback making great throws and proper decisions. In this game, Stafford did neither. If he doesn't against Green Bay, it will be hard to beat the Packers as well.
Nate Burleson Has a Triumphant Return
Wide receiver Nate Burleson returned to action for the first time since breaking his arm in a car accident following Week 3.
Burleson made the most of his comeback, hauling in seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown celebration (pictured above) demonstrated his playful side, as he mocked himself for crashing his car while trying to save some pizza.
"Mr. Lionblood" is the emotional leader of the offense, and it was great to see him back on the field. He was quite involved in the game plan, seeing 10 balls thrown his way.
Burleson even recorded a tackle on one of Detroit's many turnovers. Welcome back!
In Chris Houston, We Have a Problem
The biggest play of the game for the Tampa Bay offense was Tiquan Underwood's 85-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. That score put them ahead with what proved to be the final margin.
This play was the direct result of Lions corner Chris Houston's egregious play. Houston offered a lackadaisical effort on the line, and Underwood flew past him. The designed defense on the play called for no safety help over the top.
Houston has to know the situation. He's a veteran who must understand his assignment. Instead, he blew the coverage, and the Buccaneers scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
On the next possession, Darius Slay took over for Houston. While the official word was that he had an ankle injury, it sure felt like a benching. It was deserved.
Coming off the heels of a rough outing against Pittsburgh, there has to be real concern about Chris Houston's competency as a starter. Even though Slay has struggled mightily as well, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has to consider making a change.
Willie Young Stepped Up
As the postgame picture here indicates, Willie Young spent a lot of time around Glennon. It was a very strong effort from the Lions defensive end, notably in the second half.
I'll let Twitter tell this story.
Willie Young got two QB pressures and ran down Bobby Rainey from behind on that 3-and-out. #TBvsDET— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) November 24, 2013
Willie Young with the sack. The defense is trying to give them a chance. #TBvsDET— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) November 24, 2013
That effort pushed the Bucs back far enough for the ensuing field goal to just miss.
Young finished with one sack, one official quarterback hit, another tackle-for-loss and at least three QB pressures by my notes, all in the second half. He tried his best, but it just wasn't meant to be.
The Coaching Staff Needs to Be Evaluated
For the second week in a row, the Detroit Lions appeared unprepared to play a seemingly inferior opponent.
This is a direct reflection on Jim Schwartz and the Detroit coaching staff.
The Lions have a lot of talent but not such an abundance that they can afford to take any opponent lightly. Unfortunately they have done just that in the last two weeks. Losing in Pittsburgh to Ben Roethlisberger, twice a Super Bowl champion, is one thing.
Losing to rookie Mike Glennon and his largely anonymous supporting cast at Ford Field is entirely inexcusable.
The offense came out flat and seemed predictable much of the day. The defense played well but suffered from a couple of bad mental errors. Even the normally reliable special teams surrendered a blocked punt and two decent efforts from Buccaneers return man Eric Page.
For whatever reason, the Lions seemingly cannot handle being the big dog. That seems so counterintuitive for a coach like Schwartz, who doesn't mind acting as the leader of the pack in his press conferences or interactions off the field.
After last week's debacle, I opined that Schwartz put himself firmly on the proverbial hot seat. Some people disagreed with my assertion at the time. I strongly suspect a lot less dissension after this loss.