A year ago, the Detroit Lions somehow managed to lose to a bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers team despite desperately needing a win as they fought for a playoff spot. Coming into Sunday's game this year, the situation was remarkably similar with the Lions fighting for a playoff spot and needing a win over a bad Bucs team.
Luckily, history did not repeat itself for the Lions, as they took care of business with a 34-17 win over the Bucs. There was definitely some sloppiness and a few shaky moments along the way, but the end result was Detroit's second 34-17 win in a row.
Things got off to a pretty good start for the Lions in this game. Even though their opening drive came to a close with a failed attempt at a conversion on fourth-and-1 -- Joique Bell was stuffed for no gain -- the offense moved the ball with ease. The drive covered 56 yards on 11 plays and ran 5:52 off the clock, and the Lions got the ball right back after the turnover on downs thanks to a quick three-and-out by the Bucs.
It was more of the same for the Lions on their next drive, except this time they did in fact score points. Their second possession covered 70 yards on 11 plays and ran another 5:11 off the clock, and Matthew Stafford capped it off with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson. It was a perfect pass by Stafford on a fade, and Johnson made it look easy for the touchdown.
The Bucs responded with a 54-yard field goal, and the Lions then went three-and-out after failing to go anywhere on third-and-1. Luckily, the Bucs gave the ball right back to the Lions with Glover Quin making a ridiculous interception. He made a sliding catch for the pick, and the Lions turned the turnover into another touchdown with Bell making a great play to score from a yard out on third down. He was actually hit in the backfield, but Bell recovered nicely:
Joique Bell somehow kept his balance here to score a TD. pic.twitter.com/FkYYQL2nW6
— Pride Of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) December 7, 2014
The Bucs promptly gave the ball back to the Lions again with a botched snap three plays into their next drive. Andre Fluellen recovered, leading to a 46-yard field goal by Matt Prater. Suddenly it was 17-3 Lions, and everything just seemed to be going their way.
Things changed quite drastically on the final drive of the first half. For starters, Josh McCown hit Vincent Jackson for a 50-yard pass downfield, and Ndamukong Suh gave them some extra yardage with a boneheaded roughing the passer penalty. Suh did actually go over to McCown following a timeout to shake hands with him and perhaps even apologize, but he will likely receive a pretty large fine for that hit.
Despite the long pass and bad penalty, the Lions looked like they were going to keep the Bucs from adding any points. James Ihedigbo picked off McCown on a tipped pass on the very next play, but he made a horrible decision by running the interception out of the end zone. He should have simply taken a knee, as he made it only 11 yards before fumbling. The Bucs eventually recovered, giving them the ball back at the 10-yard line.
This disastrous sequence continued with the Lions giving the Bucs a free first down after coming up with a stop on third-and-14. Jason Jones was called for a personal foul, and the Bucs scored with a 5-yard pass to Mike Evans on the very next play. As a result, the score at halftime was 17-10 in favor of the Lions. At worst it should have been 17-3 or 17-6, but some really bad mistakes by the Lions gifted the Bucs a touchdown.
After forcing a three-and-out to open the second half, the Lions immediately came up with a big play. Stafford unleashed a bomb downfield to Johnson, who hauled it in for 53 yards. Just like that the Lions were inside the Tampa Bay 10-yard line, but all they got out of the drive was a 23-yard field goal.
After the two teams traded three-and-outs on the next few drives, the Lions got the ball back at their own 12. They quickly worked their way down the field through the air and added on to their lead with a 10-yard pass to Joseph Fauria on third down. Fauria celebrated the touchdown by twerking -- yes, really -- and the Lions went on top by a score of 27-10.
The Bucs answered with a nice drive of their own. It got rolling with a 24-yard pass interference penalty on Darius Slay, who had a really rough day trying to cover Evans and Jackson. A few plays later, Evans made a difficult catch in the back of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown, suddenly making this a 10-point game.
The Lions responded with an ugly drive that included a fumble on third down. They thankfully recovered the fumble, but suddenly the Buccaneers had a chance to really make things interesting, especially after Slay was called for a 38-yard pass interference penalty. The flag put the Bucs in Detroit territory, but the defense stood tough and forced a punt.
With the ball at their own 8-yard line, the Lions put the game away by giving it to Bell. He opened the drive with a 57-yard run, and he closed out the drive by taking a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. It was a lucky bounce considering Bell was right there to make the catch, but all that matters is that the Lions scored. The touchdown extended their lead to 34-17, which is what the final score ended up being after the Bucs failed to add points on their final drive of the game.
With the Lions beating the Bucs, they are now 9-4 on the season. They remain in great position to make the playoffs, and they have another extremely winnable game coming up next week with the Minnesota Vikings coming to town.
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