The Detroit Lions are 5-1 for their first time since 2011 and just their fifth time since the 1950s. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t make it easy. Most of Sunday was a defensive battle, and the Lions held just a 10-3 lead at halftime. But the Lions got a couple of huge plays on offense—led by a monster day from Jared Goff and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Combined with an extremely strong defensive effort that held the Buccaneers without a touchdown for the entirety of the game.
In the end, the Lions walked away with a 20-6 victory, and will now head to Baltimore next week with one of the best starts in franchise history.
Here’s how it all happened.
The Lions won the toss and deferred, giving the Buccaneers an opportunity to score first. A 16-yard strike to Chris Godwin gave Tampa some life, but they couldn’t move the ball any further than that and punted to Detroit.
A good punt forced Detroit to start at their own 10-yard line, but they quickly moved their way to midfield with passes to Amon-Ra St. Brown (11 yards) and Sam LaPorta (19). But facing a third-and-8, Jared Goff threw the ball away with pressure in his face. Jack Fox successfully pinned the Bucs inside their own 10-yard line for the next possession.
The Lions defense got the first turnover of the day. Isaiah Buggs batted a Baker Mayfield pass and Will Harris picked it off, giving the Lions offense an immediate possession in the red zone.
Unfortunately for Detroit, they couldn’t punch it in. They got conservative on a third-and-8, running a draw play that went for nothing, and Riley Patterson came in to knock in a 30-yard field goal for an early 3-0 Lions lead.
The Bucs had tough field position inside their 10 again thanks to a kickoff penalty, and despite picking up a first down, Tampa would hand the ball back over to Detroit with decent field position after Mayfield’s scramble for a first down was emphatically stopped by Aidan Hutchinson. This impressive tackle by Jerry Jacobs was key to stopping Tampa;
Detroit’s drive started with a clutch third-and-6 catch from St. Brown that moved them to their own 41-yard line. But on the next set of downs, LaPorta couldn’t make an acrobatic catch on a third-and-1, so Detroit punted, and Fox put it in the end zone.
Tampa started the next drive with another third down conversion to Godwin on a third-and-6, and that ended the first quarter.
After the Lions blew up a run play for negative yardage, the Bucs faced a third-and-12. Mike Evans looked like he had a first down, but he dropped an easy pass.
Buccaneers punter Jake Camarda dropped a beautiful punt out of bounds at the Lions’ 5-yard line, forcing Detroit’s offense into a tough situation. They quickly went three-and-out after St. Brown’s third down catch ended 2 yards short of the sticks.
Tampa took over on their own 42-yard line and finally got on the board. Early in the drive the Lions sent a blitz on a third-and-7 that didn’t get home and Mayfield punished Detroit with a 21-yard strike to Troy Palmer. Tampa converted the next third down thanks to a holding on Will Harris, moving the Bucs down to the 22-yard line. But Tampa wouldn’t get so lucking on their third third down of the drive, as the Lions broke up a Mayfield pass with tight coverage from Jerry Jacobs. Chase McLaughlin’s 33-yard field goal was good to make the score 3-3 tie.
The Lions offense showed some signs of life with a 19-yard screen to David Montgomery to start the drive. Unfortunately, Montgomery landed right on his shoulder and stayed down for some time before walking off and into the Lions locker room. Montgomery was officially listed as questionable to return with a rib injury. FOX broadcast said x-rays were negative.
The drive continued with a big 21-yard pass to Josh Reynolds. And then on a third-and-long, St. Brown caught and scampered to 27-yard touchdown thanks to a textbook block from Craig Reynolds. 10-3 Lions.
With over two minutes left, the Buccaneers had time to tie up the ball game. Mayfield unloaded a deep shot to Palmer, who was wide open, but overthrew him. A couple plays later, Julian Okwara batted down a Mayfield pass to force a punt.
Detroit had 59 seconds and all three timeouts to add to their lead, starting from their own 20-yard line. At first, it looked like the Lions may go three-and-out, but a clutch catch from Josh Reynolds for 20 yards kept the drive alive. A few plays later, though, Goff was sacked and the Lions opted to let the time run out.
The Lions got an explosive play on third-and-5 with a screen to Craig Reynolds 28 yards, down to the Bucs 42.
The Lions got another first down, but that would be it. On third-and-13 from the Bucs’ 34-yard line, Goff missed LaPorta, setting up a 52-yard attempt Riley Patterson, but it went right.
The Buccaneers took over on their own 42-yard line, and immediately picked up 23 yards with a quick throw to Godwin, catching the Lions defense off-guard. Another 18-yard gain to Evans put Tampa in the red zone for the second time in the game. The Lions got a third-down stop, setting the Bucs up fourth-and-1, but Detroit opted to accept an offensive pass interference penalty, giving Tampa another shot. It looked like Jacobs was going to get called for a facemask on the play, but the refs picked up the flag and the Bucs settled for a 36-yard field goal 10-6 Lions.
Detroit converted yet another third down with a needled pass to St. Brown on a third-and-4. A critical penalty nearly ended the drive. A third-and-1 run to Reynolds appeared to pick up a first down, but a late flag game in to call St. Brown for a hold. Despite the penalty, Goff found Kalif Raymond for 11 yards and a first down. A drop from LaPorta set the Lions up with another third-and-long, but it was finally JAMESON WILLIAMS TIME. He adjusted nicely to the ball in the air and pulled in a 45-yard touchdown bomb. 17-6 Lions.
The Bucs didn’t have much of an answer on the ensuing drive. The Lions sent a blitz on another third-and-long, and this time Kerby Joseph batted down the pass, forcing Tampa’s fifth punt of the day.
The Lions moved into Bucs territory with a 23-yard pass to St. Brown down to Tampa’s 34-yard line. Detroit’s offense continue to move the ball through the air as Goff crossed over 300 yards on the day. But facing a third-and-8 at Tampa’s 18-yard line, Goff’s pass was tipped at the line and Detroit had to settle for a field goal attempt. Patterson’s kick from 36 yards was good. 20-6 Lions.
Tampa again went three-and-out after Mayfield missed Palmer on a deep shot on third-and-2. Palmer was open again, but Mayfield overthrew him by a few yards.
The Lions proceeded to milk a ton of clock thanks to Goff and St. Brown. The Lions quarterback found him for 4 yards on an early third-and-3, and then found him again for 8 to move the chains again. On a third-and-5 at midfield, Goff found LaPorta for a 12-yard gain and a killer first down. The Lions would eventually punt the ball back, but they bled nearly seven minutes of clock, and Jack Fox pinned Tampa at their own 2-yard line with 3:45 remaining.
The Bucs would drive to the Lions side of the field, but four straight incompletions would end the game 20-6 Lions.