Coming off a dominant 42-24 win over the Carolina Panthers the week before, the Detroit Lions now had to go on the road to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming off a bye week. Last season, the Buccaneers had the best player in the NFL, quarterback Tom Brady, and despite losing him in the offseason, the Bucs were 3-1 entering the game and first place in the NFC South with Baker Mayfield under center.
Detroit came into the game banged up with rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs and defensive back Brian Branch out once again, but also starting left guard Jonah Jackson would miss the game due to an ankle injury. Despite not being on the injury report, right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai wouldn’t start, and Kayode Awosika would fill in at left guard for Jackson while Graham Glasgow would remain at right guard. There was good injury news for the Lions though as wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown returned from his abdomen injury. The Buccaneers appeared to be at full strength after getting wide receiver Mike Evans back from a hamstring injury.
It was a defensive battle between the two teams, as it took until the final three minutes of the first half for a touchdown to be scored. The Bucs punted six times and the Lions punted four times, and the Bucs kicked two field goals, while the Lions attempted three. Both defenses made big stops and let the opposing offenses move but did not get too many scoring plays. In the end, though, Detroit’s offense was able to make bigger plays in the defensive slugfest, defeating the Buccaneers 20-6.
Check out my winners and losers from the victory against the Buccaneers.
Going up against a tough offensive line, the Lion's defensive line was able to generate some pressure and give the Bucs some trouble. While the Lions' defensive line only got one sack, they did what they did best and stopped the run game for Tampa Bay. The Bucs had 16 carries for 46 yards as they had no chance trying to get yards on the ground.
Defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs made a big play in the second series when he was able to get his hand on a pass that popped up in the air and was picked off by defensive back Will Harris.
When starting running back David Montgomery went down with a rib injury in the first half, Reynolds was put into the starting role and he did a fair job at it. While his ground game wasn’t as impressive as last week, finishing with 10 carries for 15 yards, he shined as a blocker and a receiver.
First, as a blocker, Reynolds laid out a huge block on a catch by St. Brown that not only helped him get a first down but set up the touchdown to give the Lions the 10-3 lead.
Then as a receiver, he had two catches for 28 yards. He got 28 yards on a screen pass where he followed his blockers to get Detroit in field goal range. Sadly the kick would be missed by Riley Patterson, but it’s still good to see a third-string running back come out and contribute.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
The passing offense relied heavily on St. Brown in this game and he delivered with big plays. He finished the game with 12 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. He was the most reliable receiver who caught passes and took hard hits. When Goff needed a big play, St. Brown was one of the top players to step up and make a catch.
St. Brown was also a third-down machine, with five third-down catches, including four of them turning into first downs. Even when the running game isn’t effective, it’s good to know that St. Brown can help the passing offense move the ball as he isn’t afraid to take a hit and make the plays.
Last week against Carolina, Williams didn’t do much, finishing with two catches for two yards and a drop. This week, William's first catch went for eight yards on a play he had to go back toward Goff to make the catch. His second attempt was similar but this time he couldn’t hold on to the shirt throw. Soon after the incompletion, Goff found Williams deep for a 45-yard touchdown to put the Lions up 17-6.
The player that had the biggest impact on the defense in this game for the Lions was Anzalone. He was consistently where he needed to be every time. Do you need him in coverage on a tight end? He was there. Do you need him to get a tackle in the run game? He was there.
Anzalone finished the game as the team-leading tackler with nine, two pass deflections, and a tackle for loss. This was the best game he’s had this season and going up against a tough Bucs offensive line, he did a fine job. His pass deflections came up huge in stopping the passing game as well, showcasing his range of skills.
Despite being the number two offensive line according to PFF, the Lions' offensive line had a rough game on Sunday afternoon. Goff got sacked three times and he faced pressure for most of the game. It wasn’t a generic four-man pressure by the defensive line. Bucs coach Todd Bowles loves to send the blitz and most of the pressure by the Bucs defense was by a blitz. While it’s hard for an offensive line to block blitzes, they struggled with it.
It wasn’t just pressuring Goff, but the run game struggled to get the ball moving as they were held to 40 yards on 22 carries. The blitzes helped slow down the run game and stacked boxes forced minimal gains by the Lions' running backs.
If Jackson can return next week, the offensive line would benefit, and if not, then I think Vaitai would be a good person to return to the starting lineup. Move Glasgow over to left guard and have Vaitai take over at right guard again.
Coming off a big game against the Panthers last week, Hutchinson was quiet going up against the Buccaneers. He only had three tackles and didn’t force much pressure on Mayfield. He was going up against possibly the best offensive line he has seen all year, but those are the games where he needs to separate himself from other defensive ends. Players like Myles Garrett and Nick Bosa don't let a good offensive line be the reason why they struggle, they test those offensive linemen and win those battles sometimes.
This was a tough day for Hutchinson and hopefully, he can use this game to figure out what worked and what didn’t, and get better from it.
With Branch out another week, Harris filled in for him and unlike the week before where Panthers’ quarterback Bryce Young didn’t have much time to throw, the Bucs' offensive line gave Mayfield time to throw and he targeted Harris throughout the game. Harris was burned on a few plays that were luckily overthrown passes by Mayfield. Harris also got a holding penalty on a third down that would have forced the Bucs to kick a longer field goal, and instead, the Bucs were able to keep the drive alive and get an easier attempt at three points.
Harris did have an interception off of the tipped pass, but that was the only highlight he had on the day. He finished with four tackles and a pass deflection. If Branch is going to miss more time, Harris will need to step up more and not be a liability in the secondary.