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4 takeaways from the Detroit Lions’ victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Detroit Lions overcame a tough Buccaneers defense and emerged with their fifth win of the 2023 season.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Grit has defined the Detroit Lions under Dan Campbell, and grit was in the spotlight on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Lions emerged victorious from their bout with the Bucs thanks to hard-fought battles on both sides of the ball. The defense held the Tampa Bay offense to a mere two field goals and the offense overcame a threatening defense to the tune of a 20-6 win. Now sitting at 5-1, the Lions are not only firmly in the driver seat in the NFC North, but they find themselves among the best in the NFC and NFL.

Let’s examine some takeaways.

Missing Montgomery

David Montgomery has been a key cog for the Lions this season, but for the second time this season he was forced from a game due to injury. This time around, he suffered a rib injury. The good news is that the x-rays came back negative, but the bad news is that the Lions run game had to go through Craig Reynolds and Devine Ozigbo instead. The offense was already missing Jahmyr Gibbs, Jonah Jackson, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (the latter was active but not starting), so losing Montgomery was yet another blow to the run game.

Montgomery nearly finished as the team’s leading rusher despite missing a sizable chunk of the game. Reynolds managed a mere 15 yards on 10 carries, and the team as a whole finished with just 40 rushing yards. The Lions love to run the ball down the throats of their opponents, but that was a difficult task against a tough Buccaneers front seven. The status of Gibbs and Montgomery will be worth monitoring, as the game plan versus the Baltimore Ravens might shift dramatically based on their availability.

Defense stands strong

The Buccaneers were not an elite offense on paper, entering the game as the 18th-ranked offense by DVOA. Even then, the Lions defense played extremely well in a close-fought battle. The Lions yet again crushed the opposing rushing attack, holding Rachaad White to under 30 yards. Despite the talented tandem of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, the Bucs were struggling to air it out.

In particular, Alex Anzalone was making an impact on defense, notching himself a few pass breakups and a tackle for loss. The Lions also benefited from some tips, with Isaiah Buggs redirecting a ball that ended up in the arms of Will Harris and Kerby Joseph delivering a crucial third down deflection.

That being said, Baker Mayfield was well protected all game as the pass rush was stymied by the talented Buccaneers offensive line. The Lions pass rush had come alive and feasted in recent weeks, but it returned to Earth on Sunday. Hopefully this proves to be an outlier going forward.

Jared Goff steps up against a tough defense

The Buccaneers had a middle-of-the-road offense, but their defense was up there with the best in the league. Despite missing two key linemen up front, Jared Goff handled the pressure from the Buccaneers onslaught with poise. Goff topped the 300-yard mark, surprisingly just the second time he has achieved that feat this season. He finished the day with two touchdowns and, just as critically, zero turnovers.

This game was a perfect example of how far Goff has come as a Lion. Back in 2021, Goff likely would have folded under pressure like this. Instead, Goff was making big time throws, changing his arm angle, and stepping up amidst a closing pocket. Amon-Ra St. Brown deserves credit as well, slotting back into the lineup without skipping a beat as the top target for Goff.

Jamo making his mark

This time last month, Jameson Williams was suspended for six games, meaning a date with the Buccaneers was but a dream for the “Free JAMO” crowd. Instead, Williams made arguably the play of the game.

On a day when the offense was fairly quiet, the Lions needed a spark play and Williams delivered with a massive 45-yard touchdown bomb from Jared Goff. Williams rebounded from a drop a few plays prior, doing a phenomenal job of tracking Goff’s lofting pass and securing the catch amid contact. His role on offense has been somewhat limited since his return from suspension, but plays like these illustrate the weapon he can be.

John’s Turning Point: Craig Reynolds’ block on the Amon-Ra St. Brown touchdown

This might be the Lions’ play of the season, which is saying something given the season they have had thus far. At the time, the game was shaping up to be a kicking duel with both teams sitting at a 3-3 tie. After a run on second-and-long, the Lions were set up for a third-and-13 with a field goal attempt looming. Goff hit St. Brown on a short pass, still seven yards shy of the first down marker. Some receivers may have settled for the yardage, but not St. Brown. Instead, he began running across the field to possibly outrace the defenders to the first down.

Enter Craig Reynolds.

Reynolds blew up the Buccaneers defender Carlton Davis to such a degree that he not only secured the first down, but a touchdown to boot. Antoine Winfield Jr., the next-closest defender, was forced to hurdle a yeeted Davis, which in turn gave St. Brown the split second edge to race downfield for the score.

Reynolds was quiet as runner, but this play made the day.

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