The most interesting aspect of this matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions is how the fortunes of both teams have evolved since the end of the 2016 NFL regular season. At the end of last season, the Lions and the Buccaneers were both 9-7. The Lions qualified for the 2016 NFC Playoffs, finishing mere percentage points ahead of the Buccaneers.
Both teams were at least two games back from qualifying for the NFC playoffs before this game. The Lions got the better of the Buccaneers again this week. A 46-yard field goal by Matt Prater with 25 seconds remaining sealed a 24-21 win. The Buccaneers have lost three straight games.
Week 14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Takeaways
One clear sign of two underachieving teams is dicey ball security. The Buccaneers and the Lions exchanged rushing touchdowns in the first quarter. They also exchanged turnovers.
After a rare touchdown by Doug Martin, the Lions fumbled on the first play of the following drive. Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Eric Ebron for 11 yards, but Ebron was tackled by Lavonte David resulting in a fumble and recovery for the Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers gave the ball back two plays later. Jameis Winston completed a 20-yard pass to O.J. Howard, who fumbled the football after being tackled by Quandre Diggs. The fumble was recovered by Darius Slay.
The second quarter consisted of one touchdown and four turnovers. Slay was at it again as he intercepted Winston, who tried to connect with DeSean Jackson. The Lions took the lead with a Stafford touchdown pass to Golden Tate.
The Buccaneers looked like they were going to respond with a long drive. However, Martin fumbled at Detroit’s 23-yard line. Martin was tackled by Glover Quin and the fumble was recovered by D.J. Hayden.
The Lions had two turnovers of their own. Stafford was picked off by Brent Grimes with two minutes remaining in the first half. Robert McClain intercepted Stafford with 18 seconds remaining in the half.
However, the Buccaneers were unable to solve their turnover problems in the third quarter. The Buccaneers received the ball to start the second half and quickly ended their drive with Winston throwing an interception to Diggs. The Buccaneers also turned the ball over on their second drive of the half. Winston lost a fumble on a sack by Jarrad Davis, which was recovered by Tahir Whitehead.
Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron Could Not Be Stopped
The offense of the Buccaneers had trouble beating the talented secondary of the Lions. The defense likewise did not have an answer for running back Theo Riddick or tight end Ebron. However, they do deserve credit for shutting down Kenny Golladay.
Riddick totaled 93 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns on 10 carries and six catches. Ebron led the Lions with 10 receptions and 94 receiving yards.
Lavonte David and Ryan Smith Step Up Amid Injuries
The Buccaneers suffered injuries to key members of their defense this past week.
Clinton McDonald missed last week with a back injury and was inactive. The defense also suffered upper body injuries to Gerald McCoy, a concussion to T.J. Ward and a hamstring injury to Josh Robinson. The rest of the defense, in turn, yielded 381 passing yards to Stafford.
Nevertheless, the defense did what it could to limit the Lions to just 24 points. It was led with standout performances from Lavonte David and Ryan Smith. In addition to the forced fumble and recovery on Ebron, David led the team with 13 tackles, which was six ahead of the second closest teammate.
Smith continued his activity in his eighth start of the season with five tackles and three assisted tackles. With the disappointment that Vernon Hargreaves has been, Smith has been an unsung hero and earned his promotion into the starting lineup.
After spending last season as a backup and special teams member for 14 games, Smith has had at least five total tackles in seven consecutive games. However, he will be evaluated for a concussion.