TAMPA – For the second week in a row the Buccaneers had a chance to knock an NFC North opponent out of the playoff race. For the second week in a row they came up short.
Matt Prater’s 46-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the game allowed the Lions to escape Raymond James Stadium with a 24-21 victory that keeps their slim playoff hopes alive.
As for the Bucs, well this game proved to be just another example of why they were never quite as playoff ready as so many inside and outside of Tampa Bay though they were prior to the start of the season.
Though the Bucs amassed more than 400 yards of offense, they turned the ball over five times in this game, including once on a Jameis Winston fumble and twice more on Winston interceptions.
The oddity is that Lions quarterback Matt Stafford wasn’t much better. Though he completed 36-of-44 passes for 281 yards, Stafford threw a pair of picks as well and the Lions also lost a fumble.
The first half was nothing short of sloppy, the Bucs turning the ball over on three straight possessions while the Lions turned it over on each of their last two drives and three times overall.
The Lions were the only team that was able to take advantage of a takeaway, though, as they turned a Darius Slay interception of a Winston pass into a touchdown.
The score came on a 5-yard Stafford touchdown pass to wide receiver Golden Tate and gave the Lions a 14-7 lead with 7:36 remaining in the first half.
The TD pass was part of a 240-yard first-half passing effort for Stafford, who completed each of his first 10 passes in the game but made some questionable throws down the stretch in the second quarter.
One of those came after the Lions had moved into field goal range as he threw a ball into double coverage off a rollout only to have cornerback Robert McClain pick it off.
Fellow cornerback Brent Grimes had the other pick of Stafford in the half and Lavonte David forced the other turnover, forcing and then recovering a fumble in the first quarter.
Both the forced fumble and the fumble recovery were the fifth of the year for David, who now holds the Bucs record for most recovered opponent’s fumbles in a season.
The second half started in much the same way that the first half ended, with the Bucs turning the ball over on each of their first two possessions, the second of which led to another Lions score.
The Bucs began their comeback on the next series, tight end O.J. Howard catching a 2-yard touchdown pass to cut the Lions lead to 21-14 with 13:47 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bucs then mounted a drive that was aided by a 32-yard pass interference penalty but ended in odd fashion with reserve offensive lineman Leonard Wester catching a 2-yard touchdown pass.
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